Transforming troll spewings into posters, songs, art

Internet comments are a world unto themselves. No opinion is too ignorant to air, no input too trivial to share. Readers respond to pasta-sauce recipes with tales of infidelity. Heavy-metal videos get hate for being both too loud and not loud enough. And no matter what you create or post, someone, somewhere will respond with ‘Hi Dear’.

It’s when comments fuel creative work that the fun begins. Heard Hovey Benjamin’s hilarious song, Send Bobs? The auto-tuned parody makes lyrics out of the lewd, inarticulate DMs that men (most of them South Asian) leave for women. Send Bobs opens with ‘Hi dear, can you open up your cloth?’ The rest is as ridiculous as it is unprintable. It’s genius.

On Instagram, graphic designer Amber Share turns reviews of American national parks into cheeky vintage posters on her page, @SubParParks. What do tourists dislike about protected wilderness? “Little more than a cave and a mountain,” says one disappointed visitor, of Nevada’s sprawling Great Basin. “Didn’t even get to touch lava,” complains a tourist to Hawaii.

Singer and comedian Grace Hayes turns terrible reviews of fast-food outlets into bitty songs on TikTok and other social media. Griping about rude waiters, refill refusals and rats may seem petty in print, but Hayes turns each diatribe into a catchy hit. ‘I came for an empanada, all I got was an argument,’ she croons, on the track about Taco Bell.

When comments get personal, artists get even more creative. Musician Madilyn Bailey has been performing on YouTube for 10 years. She’s amassed enough hate to fill two pop songs, and flashes screenshots of the negative comments as she sings them. Bailey even gets the insults to rhyme: ‘Too much auto-tune. Out of tune. You look like a cartoon.’ The worst put-downs lose their bite as she grins: ‘If it doesn’t work out you can always try porn.’

Photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero took on her haters with an unusual photo series. The Bully Pulpit draws from the disparaging messages she’s received from men online, and what she’s gleaned after looking up the men herself. Wigs, costumes and prosthetics then help her take on the personas of those harassers, with their comments featured in the frame. It’s like subtweeting, only funnier.

Anyone who’s navigated dating apps knows that men can get creepy and cruel when they’re protected by anonymity. Artist Sarey Ruden’s project, SareyTales, turns their misogynistic comments into slogans, in her darkly humorous artworks. It started off as a way to draw attention to cyber-bullying and harassment in online dating. The work is now sold at art fairs, shows and galleries around the world. Ruden’s project is even part of the gender studies courses at two American universities. And she’s done a TEDx talk on the subject. Too bad for the commenter who said she wasn’t pretty enough to be famous.

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