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He is a smooth-talking playboy, feminist, special needs advocate, street peace broker, superhero and, now, Easter bunny.
That Ryan Gosling is an Oscar-nominated actor is a minor resume sidenote when it comes to his candidacy for Greatest Internet Meme Ever. His position was seemingly guaranteed last week with his Superman-esque swoop to save a helpless British woman from getting hit by a car in New York City (that he allegedly just stuck his arm out to prevent her from walking into traffic is no matter).
On Sunday, the meme went one step further, with a copywriter named Jenna Livingston creating a Twitter feed called @GoslingEaster that tweeted out clues to the location of 200 plastic Easter eggs filled with notes and photos “from Gosling” hidden throughout New York City.
The stunt marks a move into the physical realm for the Gosling meme, a departure that has been years in the making.
Even before he earned the full attention of Hollywood studios with his 2011 turns in The Ides of March, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love, Gosling’s star was bubbling up on blogs and social networks.
Equipped with a rare mix of boyish good looks and a physique hardened by aggressive roles in small, indie films, Gosling’s internet star launched with the seemingly apropros of nothing “Hey Girl” meme in late 2008. Playing on his penchant for charming leading ladies in big screen turns (and audience ladies all the while), the tumblr F–k Yeah Ryan Gosling featured photos of Gosling with witty and heart-grabbing pickup lines.
As he was promoting 2010’s NC-17 drama Blue Valentine, Gosling read some of the charming missives during a video interview with MTV — an exchange that only heightened the meme’s potency due to his inability to get through more than a few without laughing. He did it again that July — he had three movies to promote, after all — and eventually that would key the creation of a spinoff “Hey Girl” Tumblr for seemingly every interest and worldview.
First came Feminist Ryan Gosling, which is still perhaps the best known and visited, followed by a long series of blogs of varying success. Librarian Hey Girl is a solid continuing entry, as are Silicon Valley Ryan Gosling, NPR Hey Girl, and the omnibus internet love fest, Ryan Gosling Disneyland Cats. Less successful were blogs such as Hey Girl, I’m a Serial Killer. A full list can be found here.
Amongst the most distinctive and touching of the picture-based memes is Special Needs Ryan Gosling, which has sprung up amongst the web support community for parents and teachers of children with special needs. When he broke up a street fight in New York last fall, appearing out of nowhere, it only added to his heroic status.
So why Gosling? As one of the top curators of Internet memes, BuzzFeed’s Whitney Jefferson spells out his appeal.
“I think he appeals to all: he’s completely dreamy, yet cool and talented enough for those not attracted to him to admire and respect him as well,” she says. “His nonchalant attitude definitely helps — it’s like he doesn’t want to be a teen idol or the world’s dreamboat. He’s just doing his thing, (living his regular life, walking his dog, etc) but he looks so good while doing it that it’s impossible not to enjoy it.”
There is also the fact that he is a bit of an enigma himself. Having started out as a cast member of The New Mickey Mouse Club in the mid-90s, he did not follow on the teen stardom rocket on which cast mates Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears rode to fame. Instead, he did small, indie films, which lent him a closeness to his audience that eluded young megastars.
Later, his role in The Notebook made him a romantic icon without the worldwide fame; it was possible, it seemed, to really be the object of his affection. Add in later TV appearances, including his spot on Conan in which he divulged the secret of Disney’s army of commando cats, and there is something definitely different and perhaps more approachable about Gosling, as compared to other Hollywood leading men.
The fact that he hardly participates in any social media — his Twitter account has not posted an update in nearly a year — makes him malleable; instead of providing a (managed) voice online, he gives fans the opportunity to dream up and assign him a personality, whether it be charming, library-loving or Easter-enthused.
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