For two weeks, Deanna King — better known as the Kelligrews rat lady, product of a yelling match broadcast on CBC’s “Here and Now” suppertime broadcast — has been the butt of jokes and the fodder of water cooler chit-chat.
King struck remix-level Internet fame in an alley next to the former Pizza Your Way restaurant just outside her building in Conception Bay South after she tore a strip off one of her neighbours, Glenn Simpson, as a TV camera rolled.
The story was originally about rats — Simpson was aggrieved because a wooded area adjacent to his property was cleared to make way for a new school, forcing rodents onto his property and, as was his contention, into King’s nearby pile of bulk garbage.
But the coverage quickly took a different turn, as King strode into the picture to defend her garbage heap and unleashed a firestorm of expletives on her neighbour and the nearby CBC reporter and cameraperson.
It was television that no doubt left the average “Here and Now” viewer incredulous. King went at it with her neighbour with no holds barred. Baseball cap on backwards and army jacket-clad, she came out swinging, swearing profusely and challenging Simpson, whom she repeatedly referred to as a “f--king creep,” to “come back here and talk.”
In all honesty, the exchange, from an uninvolved bystander’s point of view, was entertaining, although in a very TMZ, how-is-this-happening kind of way. (I’ll admit its shock factor was amplified for me by the knowledge that, as a Kelligrews resident, I’ve parked more than a few times in the alleyway where the footage was taped to pop next door and pick up a pizza.)
King was verbally aggressive and abusive with Simpson, who left the scene shortly after she came out of her building. Once he’d gone, she continued her rant unhindered. For casual CBC viewers, it left an impression.
CBC published a story on the confrontation and posted the raw footage to its website shortly after it filmed the encounter on May 16. Soon after, the remixed version, set to rap music, became an Internet hit.
But what’s interesting about the Kelligrews rat lady isn’t her YouTube celebrity or the initial shock of seeing a story about an alleged rodent infestation completely flipped on its head. It was the manner in which King’s abusive behaviour was characterized.
King unabashedly harassed her neighbour on camera, yet was glorified afterwards by remixes and social media shares which, admittedly, poked fun at what she had done, but nevertheless celebrated her loud-mouthed insults and catchphrases, making them into instant online hits.
“Wrong song” and “911, party on the dance floor” soon become the buzzwords of the week, partly because they’re ridiculous, but mostly because the basis for their popularity was even more so.
Meanwhile, largely absent from the conversation, amid all the laughter, was a serious examination of how we could possibly gloss over King’s abusive behaviour and choose to popularize the words she used and the theatrics she employed.
Last Wednesday, when CBC returned to King’s apartment to ask her what she made of her newfound online celebrity, it allowed her to glorify her actions to the nth degree, letting her describe her “fans” and the feedback she’s received.
“Who would have thought that my big mouth would have gained me fans,” King said.
“(They say), ‘I loves ya, gotta meet ya,’ like, you know, they want me to go out to Salmon Fest and host that,” she said. (CBC later reported this assertion was “100 per cent false.”)
It was another predictably colourful and engaging, but noticeably unapologetic exchange. There was no remorse, no regret — and no reason to express any, given the questions being asked and the public response being communicated.
We all had a nice laugh out of King’s antics, but in doing so we ignored the blatant victimization that accompanied them. The verbal abuse, captured so plainly — and so loudly — on camera, somehow just slipped under the radar.
There’s your “wrong song.”
Patrick Butler, who’s from Conception Bay South, is a second-year journalism student at Carleton University. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.