Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Finally, Mr. Horse Head gets to meet the prez

In Denver on Tuesday, President Obama shook hands with a man wearing a horse head mask. In doing so, he provoked much concerned speculation over how a masked man (woman? child? tower of cats wearing a trench coat?) could get so close to the leader of the free world without a guy with an earpiece intervening. He also gave one of the Internet's oldest, weirdest memes its most glorious day in the sun.

After all, who'd've thunk a mask that once disguised the faces of naked Japanese Internet-chefs would one day end up … here?

No one knows for sure just when the horse head mask morphed from a novelty into a full-fledged meme. Even Seattle novelty dealer Archie McPhee — purportedly the original retailer of the latex mask, which began as a Halloween costume — writes it off as a "creepy" thing that has popped up all over the Internet. But Internet things, as we know, rarely just pop up on their own — and this one had its fair share of accelerants.

In 2003, the short-lived Japanese anime Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (not to be confused with Full Metal Panic!, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, or half a dozen shows of similar names) introduced a bizarre character called Pony-man — a horse-headed villain who pursued schoolgirls with a hairbrush, of all things. (A sample of translated dialogue: "He forced her to the ground, brushed her hair lightly, and tied it up to a pony tail." Eek.)

Pony-man easily could have disappeared into the cultural void, as so many other bits of anime weirdness presumably do. But the horse masks were already on the market, and so pony-man kept cropping up.

Two years after Full Metal Panic aired, Lonely Planet.com recommended wearing a horse mask while traveling in its Guide to Experimental Travel. (Said reference is now selling for 70 cents on Amazon, which possibly indicates the wisdom of vacationing with stupid masks.) And not long after that — post-Drew Barrymore and post-MTV, but pre-middling stand-up career — the comedian/actor Tom Green donned a horse mask for an episode of his Internet talk show, Tom Green's House Tonight.

But before the horse mask could truly become a (sub)cultural mainstay, it had to go back to its weird Japanese roots. In 2008, a performance artist named "Wotaken" filmed himself cooking/eating psychedelic mushrooms, naked, while wearing a horse head mask and dancing to the Final Fantasy soundtrack. Nearly 2 million people have watched what the original uploader called "possibly the most disturbing thing I've seen on the Interweb."

The rest, they say, is history: a million copycats, and a lot of new horse mask manufacturers, embraced the mask as a vehicle for Internet shock and silliness. There's the Scottish man known as "horse-boy," hilariously caught by Google Street View in 2010. The German busker who calls himself "Neigh-Kid Horse" and plays guitar in only his mask and his underwear.

Is the horse mask still cool and quirky now that even the Dad in Chief is down with it? Perhaps it's time for the Internet to embrace a new costume. May we suggest … the squirrel?

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog at WashingtonPost.com, writing about Internet culture.

Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning squanders chance to close out Capitals

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning squanders chance to close out Capitals

The Lightning misses an opportunity to close out the Capitals in Washington, so there will be a Game 7 in Tampa on Wednesday night with a berth in the Stanley Cup final on the line.Andrei Vasilevskiy was fantastic, but the Lightning couldn't match th...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Investigators insist MH370 crash was an accident, not a mass murder-suicide by pilot

Investigators insist MH370 crash was an accident, not a mass murder-suicide by pilot

A despondent Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, troubled over the end of his marriage or some other unbearable sadness, was the only person awake on the doomed plane full of unconscious people, one theory goes. The suicidal pilot disabled communications on Ma...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Did ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post leak suspension of FSU starter Josh Ball?

Did ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post leak suspension of FSU starter Josh Ball?

A Florida State student from Lithia wrote a Facebook post Monday afternoon alleging the suspension of Seminoles starting offensive tackle Josh Ball.Little else was known a day later, but the details in the since-deleted post are consistent ...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Tampa police officers to wear pins noting military service

Tampa police officers to wear pins noting military service

TAMPA — When Tampa police Capt. Calvin Johnson responds to calls, his time in the Army rarely comes up. When it does, people ask him what war he was in, his length of service and where he was stationed.The conversation, Johnson said, changes how peop...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

Here’s why there are so many coyotes and why they are spreading so fast

For eons, coyotes roamed what is now the western United States, with its wide-open plains. Then came European settlers, who cut down forests for farms and ranches in a steady east-west march. Along the way, they killed large predators such as pumas a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida’s python hunt bags 1,000th snake

Florida’s python hunt bags 1,000th snake

HOMESTEAD — Florida is marking a milestone in its attempt to control an infestation of Burmese pythons in the Everglades. The state has been paying a select group of 25 hunters to catch and kill the invasive snakes on state lands in South Florida si...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco delays take-back of SunWest Park

Pasco delays take-back of SunWest Park

NEW PORT RICHEY – The publicly owned SunWest Park is still in private hands.At least for now.On Tuesday, Pasco County commissioners delayed voting on a plan to take over operations of the publicly owned lakefront park near Aripeka that would have all...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A fake ‘Zombie Outbreak’ alert alarms Lake Worth residents

A fake ‘Zombie Outbreak’ alert alarms Lake Worth residents

Folks around the Lake Worth area were warned of a zombie outbreak early Sunday morning.The alert, issued at 1:41 a.m., was meant to inform residents about a power outage but had been changed to reference the popular AMC television series The Walking ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died Tuesday after a tire blew out on his freight truck on Interstate 4 east of Tampa, sending it into a collision path with a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

Jason Pierre-Paul, Brent Grimes absent as Bucs open OTA practices

The Bucs started another chapter of their offseason Tuesday with the first OTA (organized team activity) practice at One Buc Place, with veterans Jason Pierre-Paul and Brent Grimes as the only healthy players absent from what is officially a voluntar...
Updated: 2 hours ago