Pop Culture Echoes: Manti Te’o’s “Girlfriend”

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And he thought he had questions to answer before

The biggest story on the Internet for the last day has been Deadspin’s report that the supposedly deceased girlfriend of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o apparently never existed at all. According to Fast Company, the story by reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey had been viewed nearly three million times as of the middle of the day on Thursday.

The story has also been all over Twitter, with media figures and other random tweeters quick to make jokes about the situation. A lot of the jokes were related to things in the news, but others were tied to movies and other things that echoed in this story.

With that in mind, we inaugurate a new feature here at EntertainmentTell: Pop Culture Echoes. These are past pop cultural moments that we’re reminded of by a specific news event:

1. “Catfish.” Clearly, the most obvious illusion is to “Catfish,” the 2010 documentary about a filmmaker who was duped by a “girlfriend” online, which has been adapted more recently into an MTV series. According to one version of the story- and there are several– that’s exactly what happened to Te’o:

The story – and a potential nickname- will likely follow Te’o to the NFL:

Clearly, no one with the nickname “Catfish” will ever reach any type of athletic pinnacle.  


2. Seinfeld. “The Susie” may have been ranked as one of the worst episodes of the series by Entertainment Weekly, but we all remember it anyway, as Elaine made up a fake co-worker named Susie, and one of her colleagues believes Elaine IS Susie:

And much like Te’o’s girlfriend, Elaine put an end to the fake Susie persona by “killing” her.

3. “Avenue Q.” When it comes to fake girlfriend stories you can’t do much better than the great puppet Broadway musical “Avenue Q,” in which the gay character Ron has a “girlfriend” who “lives in Canada”:

4. The Smiths’ “Girlfriend in a Coma”: Speaking of girlfriends and comas, and men long suspected of being gay, Morrissey!:

5. “Animal House” No, she wasn’t fictional, but ESPN’s Bob Ley saw the connection:

6. “J.T. Leroy” J.T. Leroy was a literary sensation in New York in the 1990s, with a backstory that she was a transgendered child of a backwoods prostitute, who turned her tragic backstory into memoirs, essays and even a gig as a music writer for New York Press. The whole thing was exposed as a hoax in a 2005 New York magazine article, but not before the people behind the Leroy persona went so far as to hire an actress to appear as Leroy at literary readings. This might explain why one NFL player claims to have “met” the fictitious girlfriend. 

7. “Adaptation”/”The Three.” Charlie Kaufman’s “brother” Donald- yet another person who doesn’t exist- explained his idea for a sure-to-be-successful movie about a killer, a cop and a girl who are all the same person. Maybe THIS is what really happened:

I’m sure there were others; suggest those in the comments.

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