I’m not Gandalf or Magneto

Oh, the Internet and its memes. You cannot stop them.

About a year ago, Sir Ian McKellen took part in a Stonewall protest march in London. He was protesting against the pope’s visit to Britain and the homophobia of the Catholic church. He (and many others) wore Tshirts that proclaimed “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It.”

I saw a photo (by Dhruti Shah) of Sir Ian wearing the shirt and with my lightning wit, I decided to photoshop the tshirt so that it read “I’m Gandalf and Magneto. Get Over It.” It took me 15 minutes. I didn’t do it as a piece of political satire or to attack either Stonewall or the Pope. It was just me being silly. I put it on Twitter.

Then people started retweeting it. A lot. The comedian/actor Simon Pegg didn’t realise it was a photoshop job and retweeted it to his hundreds of thousands of followers, giving the impression that Sir Ian was actually wearing a Magneto-related tshirt (he later realised it was a fake and correctly attributed it to me. Thank you, Simon). The Internet went crazy. Most of my twitpics are viewed 300-600 times. In two days it was viewed over 250,000 times. Amusingly, people loved the tshirt and thought it was great that Ian McKellen was wearing it. I tried to make it clear that none of it was real, but by this stage it was out of my hands. The picture was no longer merely on my Twitpic account – it had been copied onto thousands of blogs and tumblrs. A cursory google of Ian McKellen Gandalf Magneto tshirt reveals page after page after page of pics.

Then, as these things do, it all died down. Some months later I was amused to read an interview with Sir Ian in Vanity Fair in which he talked of his disappointment with the tshirt and the fact that it undermined the serious issue of homophobia. I don’t blame him. (also, it is a dreadful, dreadful interview. The guy asking the questions is absolutely clueless)

And then all went quiet until this week. Because someone else has photoshopped Sir Ian McKellen wearing a Stonewall tshirt that reads “I’m Gandalf and Magneto. Get Over It.”

Here it is:

Now, when I first saw the pic I thought for a brief second that it might be genuine – that Sir Ian had seen the funny side of things and decided to wear a shirt of his own. But a cursory check on TinEye reveals the original pic:

And now this pic is sweeping the Internet. I’ve seen it across Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and once again people seem to think it’s real. And those who know it’s fake have tweeted me to ask if it’s my work – it isn’t. I can’t see the point in doing the same joke over and over (unless someone missed the joke in the first place. And in this case, they didn’t.)

The odd, and somewhat frustrating aspect of this is why someone would bother to photoshop Ian McKellen with a slogan that isn’t even their own. I half expected my photoshop job to turn into a meme in which everyone inserted their own slogan, which at least demonstrates some creativity. But why someone would go to the trouble of repeating my “joke” with a different photo, I just don’t know.

Anyway, it’s nothing to do with me. Now, as with so much on the Internet, it belongs to history and to excited Brazilians leaving enthusiastic comments on Twitpic. The eerie thing about all such memes/phenomena is how quickly they spin out of your own control. You just have to sit and watch it blow over.

UPDATE: It’s January 2012 and the meme has mutated. Over the last day or so people have brought my attention to a photo of Harrison Ford that is sweeping The Internet.

“I’m Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Blade Runner. I’m Fuckin’ Over It!”

Unless there’s a hidden side to Harrison Ford and he has an unexpectedly nerdy sense of humour, I assume it’s a Photoshop. Also, the fact that it has three roles in it (Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Blade Runner) as opposed to two in the Ian McKellen pic means that eventually these spoofs will be like IMDB entries, with full lists of every actor’s roles, all in chronological order.

Given the way these things go, it’s inevitable that one day in 2015 a minor celebrity will wear an actual tshirt based on the Gandalf/Magneto meme. (I’m betting on a haggard Steven Seagal wearing a “I had a ponytail. Get over it!” shirt.) I may have to strangle them with my bare hands.

UPDATE: Here’s the original Harrison Ford pic. It was a grey tshirt all along! Thanks to the people who commented on my earlier blog and pointed me towards this pic…


20 thoughts on “I’m not Gandalf or Magneto

  1. Most of the people out there are indeed clueless plagarists. It is only disappointing when I know them, and they still send me pictures of kitties for causes to lame to mention. Then they turn of Fox News and vote Republican. Sir McKellen is is an original. At least they didn’t kern the type horribly when they plagarized your T!

  2. When I first caught a glimpse of this photo last year, I was put off by what seemed like megalomaniacal fashion. But I then learned (albiet now corrected) that Sir Ian McKellen had worn this shirt in a Pride Rally. I found the message inspiring, the subtext empowered the LGBTQ community beyond superficial assumptions of personality hinged on sexual orientation. Sadly, now a new bubble’s been burst in reading the history of the meme, thanks for your candor– but I feel like I just heard the truth about Santa.

  3. Weirdly, I saw the photoshopped version ages ago and thought it was real – but I knew it was on an anti-homophobia march so my brain interpreted it as ‘look, I’m gay, and also unspeakably awesome so maybe be less judgy’. Which worked for me.

  4. I understand Mc Kellens frustration with what he might perceive as a distraction from his original intent.

    However, I’d like to point out to him (who, I’m sure, is totally reading this ;)) that this little joke has probably brought several orders of magnitude more attention to his cause than his mere celebrity attending the rally would have.
    And let’s face it – the photoshopped image was fucking hilarious!
    So I had a good laugh, McKellen had a lot of extra and prolonged attention for both his cause and his status, the author of this blog has the satisfaction of starting a successful quality meme – everybody wins.
    As to the follow ups – plagiarism is the highest form of appreciation.

    1. Where do I diss Brazilians? I mention Brazilians just once, in the sentence “…excited Brazilians leaving enthusiastic comments on Twitpic…” I do not think this qualifies as a “diss”.

  5. You know, there’s an opportunity here for this viral mishap to really do good in the anti-homophobia campaign. I can see it now. Actors sporting Ts with their legendary portrayals on the front… and on the back?

    ‘Oh, and some people are gay… Get over it!’ There’s such enormous marketable opportunity in this concept. I hope someone recognises it and I hope the celebrities of the world catch on real quick!

    I can see Matthew Broderick right now ‘I’m ferris Bueller… Oh, and some people are gay… Get over it!’

    Robert Downey Jr: ‘I’m Charlie Chaplin and Sherlock Holmes… Oh, and some people are gay… Get over it!’

    Johnny Depp: ‘I’m Willy Wonker, Capt. Jack Sparrow AND the Mad Hatter… Oh, and some people are gay… GET OVER IT!!!’

  6. I think the best result would have been Ian MacKellen combining both into an “I’m Gandalf, Magneto, and I’m gay. Get over it!” T-shirt!
    Anyway, I loved it when i first saw it. Well done for a subtly brilliant piece of creativity, you deserve a million for it!

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