Pop Culture

A Look at Some Pop Culture Hoaxes

I had never heard of Manti T’eo until the whole world found out about his dead girlfriend being a hoax. When I was down with the flu, I read several articles about it because I find hoaxes fascinating, and the weirder the elements, the better. 

After reading about it and watching news reports, I was left wondering: what drives people to implement a hoax? Aren’t they afraid of being found out? What good does it do? When do you reach the point of no return? I can’t answer any of those questions, but I can share some of my favorite hoaxes in pop culture history.

Let’s start with a music-related hoax. The year was 1990, and everyone was singing along to Grammy-award winning Milli Vanilli – that is, until it was discovered that singers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were actually lip synching, and that the real singers were being hidden because their image wasn’t marketable. Although bad singers with edgy personas are acceptable today, back in the “˜90s this wasn’t acceptable, and Fab and Rob were basically thrown to the wolves.

In 2009, two frantic parents in Colorado called the police to tell them that their young son was inside a runaway balloon. The balloon went about 50 miles before landing, with the boy, Falcon, nowhere to be found. The authorities were afraid the so-called Balloon Boy had fallen out, but rather he had been home the whole time. It didn’t take long for the authorities to conclude it was all a hoax, and the Balloon Baby basically admitted as much on CNN. Why did the family decide to pull the nation’s collective leg? For a reality show offer, of course!

I don’t remember this one, but it’s hilarious: in 1996, Taco Bell announced that they had purchased the Liberty Bell (with the money going to reduce the national debt) and had re-named it “Taco Liberty Bell.” No one bothered to check the calendar to see that it was April 1, and thousands and thousands of angry citizens protested and called up Taco Bell headquarters. At noon, they let everyone in on the prank. The amount of exposure the company got for this hoax was priceless.

Do you have a favorite pop culture hoax? Share it in the comments section!

By Catherine

Catherine is a Southern California based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in everything from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. The highlight of her life (so far) was being featured on MSNBC for a story she wrote on Hello Kitty wines...she knew one day her love of all things HK would come in handy.

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