Entry: Three Days of Gnetum Gnemon 2010.02.10

Gnetum gnemon
sounds so funny I could never forget what it means in Bahasa Indonesia: Melinjo. Melinjo is found in Sayur Asem, my favorite dish, but until today I have never been able to crack this sort of peanut easily with my teeth. Melinjo is processed to become crackers better known as Emping. Now, Emping is good, crunchy, and addictive.

One night, as I was tweeting in Twitter.com, and thinking about how I have always been joking about Venna Melinda - one of Indonesian artists-cum-legislatives - and her unique image, I said to myself, "Hey! Why not take the joke to another level?" So, I made a new account in Twitter: @VennaMelinjo. It's a no-brainer parody of the lady, of course.

Nevertheless, I mentally built @VennaMelinjo as a fictional character that has the least resemblance to Melinda.

Melinda, in real life, has been quoted for her infamous erroneous comments. (To err is human, of course. The media just loves to blow out people's mistakes. Artist-cum-legislatives are easy targets.) @VennaMelinjo would exaggerate this characteristic - that's the start. @VennaMelinjo would make unbelievable mistakes in every single line she would tweet.

Next, Melinda loves to Salsa. Again, @VennaMelinjo would also be a flawed Salsa dancer.

Melinda is a legislative in the Indonesian parliament. @VennaMelinjo, since the start, was never a legislative, let alone a politician. She just stated in her short biography line in her Twitter account that, "Everybody can be a hero (or "Pahlawan Rakyat"), but not everybody can Salsa." The term "Pahlawan Rakyat" is different than "Wakil Rakyat" - a term for "legislative".

The first tweets of @VennaMelinjo dealt with her closeness with Salsa dancing, and some characters from our Parliament. These are quickly deleted, then. I wanted to keep @VennaMelinjo as far away as possible from politics.

During the first night, @VennaMelinjo gains a few followers only. I didn't promote this account, and just let it be. Just let @VennaMelinjo be found.

The next day, I kept twitting stuff using this account, and position her as a simple-minded housewife. The exaggeration of stupidity is clearly over-the-top, and everybody who reads the tweets would know that @VennaMelinjo was just making a joke.

The progress was overwhelming. The number of followers multiplied so fast, reaching more than 500 in the afternoon, and 1,000 by the end of the day. At that moment, I decided to modify the account into a shorter version: @VMelinjo. The reason? Well, followers really respond to this account because they believe @VennaMelinjo was created to mock Venna Melinda heartlessly.

As gnetum gnemon itself, the multi-layered character of @VMelinjo was not that easy to crack by many of us. We all just loved to enjoy the crunchy Emping jokes, and got easily addicted to them.

In the middle of the hike of the followers, I twitted using my account, @VeHandojo this line: "Apparently, most of us still get what a parody is." That was a sign of my discomfort. I wouldn't want to unfairly judge Venna Melinda in public because, no matter what, I have never had any personal problem with her. I would only love to joke about her, and I think the way she responded to the joke would determine what kind of character she truly is.

I was torn between keeping the fun and revealing the truth. The truth that @VMelinjo was operated by @VeHandojo. The truth that @VMelinjo, in my mind, was not a member of our Parliament, but a mere housewife with a gay-in-denial husband who lives somewhere in Pluit (North Jakarta area) inside a house guarded by twelve Greek-style angel statuettes. @VMelinjo, in my mind, was a lonely wife who escaped to Salsa and reading books of which she had no clue what about. @VMelinjo who thought she should watch "One" to "Eight" before the musical "Nine", and tiramisu is some kind of Japanese fish.

To give further distance between @VMelinjo and Venna Melinda, I rephrased the bio line to: "There are many Vennas, but I'm the only Melinjo."

The following day, followers kept on hiking to 1,500, and finally 2,000 in the evening. At that moment, I felt thrilled, happy, flattered, but kind of tired. It was hard to be two characters all day long, and I was not ready for multiple personality syndrome. It was hard to come up with silly, laughable, but quality jokes all the time. It was really exhausting and tiring.

But, funny things also happened. Real people who in real life despised me, or cut their communication with me, actually became fans of @VMelinjo. They ReTweet-ed @VMelinjo's tweets, and suggested their followers to follow @VMelinjo. It was a big irony.

At the end of the third night, I contemplated this one principle that I have always believed: "The best meal should come in a portion that leaves us wanting for more."

My jokes grew tired, and a few intellectual minds protested, saying that the jokes were getting redundant. I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it forever. I knew I'd better quit the game while I was on top. Yet, to do it right away was not that easy. As predicted, it was almost like killing my own baby. I needed a drive to do that.

The next day, @VMelinjo became more and more popular. Detikhot.com published a news that related @VMelinjo with Venna Melinda. Venna Melinda herself, according to the news, stated that @VMelinjo is faking her. Without further learning, research, and observation, Detikhot.com also judged @VMelinjo as the fake Venna Melinda. Poor journalism was put in practice, and I had no interest in battling with that.

It was a sign that very, very, very few of us understood what is a parody. Since the first time, there was not enough resemblance of @VennaMelinjo or @VMelinjo with Venna Melinda. Everybody could have the name "Venna". Everybody could have happened to like to Salsa. The key identification, that is being a legislative, was cut since the beginning.

Nevertheless, Venna Melinda also rather elegantly stated that the "fake account" was just a joke, and the only way for her to respond was to prove that she could perform well as a legislative. When I read that, I felt that it was the right kind of response. I could continue @VMelinjo, but if the 2,650 followers (by then) continued to associate the stupidity of @VMelinjo to Venna Melinda, then it would be very unfair to her.

That was it. That was my drive. That was then I decided to kill the account of @VMelinjo.

The response of that "murder" was overwhelming. Some even went as far as cursing @VMelinjo as a coward. The jokes - the silly jokes - had been taken too seriously. What was started as fun had been blown out of proportion.

Two days after the closing of @VMelinjo, I tweeted my "confession" in my personal Twitter account. I was not trying to claim the glory, but rather to clear things up. The game was really over, and we have to give credits to Venna Melinda. Her response was quite mature; she didn't find it useful to make a big deal out of the "fake account", and focused on her performance as a member of our Parliament. I think, even if we don't want to support her, it is not our rights to bring her down just because she had made several acceptable mistakes - both in making fashion and non-fashion statement.

My three days of @VMelinjo were, nevertheless, unforgettable. It was my closest brush with multiple personality syndrome, that's for sure. Furthermore, the "success" of @VMelinjo could have been a case study in the world of social networking and virtual community. These were reasons why I documented those three days here.

Venna Melinda Dirugikan Akun Twitter Palsu
Ketahuan, Akun Twitter Palsu Venna Melinda Menghilang
Why @VMelinjo isn't Venna Melinda's Parody
Belajar "Eksis" di Social Media dari Tokoh Fiktif
Venna Melinda: Balibo yang di Filipina, Ya?
Vena Melinda: "Balibo" Info Baru Buat Saya


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