Tumblr has occasionally been fruitful for writers looking to spin the germ of an idea into something viral, maybe even a book. However, the mercurial nature of the Web means few who go for it with their million-dollar Old People Sleeping On Trains Tumblr idea will ever see it morph into a dead tree version suitable for Grandma’s coffee table.
There are sometimes naturally-occurring viral Tumblrs, never intended by their creators for further, offline glory. Goofs or riffs that take off and quickly become a part of the Web’s pop culture Sargasso Sea, linked by every tent-pole blog and tech site. One big recent example: Law & Order & Food.
Law & Order & Food is a ridiculously simple idea: screen grabs from Law & Order (and its spin-offs, like Criminal Intent) made when a character was taking a drink or shoving a hoagie or bite of pizza into his or her mouth. No commentary, just frozen moments from a show that ran for so long it practically merits its own cable channel.
Law & Order & Food grows on you with each new post–because it’s funny and also sometimes unexpectedly poignant–like this shot of the late, great Jerry Orbach, who played Lennie Briscoe, eating takeout Chinese.
Over GChat Law & Order & Food creator Malkah Duprix told Betabeat about the site’s origin. Ms. Duprix, a funny tweeter, blogger and musician, said she was watching the show with friends “…and my boyfriend kept talking about all the food they eat on the show. I’d never seen the original one, just the spin-offs, but every time they ate, which was frequently, we laughed. And he did a screen capture of Logan & Briscoe eating italian ice. It was HILARIOUS. It’s actually the first photo on the Tumblr.”
Ms. Duprix and her friends agreed someone ought to start a Tumblr. She volunteered and began watching “an unhealthy amount” of the legendary cop drama. We asked Ms. Duprix when she realized the site was becoming popular. A friend had sent the link to The Stranger‘s SLOG and she soon noticed a marked and steady rise in Tumblr followers. And while she is pleased that “people really seemed to like it. Like, a whole lot,” it’s also been a “weird feeling.” After all, said Ms. Duprix, “I basically did it to make myself and my friends laugh. I am delighted that others think it’s funny, because I think it’s ridiculous.” The popularity of the Tumblr can be “overwhelming,” she says, “but I LOVE that something so absurd is so popular. I like absurd.”
It was probably inevitable someone would claim Ms. Duprix didn’t arrive at the idea for her site on her own, and she got some grief after Law & Order & Food was mentioned on popular sites like Boing Boing and Laughing Squid, since another Tumblr user had indeed come up with a similar idea a few months before. While she knew some negative responses were pure trolling, Ms. Duprix admitted accusations she’d stolen the idea were upsetting. The allegations “hurt my feelings in a new way,” she said. “People who have known me on Twitter and Facebook for a long time know that I would never steal an idea. I would promote someone else’s instead [...] Also, the people who have insisted I must have stolen the idea, since I have some of the same screen captures as other people, I don’t think they understand how the world works: a show that was on for 20 years, on which people eat in almost every episode? You’re gonna have some parallel thinking about that.”
Besides, Ms. Duprix said, “it’s not like I’m making money on this.” Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, she pointed out, “had the idea way before any of us.”
Ms. Duprix’s friends were very supportive, however, and she found this “hugely touching” and representative of “the good part of the Internet.”
Ms. Duprix is realistic about the nature of her blog’s popularity. “I won’t be disappointed when it levels out,” she said, “It’s a flash-in-the-pan type of thing.”
We asked Ms. Duprix about the life of the Tumblr, how long she intends to keep it up, regardless of a drop-off in attention. “I will keep doing this,” she said, “as long as there are scenes of people putting food into their faces.”
“I have around 13 seasons left to watch,” said Ms. Duprix, “So, I’m just getting started.”