Five hours before the presidential debate on Tuesday, the celebrity avatar known as @PaulRyanGosling was unceremoniously shut down. “We have received a valid report that your account is engaged in non-parody impersonation,” wrote Edward Mayfair from Twitter HQ. The suspension was ill-timed, and not just because the debate was the perfect venue for the feed’s snarky combination of Paul Ryan’s conservative come-ons with Ryan Gosling’s seductive charms. The Twitter crackdown came at pickup time, just when the humans behind @paulryangosling had to fetch their kids from school.
Daily Intel can now reveal that @paulryangosling is the creation of five humor writers, three who live in the New York City area and two in Texas. All mothers of small and school-age children, they blog at a website called the Mouthy Housewives, an advice site that one of them described as “Dear Abby if she were a little bit tipsy.” The idea came to them early in the morning on August 11, the day the Republican vice-presidential nominee was announced. Karen Gerwin, who lives in Brooklyn and used to work as a literary agent (full disclosure, she is a friend), was exchanging anguished, hilarious, horrified e-mails about the veep pick with her friend Marinka (not her real name), who was waiting at a New York–area airport to head off on a family vacation.
“Here’s this guy who’s our age whose beliefs about women’s rights are antiquated,” says Gerwin, of her initial reaction to Ryan.
“He’s the flip side of terrifying,” agrees Marinka. “The idea of him being the heartbeat away from anything, let alone the presidency, is very threatening for some people, you know, with uteruses. It’s a very thin line between the humor and the weeping uncontrollably.”
Marinka opened the @paulryangosling account — a mash-up of the Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” meme and the studly libertarian vice-presidential nominee — from her iPhone while she waited for her flight, and submitted the first tweet:
By the time Marinka and her family deplaned, PaulRyanGosling had 400 followers. Three other women — Wendi Aarons, a blogger; Kristine Cook, a freelance writer who runs a website called waitinthevan.com; and a woman I will call Kay, who doesn’t want to be identified for personal reasons — were enlisted to join the brain trust. Today, PRG has 70,000 followers. Praised by Forbes; aggregated by HuffPo and the Daily Beast, and declared “over” by this website, @paulryangosling is read by political junkies everywhere: Politico’s Mike Allen is a follower, as is Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post. Someone even flew a PRG-esque banner over an event by the actual Paul Ryan. It read, “hey, girl, choose me, lose choice. P Ryan.”
The gag is simple. Each tweet starts with a dopey, Gosling-esque “Hey girl,” followed by a parodistic stab at reading Ryan’s innermost thoughts. Here’s a favorite from the vice-presidential debates on October 11:
And here’s what PRG tweeted after the release of Ryan’s beefcake weight-room photos:
This week, after receiving the warning from Twitter Trust & Safety, the company’s Orwellian parody police, @paulryangosling agreed to change the feed’s bio explainer. It now reads “PARODY. Role-playing. Not affiliated with VP candidate Paul Ryan or actor Ryan Gosling. Obviously.” With this accommodation, @paulryangosling was free to mouth off during the debate, to the delight of his many fans. “Hey girl,” PRG said, “we totally respect working women. That’s why we let you go home at 7pm to make your family dinner and vacuum.”
But @paulryangosling’s creators remain anxious, for Twitter continues to insist that @paulryangosling change its name to something that clearly signals its ersatz identity or risk being shut down forever. Here the women behind @paulryangosling are holding firm. “Our user name is @paulryangosling,” argued one of them in a recent e-mail to Twitter. “Adding “Gosling” to the username is what distinguishes it from the subject of the parody, Paul Ryan. If we changed it to @notpaulryangosling it would make no sense, because you can’t not be somebody that doesn’t exist.”
And what, exactly, do the women behind Paul Ryan Gosling hope to accomplish if they are allowed to stay open for business? “We hope to be in Mitt Romney’s binder. Obviously,” says Kay.