These days, a major world event can’t happen without an accompanying meme. During Hurricane Sandy, the new social media star is Lydia Callis, the American Sign Language interpreter who appears next to the Mayor at press conferences and whose facial expressions have garnered her an internet following and – the ultimate status symbol on the internet—a fan Tumblr. Outlets like NPR are calling her “a star” on the level of El Bloombito, the Spanglish-snark Twitter account that added some levity to Hurricane Irene by making fun of Michael Bloomberg’s terrible attempts to speak Spanish.
While most of the comments about Lydia online have been positive, they’re positive in an ironic and subtly mocking sort of way. The title of the Tumblr is “Lydia Callis’ face for NYC mayor”—not her whole body, just her face. Laine Nooney, a PhD candidate at SUNY-Stony Brook, tweeted that Callis is “the only SL interpreter I've ever seen who signs with a New York accent.” TruTV’s “Dumb as a Blog” even catalogued 12 of Callis’ facial expressions, giving each a nickname like “The Double Yodas” and “The Hiarious Paperback.” In some of them, Callis is articulating herself in a way that would be completely relatable to any signer. “The Double Yodas” makes fun of the sign itself—two hands in “Y” shapes pulling downward, which can either mean “now” or “today”—while purporting to be a joke about Callis’ facial expression in the screencap. The satiric website DListed, however, gave Callis the ultimate ‘compliment,’ crowning her their Hot Slut of the Day. (Previous Hot Sluts include a goat from a viral internet video and the vagina of reality TV supermom Michelle Duggar.)