To help explain the complexities of the GameStop market frenzy, Brianna Parkins turned to two tall cans of Guinness, a sad-looking gray dog puppet and a pile of candy.
In her series of short TikTok explainers, Ms. Parkins casts the puppet as a hedge-fund manager looking to short a can of Guinness, reaping profits (that would be the candy) along the way. A white plaster statue enters the scene—representing the popular Reddit forum WallStreetBets—and buys up not one, but two cans of Guinness. “This is bad news for your hedge funds,” she says, waving the puppet to the camera.
Her series has drawn nearly three million views. “With something like short selling, it can sound like gibberish, quite theoretical and jargon-heavy. You get more and more lost with the more words you don’t understand,” said Ms. Parkins, a Dublin-based journalist for Ireland AM, in an interview.
As the Reddit-fueled rally and subsequent tumble took Wall Street by storm, people everywhere struggled to make sense of the market movements behind the headlines.
Rather than ignore the moment, the internet took it and swallowed it whole. Creators of TikTok videos, memes and other internet quips enlisted Beanie Babies, “Real Housewives” and Target dresses to shed some light on key financial concepts needed to grasp the situation—short selling, the short squeeze and how options work.
Some aimed for a quick joke, while more educational explainers featuring household items and pop-culture analogies succeeded where those heavy on textbook terms and finance history fell flat.
Ms. Parkins made her video after noticing people on social media asking for an easier-to-understand explanation of the
rally. Her own boyfriend asked her what short selling was. She has since dubbed her approach, using cans of Guinness, “canonomics.”
Others have turned to recurring TikTok trends and tropes. An inexplicable TikTok obsession with sea shanties morphed with the GameStop news to become a catchy musical saga: “There once was a stock that put to sea / The name of the stock was GME / The price blew up and the shorts dipped down / Hold my bully boys, hold.”
Avalon Penrose, an actor living in Los Angeles, posted her own video poking fun at the flurry of explainers.
In the parody, which has close to 17 million views, Ms. Penrose plays a cheerful “normal person” who begins by earnestly trying to elucidate the market news. Her expertise, she declares, comes from the fact that she owns some stock. She goes on to describe financial power players as “these people who have lots of money and they have hedges around their house.” In her increasingly confused telling, the Reddit forum WallStreetBets becomes an online reading club that wants hedges, too.
Over the course of the two-minute video, her not-quite-right explanations bring her close to a breakdown. The video attracted one badge of
stardom—a tweet from Elon Musk saying, “A hedge fund that shorts is a shrubbery.”
“People love to see themselves,” Ms. Penrose said. “People saw it and said, ‘Oh, this girl is derailing into panic—that’s me.’ ”
Andray Domise, a 40-year-old political journalist in Toronto, took a straightforward approach for his seven videos, posted on both Twitter and TikTok. He talks into the camera in front of a white brick wall, dropping an occasional swear word, with ambient music playing in the background. He said he wanted to focus on the “plain language” he often finds lacking in explainers.
He’s pleasantly surprised his videos have netted more than 500,000 views on Twitter. His thought when he was making them was, he said, “Hopefully people will sit through this.”
Julia Wilson, a 26-year-old tutor in Phoenix, said she connected to the “why even bother?” feeling when it came to understanding how the markets connected to her everyday life. After reviewing a few explainer videos and reading up on the GameStop news, she landed on the perfect parallel that helped bring the rally into focus: Beanie Babies.
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“Beanie Babies evoked investment,” she said. “Thinking on my childhood in the ’90s, it was the first thing that came to mind.”
Ms. Wilson shared her Beanie Babies analogy on her Tumblr blog, describing a scenario in which someone sells their auntie’s beloved Beanie Babies at the pawnshop to try to turn a profit. “Visualizing the stocks as visual, physical things you can buy and sell really helps,” she said.
Ms. Parkins in Dublin said she’s encouraged by likes from people ranging from Monica Lewinsky to the Irish Finance Ministry. She is considering buying more puppets—the dog, a character named Sweep on British TV, was borrowed from a roommate—and expanding her videos into topics like government policy and vaccine distribution.
“If my housemate helps out, I can have a proper cast,” she said. “Right now, I just have one puppet and one spare hand.”
Write to Julia Carpenter at [email protected]
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