Follow Friday: The Ethereal Musings of @NotTildaSwinton

Slate's Culture Blog
May 25 2012 3:32 PM

Follow Friday: The Ethereal Musings of @NotTildaSwinton

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The backdrop to the tweets of @NotTildaSwinton

Born out of last weekend’s “ring of fire” eclipse, the first this century, was an unlikely Twitter mini-phenomenon. On Monday, a tweet appeared from a brand new account: “‏The eclipse has given me much power. My skin glows. Tonight I feast on large game.” Five days, a couple hundred updates, and 30,000 followers later, we have what is anecdotally being called the best celebrity parody account ever.

@NotTildaSwinton isn’t quite parody, though—or, at least, not just that. There is a trippy piety to the tweets, a combination of uproarious nature-worship and makeshift self-help proferred freely to her followers (or “tildren,” as she calls them).

Prolific updates stretch well into the night. NotTilda is at one with nature:

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She has many animal companions, as small as fireflies and as large as lions:

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And there is a dark side to her nature love (and her poetry):

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Then there are her half-amusing, half-beguiling additions to the canon of wisdom literature:

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The Internet, meanwhile, has fallen in love. Sites like Vulture and BuzzFeed have declared their fealty, and the account gets several adoring replies a minute. I spoke briefly with the two authors of the account today. The two men (both in their early 20s) said they plan to reveal themselves later today (a timeline that seems to coincide with an ongoing 200-tweet countdown that may signify the end of this delightful creation).*

@NotTildaSwinton's breakaway success is a surprise partly because of the way the public tends to regard the real Swinton—that is, with a mixture of suspicion and awe. The Scottish actress’ oft-noted androgynous looks—the angular face, the signature saffron hair—coupled with her adventurous screen offerings (Orlando, The Deep End, We Need to Talk About Kevin) have given Swinton a mysterious air that seems to amuse her. She has told journalists of inhabiting lands in Scotland that have been in her family for hundreds of years—and brushed off persistent rumors that she lives with both the father of her children and her lover. She accepted her Oscar (for Michael Clayton) by telling the crowd, “Happy birthday, man.”

NotTilda riffs on the mystery surrounding Swinton, but she is very much her own beast. Her seemingly disconnected musings almost form a narrative: the adventures of NotTilda and her trusted sidekick, a bat she birthed named Theremiah. ("Playing a dessert game with Theremiah. I nap with my mouth open. He collects and deposits food. When I wake up, I taste the cornucopia.") It's a scary, glorious world, one we will sorely miss should today's revelation prove to be the end.

* Update: As it turns out, the guys behind @NotTildaSwinton couldn’t be further from its inspiration.

Eli Yudin, 21, created the account earlier this week and enlisted his Twitter friend, Carey O’Donnell, 23, to contribute. Yudin said today that he got the idea for the account from jokes he’d written about Swinton in the past, and chose this week mostly because he had his wisdom teeth out Monday and had nothing better to do. “I started this while watching Netflix and eating buffalo pringles on my parents’ couch,” he said.

Yudin graduated earlier this month from the University of Michigan, and said one of the most surreal moments of the account’s explosion came when he was followed by Susan Orlean, The New Yorker writer and one of the honrees at Michigan’s graduation this year. But the best follower, he said, had to be Anderson Cooper: "Carey was like, 'You caught the Silver Fox!'"

“The funniest part of this is that we’re no one, nobody,” Yudin said. "We're just two guys on Facebook chat. And I got to direct message back and forth with Patton Oswalt the other night."

Yudin appreciated my attempt to link the account to loftier ambitions, but said for them it was all tongue-in-cheek. And he confirmed, tragically, that its 200th tweet today will be its last, an attempt to avoid the inevitable Internet fatigue. But you can follow future collaborations at http://nottildaswinton.tumblr.com. And if you happen to be hiring, Yudin said he and O'Donnell would be happy to hear from you. "Yeah, we're unemployed," he said.

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