Week in Subcultures

by Ben Bienstock, Sarah Clapp & Liby Hays

published October 26, 2018


Let this serve as a lesson to all New England exotic pet owners and comic book lovers: you may indulge in your passions separately, but never dare combine the two. At last week’s Super Megafest Comic-Con in Framingham, Massachusetts, police arrested Michael Audette and seized his alligator, Burmese python, and two tarantulas. Audette, hoping to capitalize on the potential union of these fandoms, charged convention-goers to take photos with his creepy-crawly friends. Although tarantulas and pythons are legal to own in Massachusetts, alligators, tragically, are not. Curiously, police arrested Audette on an unknown outstanding warrant unrelated to his zoological entrepreneurship and only subsequently charged him with possession and importation of the reptile.

Audette’s suppression sends a message that couldn’t be clearer: fans dressed in full Spider-Man garb are welcome at Super Megafest—according to its website, “New England’s Super-Fun Comic & Celebrity Pop Culture Fanfest celebrating Comics, TV, Movie, Sci-Fi, Wrestling and Rock & Roll!”—but authentic arachnids are forbidden.

Though it is tempting to view Audette as a snake-scarfed folk hero suppressed by the comic book powers that be, the Independent has serious reservations with all parties in this sordid affair. Why did Audette, a Warwick resident, bring both legal and illegal animals (presumably under a large, khaki trench coat) across state lines when Rhode Island has both an upcoming comic book convention and no laws against alligator ownership? Did he believe tarantulas and a five-foot python alone would not be enticing enough to costumed Massholes on their way to stand in the presence of secondary castmembers of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and WWE Hall of Famer “Mean” Gene Okerlund? Why bring wild animals to a comic convention at all? (For the thrill, of course.)

Despite Audette’s failings, we must consider what Massachusetts Environmental Police had to gain from shattering Audette’s dreams of bridging the divides between the animal kingdom and Marvel and DC Universes. Perhaps they conspiratorially invoked Audette’s undisclosed past warrant in order to maintain the tensions between these rival factions, lest law enforcement’s control of MetroWest be wrested from them by a porcupine in a replica Hulk mask. Surely the Framingham Police are threatened by the potential of an exotic pet owners–comic-con ticketholders alliance, and sought to perpetuate the hostility between these subcultures to preserve the status quo.

Though the Independent newsroom is divided on whether alligators, pythons, and tarantulas are gross and scary, we firmly believe in the right of Rhode Islanders to be weird in public. We are inspired by Audette’s audacious struggle against state-enforced conformity, and we will ourselves attempt to make change (literally and figuratively) this November by charging Rhode Island Comic Con attendees $15 a pop to pose with our beloved staff pet, Jonah the Komodo dragon.




The Independent must issue a retraction of an article published in Volume 37, Issue 4, entitled “Block by Block.” The article, which reported on Lego’s pledge to eliminate petroleum-based plastic products by 2030, misrepresented Lego as an entity beholden to gross corporate excess, insinuating that its polluting practices would bring about a “primary-colored hellscape” if a sustainable solution was not instituted immediately.

The writer of that article would not have made so bold a claim if she had been attune to recent drama in the Lego universe surrounding YouTuber republicattak and his collection of Lego paraphernalia, accumulated over 14 years and valued at $18,000. In his video “Bye,” republicattak––real name Louis, a French vlogger known for documenting his Lego Star Wars constructions––fights back tears as describes the devastating robbery of his beloved bricks that befell him mere hours before. His voice quivers as he announces that his channel must end. “It was really great to have you for eight years and to inspire other people,” he says, his eyes darting to the scene of the crime. “What an honor.”

It is hard to look into republicattak’s kind, tearful blue eyes and not feel horrible about his loss, especially if you recently wrote an article insinuating that society is doomed unless we reclaim and reassemble Legos for eco-friendly causes. You wonder if your call to arms incited a band of French climate activists to launch an anti-Lego guerilla revolution. You wonder if you ruined a man’s life. After crying through several viewings of “Bye,” this writer has renewed her commitment to the ethics of Lego-journalism and discovered that Lego is more than a vehicle for movie-reboot merchandise, more than a vessel of apocalyptic anxiety, more than a cuboid that interlocks with other cuboids: Lego is community. For it is this community that has rallied around Louis over the past week; a fellow LegoTuber set up a GoFundMe campaign to rebuild the stolen collection, which far exceeded its initial $1000 goal with enough donations to replace the entire trove. In the campaign’s comment section, donors explained their sudden investment in Louis’ passion with memories of play––the formative, universal effect of clicking blocks together for the first time.

The politics of Lego may be as unwieldy as a 7,500 piece Millenium Falcon, but the heart and soul of Lego’s global network prove to be plainly noble. While the Independent supports the pursuit of environmental justice, especially in the wake of the IPCC’s urgent report on global warming, we also can’t help but support Louis, even if it means that Lego must now manufacture thousands of dollars worth of brand new, oil laden, carbon spewing Lego bricks and Darth Vader miniatures. We will not stand in the way of this act of solidarity. We will not stand to see an oasis of technicolor joy swept from the Internet with Louis’ involuntary retirement. We will not back down from proclaiming: There is nothing so pure as a Lego!

After admiring pictures of table-sized Ewok Villages and scouring chat rooms till dawn, it is apparent to this member of the Lego-press that “Lego Life” isn’t just the Lego-specific social media app that she just signed up for: It is a lifestyle shared by a league of devotees, united through an unbreakable spirit of ingenuity and a dedication to uplifting the downtrodden among them. Tina Murphy, a GoFundMe commenter, speaks on behalf of this collective in comforting their comrade in construction: “One person ruined you, but watch as hundreds rebuild you.”