Roig, A., & Martorell, S. (2021). A fictional character in a real pandemic: humanization of the Covid-19 virus as a parody account on Twitter. Information, Communication & Society, 24(6), 886-902.
The aim of this paper is to understand the role of parody characters on Twitter as drivers of digital narratives connected to ongoing crises. Using a paradigmatic case study methodology, we will focus on the hugely popular Spanish parody account @Coronavid19, where the virus, presented as a fictional character, has been offering a humorous chronicle of an unprecedented social and health crisis, from the early beginning and in almost real time. This case has been chosen considering its popular impact in terms of media repercussion and growth (almost half a million followers in less than a week), but also its peculiarities as a fictional character and a privileged chronicler in the first person. Our goal is to understand how this kind of fictional parody character is built, how narrative and character traits evolve along time, and to observe to which extent they serve as a tool to cope with hard times, fostering collective empowerment, empathy and stressing official recommendations by mocking irrational behavior. We conducted a systematic extraction of tweets over nineteen weeks (n = 954 tweets) for analysis and conducted a semi-structured interview with the author behind the account. Results point to a character-driven narrative with a transformation arc in an otherwise unpredictable plot, where: (1) the threat is made tangible and vulnerable through humanization; (2) the bleakest implications of the pandemic are side-lined in the process; (3) there lies a tension between character coherence, relevance and the authorial ethical dilemmas faced in front of an unpredictable, far-reaching crisis.