Topher Grace
Jason Decrow  /  AP file
A comic book nerd, offended by director Sam Raimi's choice of Topher Grace for the villain in "Spider-Man 3," let the Internet know how he felt by editing Grace's Wikipedia entry.
Helen Popkin
updated 8/23/2007 8:59:45 PM ET 2007-08-24T00:59:45

So, wicked cool Mike Godwin, the first lawyer at the trailblazing Electronic Frontier Foundation, is now general counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation. He’s the guy behind Godwin’s law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Who better to defend Wikipedia than someone who so completely understands and accepts that the Internet is not fixed, but an ongoing dialogue that, at times, gets pretty rude.

Such is Wikipedia, where anybody can add or change an entry to say anything. Think about it …anything.

“In another 25 years, all of our children will have grown up in a world in which media like these are mutables and changeable and people prank each other, and it will seem less important,” Godwin was recently quoted in the New York Times. “Part of my job is to prevent restrictive rules from being put in place that prevent people from participating in massively democratic participatory media.”

Bully for him, and Wikipedia nay-sayers be danged. Some of that massively democratic participatory media can get pretty funny, and teach us more about human nature than dull, non-participatory text. Wikipedia pranks abound. They’re so prevalent, Wikipedia Pranks has its own Wikipedia entry. The bigger pranks get media coverage — that’s how most people find out about them. Then there are no doubt countless others that happen that most of us will never hear about. 

Case in point, a short-lived edit on the Topher Grace entry I stumbled on while geeking off on the Internet one day. Let the record show, it was on May 14, 2007 at or after 17:26 (5:26 p.m.) — the significance of which will be apparent shortly.

Anyway, it was around the time the third “Spiderman” came out and I wanted to see what the former Eric Foreman looked like as Venom. What I found was even better. Well, funnier anyway.

Some comic book nerd, seriously offended by director Sam Raimi’s choice for the latest Spidey villain, wanted the whole Internet to know his feelings. The Grace entry I caught included an accurate filmography, as well as a straightforward biographical intro paragraph. The rest, however, disintegrated into this hilarious vitriol (misspellings and all):

“Topher Grace sucks at everything he does in life and in Hell, he'll probably make a lame demon. Grace tried to plead to God for forgivness for excepting the important and meaningfull role of a so widely loved, kick-ass, and iconic villain in the Spider-Man comic series, and intentionaly butchering it into a horrible meaningless monstrositey - and not in good way. In doing this, Grace destroyed the hopes, dreams, heart, and soul of so many people across the world. In his pleas, Grace stated such thing as: 'It was the director's (Sam Raimi) fault!He never liked the character in the first place!' and 'How was I supposed to know I'd suck so bad?!" But being a vengeful God, he was not so forgiving as to let Grace go without firt sentancing him to life of "looking like that.'"

Me, I thought casting Toph as Venom/Eddie Brock was a bit of Raimi brilliance, but I shot milk out my nose nonetheless. A half an hour later, I went back for another laugh, only to find the snarky dialogue gone, the Wikipedia breach rectified, and the Grace entry’s accuracy returned – albeit now not nearly as entertaining as the vandal’s version. But here’s the cool part. According to the Grace entry’s edit history, comic book guy’s diatribe posted on 17:26 May 14, 2007, and was corrected for “vandalism” at 17:38 the same day.

Twelve minutes! How cool is that? Lucky me, I had the serendipitous fortune to find this little bit of acerbic gold within it’s very short span of existence. Of course, it still exists in the edit history. (Like I keep telling you, the Internet is forever.) Finding it means digging through the thousand-odd edits that occurred right around the time the third “Spiderman” movie hit theaters. But a for one brief moment, some guy had the ability to wreak cosmic vengeance, turning to Wikipedia to correct what he sees as a flaw in the Universe. You can’t do that with Encyclopedia Britannica or Webster’s Collegiate Edition.

What’s equally awesome is just how quickly the Wikipedia community policed its content, despite all the criticism over the site’s credibility. So what does it mean when common knowledge of to the universe is prankable and ever changing? I guess we’ll find out.

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