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The Story Behind Ocasio-Cortez’s Dancing Video—from Those Who Made It

“Breakfast Club” stars Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy Welcome Congresswoman to their Brat Pack club

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It was a quiet winter week for Eric Baker (COM’13) and Raul Fernandez (COM’00, Wheelock’16)—until their phones started blowing up.

A silly four-minute dance video they helped make eight years ago on the rooftop of the College of Arts & Sciences at Boston University was suddenly all the rage on YouTube. In a matter of 48 hours, it went from having about 50,000 views on Wednesday to almost 2 million by Friday.

What happened? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez happened. The same day the BU alum and newly elected New York congresswoman was sworn in on Capitol Hill on Thursday, an anonymous poster on Twitter shared an edited, 30-second version of the old video featuring clips only of Ocasio-Cortez with some less-than-flattering words: “Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is.” But instead of finding agreement on social media, the tweet exploded in the other direction, with people finding the video harmless, charming, goofy, light-hearted—pretty much anything but damaging to Ocasio-Cortez (CAS’11).

And Ocasio-Cortez, in a nod to the video, posted footage of herself on Twitter Friday morning, dancing to Edwin Starr’s “War” as she prepared to enter her new Capitol Hill office, along with the words, “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!”

Reached Friday on his way back to Syracuse, where he’s a graduate student in public diplomacy, Baker, who shot the video along with classmate Julian Jensen (COM’12), explained how it came to be: He said the John Hughes movies, like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, all shared cast members from a new so-called Brat Pack of actors and featured moments that became iconic to fans. (A few of those cast members, including Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald, tweeted their support of the video Friday.)

“We thought it was fun and a great way to showcase your community,” Baker says. “If we could jump on the ball, we thought we could do a Boston University mashup. We were student ambassadors at the Howard Thurman Center with Alexandria and others. We decided to make our own version. Julian and I did this from top to bottom, shooting, editing, casting.”

He says Cortez was a friend and “sort of the face of the Thurman Center,” because of her ability to rally people to want to be a part of it.

After scouting various rooftops across campus, the group descended on a Saturday to the roof of the Arts & Sciences building. “We wanted the best possible light,” Baker recalls. “We shot it all in a couple hours on a Saturday morning in mid-September. The turnaround was pretty quick.”

Like Baker, Fernandez, then the assistant director of the Howard Thurman Center, now the assistant dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion at Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, recalls Ocasio-Cortez as being a leading student ambassador for the Center. He had seen a video of the song “Lisztomania” by Phoenix set to scenes of dances from Brat Pack movies, and a group in Brooklyn had done a version, as well. “And we hadn’t seen one from any other college, so we said, ‘Why don’t we just go ahead and be the first college to create our own version….’ We just thought it would be a very fun thing to do.”

Fernandez recalls arriving in the dark to prepare for the shoot, armed with bagels and muffins he’d bought for the cast and crew at Panera. “It was one of the best days I’ve ever had at BU,” says Fernandez. “We were just enjoying the process of creating it and enjoying being around each other. It was just so much fun.”

The video screened during a men’s hockey game that season and the following summer was shown during orientation. The group also shared it on YouTube and forgot about it. But when Ocasio-Cortez was elected to Congress, the video saw a slight uptick in views, so Baker disabled comments on the video. Until this week. “I have been road tripping and I noticed my phone was blowing up,” he says. “I stopped and got some lunch and sent out a few pithy tweets.”

Fernandez, who first conceived the idea for the video, was with Ocasio-Cortez in Washington with a few other BU people on Thursday when the video started taking off. “I couldn’t believe it, we all thought it was ridiculous,” he says.

He says the group was watching the proceedings on TV. “It just kept popping up over and over, and then people started messaging me, and I’m like ‘Is this still happening? Are people still talking about this?’”

Within hours, the video was up with stories in the Boston Globe, Time magazine, Newsweek, and the Washington Post, and there was no stopping it. “I was like ‘What is happening right now?’” Fernandez says. “Like, what world do we live in? Where there’s, like, a new Congress being sworn in, you know, Nancy Pelosi has the gavel back as the Speaker of the House, we’re in the middle of a government shutdown, and all right, let’s talk about a music video that was shot in college years ago. All right, why not, why not?”

19 Comments

19 Comments on The Story Behind Ocasio-Cortez’s Dancing Video—from Those Who Made It

  • Joshua on 01.04.2019 at 4:09 pm

    With all of this talk about Russians influencing social media, it would have been nice if BU Today didn’t reinforce the silly notion like the other national media that an anonymous twitter handle (reportedly @AnonymousQ1776) represents the entire GOP, but that’s where we are now, create as much discord as possible on non-stories such as this. The Democratic Party promised to change the toxic culture on Capitol Hill but is already reinforcing it, as evidenced by AOC’s tweet (FYI, there are many GOP congresswomen in office) and the condoning of her colleague’s vulgar rant against Trump on Thursday.

    • Christian on 01.04.2019 at 4:50 pm

      RE: (FYI, there are many GOP congresswomen in office)

      The number of GOP women in congress dropped from 23 to 13. https://www.npr.org/2019/01/03/681027434/the-new-congress-has-a-record-number-of-women-but-very-few-republican-women

      • Joshua on 01.04.2019 at 5:42 pm

        You mean the number of GOP women in the House of Representatives dropped. There are eight female GOP senators in Congress as well. Speaking of which, one of the reasons the number dropped is because a white male Democrat defeated Haitian-American female Republican Mia Love. Where’s the PC outrage?

        • Es Jay on 01.04.2019 at 8:44 pm

          Also 1/8 of the GOP senators dresses up in confederate uniform for fun and makes jokes about lynching.

        • Terry on 01.06.2019 at 3:55 am

          Women in Congress
          (source: Center for American Women and Politics http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu)

          2018: 81D 29R
          Senate: 17D 6R
          House: 64D 23R

          2019: 106D 21R
          Senate: 17D 8R
          House: 89D 13R

    • Heather on 01.05.2019 at 2:29 am

      There are far more Democrat congresswomen than there are GOP. Also far more Democrats than GOP in Congress who are not white. Why do you think that is?

    • Charles Apostolik on 01.06.2019 at 5:59 pm

      The backlash against the Twitter poster’s ill-advised attempt to smear AOC was directed at that individual, together with anyone who might agree with him/her, not at the blanket condemnation of every Republican. You might want to consider the beam in your own eye: “The Democratic Party promised to change the toxic culture on Capitol Hill but is already reinforcing it….”

  • Armando J Martí on 01.04.2019 at 4:12 pm

    I didn’t know, until this morning, that the Congresswoman is a sister Terrier.

    Love the video.

  • gcollind on 01.04.2019 at 4:14 pm

    Nothing wrong with this video
    College students should have fun and dance
    while they can
    I don’t agree with her politics and where is the money to pay for everything ?
    I have heard her interviewed and despite a degree in international affairs her basic knowledge is severely lacking (google her to listen to interviews).
    I hope BU does not give her any awards just because she is famous. She doesn’t deserve it at this time. Wait till she gets more experience and makes positive changes

    • Larry W on 01.05.2019 at 9:30 pm

      I mainly agree with you; she has her work cut out for her in Congress. I hope that her education at BU proves to be a strong foundation for success and continued learning.

  • Stephen Wayles on 01.04.2019 at 4:17 pm

    Love this School-Days video. Opposition to such a college activity demonstrates political extremism! Taking one person’s part of a dance-video out of context seems an act far more compatible and consistent with “Commie” government behavior mentioned in the clip than does Ocasio-Cortez’s participation in a fun school video. Go, BU Terriers!!! And sincere congratulations to Rep Ocasio-Cortez on her election!
    Steve Wayles BU School of Theology D.Min 1991

  • Jon Bain on 01.04.2019 at 7:53 pm

    And Brett Kavanaugh was doing what in college, allegedly

  • Adriene Roberts on 01.04.2019 at 10:26 pm

    This is so cute. It should be used as a recruitment video.

  • Rohini on 01.04.2019 at 11:06 pm

    Fun fact — she went by Sandy in college?!
    Proud to BU Parent CAS & COM

  • Govia on 01.05.2019 at 2:33 am

    Get over it! There is nothing wrong with Ocasio-Cortez dancing in college. I think the students cast in the video are absolutely charming, and they brought a smile to my face. It is a beautiful thing to be in college getting an education, having fun, while serving your community.

  • BU ALUM on 01.05.2019 at 2:26 pm

    Everyone should sing, dance more and be silly at any age and “exercise certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Declaration of Independence 1776.

    The foundation of American history and the US Constitution.

  • Amy on 01.05.2019 at 4:43 pm

    Joshua, welcome to your actual GOP. That anonymous twitter handle is now representative. If you don’t feel like you identify, you’re in the wrong spot.

    Personally, I found the video too dorky to watch the whole thing (and how can “Lisztomania” have been long enough ago that a college student could become a congresswoman) but sure, it was sweet. It’s hard to imagine how curdled and misogynist you’d have to be to read “woman is stupid” into this.

    Also weird: politicians shouldn’t be able to dance? Are certain people maybe a little jealous that they never felt the love on the dance floor?

    • Joshua on 01.06.2019 at 10:04 pm

      So Amy, by your logic, should I take some of the tweets directed at U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (victim of a shooting two years ago), who was debating with AOC via Twitter this weekend, as representative of the Democrat Party? You and your fellow Democrats are condoning violence against GOP politicians? Look forward to the national media, including BU Today, on labeling those tweets as representative of the Democrat Party, but of course that won’t happen. Pick and choose their own narrative.

  • Jon M Levin on 03.07.2019 at 5:21 pm

    Seriously… I’m glad it backfired. I like that it shows AOC is fun and funny, and she has a good attitude toward life.

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