Are you telling me a shrimp fried this…Cinnamon Toast Crunch? On March 22, Jensen Karp tweeted this picture with the caption “why are there shrimp tails in my cereal? (This is not a bit),” and within hours, whe Twitter-verse exploded. Karp is a producer, writer, actor, and podcaster who enjoyed a moderate amount of fame until this tweet went viral, sending him and his potentially problematic past into the public eye. He continued to document and publicly share his interactions with General Mills, the parent company of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
As the situation began to spiral into massive popularity, the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Twitter account eventually responded, arguing that what was depicted was just “an accumulation of the cinnamon sugar” and ensuring there was “no possibility of cross contamination with shrimp.” But by that point, Twitter had escalated into a frenzy, spurred on by a salvo of memes created by random Twitter users and comedians alike, including Karp himself.
As if things couldn’t get weirder, later in the day (yes, that same day) Karp shared a close-up picture of a few pieces of the cereal which had questionable black fragments baked into them. And even later, he shared a picture of a second but unopened bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in his house which seemed to contain dental floss.
This craze took over social media for the day, occupying the #1 trending spot on Twitter as more people became invested in both the situation, as well as the man behind it. It came as a surprise to some to learn that Karp is married to Danielle Fishel, an actress well-known for her role as Topanga Lawrence on the ‘90s sitcom “Boy Meets World.” Even weirder, almost exactly one year ago, Fishel tweeted out a sponsored ad for CoffeeMate’s Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavored creamer.
The abundance of jokes and memes were clever, but Shrimp Gate took a dark and unexpected turn when multiple women came out against Karp with allegations of emotional and sexual abuse. Melissa Stetten, a writer and model — who, incidentally, plays for a women’s recreational basketball team in LA called ‘Pistol Shrimps’ — was one of these women. In a Twitter thread on March 24, she called Karp a “manipulative gaslighting narcissistic ex-boyfriend” who aimed to “control and demean women.” Jumping off of Stetten’s tweet, Stephanie Mickus, a screenwriter, shared that she was told by Karp to “be careful or I would never work in this town again.” Such strong and horrific descriptions of abuse stunned most people following the situation — but Karp has not publicly acknowledged these accusations.
Cinnamon Toast Crunch put out a general public statement to say that they are still working with Karp to discern what exactly was in that box of cereal. In true viral fashion, the craze seems to have since died down; Indeed, the absurdity of this situation calls to mind some relevant discourse about whether we should retire the phrase “going viral,” especially with the connotation that word carries in the midst of a very real virus-driven pandemic.
In any case, the situation with Karp is a lot to unpack and full of strange twists and turns. One Twitter user put it perfectly: “A man named Karp married to a woman named Fishel found shrimp tails in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The cereal was purchased from the Costco on Topanga Canyon Blvd, and his wife played Topanga in Boy Meets World. Meanwhile, Karp used to be a guest on Pistol Shrimp Podcast.” Good luck to future students trying to understand this from their history books.