Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The Toronto police force may know him as Constable Adam Josephs, but to the rest of us he’s Officer Bubbles: the perfect icon for how our city failed us during June’s G20 summit. Quivering with testosterone in front of a Real News camera, the officer’s admonishment of bubble-blowing protestor Courtney Winkels swiftly made the rounds on YouTube—because who can resist the absurdity of “If the bubble touches me, you’re going to be arrested for assault”?
The beefy, power-tripping police officer became a momentary fixture in our city’s cultural milieu in the weeks following the summit, but we probably would have forgotten about him by now if it weren’t for something even more absurd: the launch of an ill-advised $1.25-million defamation lawsuit, against the anonymous creators of a series of parody cartoons depicting a fictional “Officer Bubbles” arresting Barack Obama and Santa Claus, against YouTube for hosting the videos, and, most ridiculously, against nearly two dozen YouTube commenters.
Josephs’s statement of claim charges that the cartoons “depict Josephs mistreating people and abusing his authority as a police officer, and are highly defamatory of Josephs.” The thirty-page document also includes a detailed synopsis of each of the cartoon’s eight episodes, a verbatim account of all YouTube comments deemed particularly offensive to Josephs’s fragile ego, and the demand that the website release the identities of the cartoon’s creators and the unidentified commenters.
“The reason we brought the lawsuit is that people have the right to protect themselves against this kind of harassment,” Josephs’s lawyer, James Zibarras, told the Globe and Mail in October with a straight face. This, for a client whose Facebook profile page apparently once listed his job description with the City as “I collect Human garbage.”
Surely, there are people out there who will defend Josephs, who will say his overreaction to a few bubbles was proof of ill-preparedness, or stress, or something. It’s worth pointing out, too, that while the young protester behind the offensive bubbles was later arrested, Josephs wasn’t the one who did the arresting. That’s about all Josephs has in his favour, though. For intimidating a bubble-blower, for taking himself more than a little too seriously, and for totally missing the joke, we deem Adam Josephs, Officer Bubbles, Villain-worthy.