A bearded drag queen named Gio Profera from Hialeah, Florida, was reportedly bitten in the testicles by a large iguana in her toilet bowl. The story has since gone viral thanks to the Spanish language TV network Telemundo and the fact that there’s video of the iguana crawling out from the toilet (and Profera’s grandmother chasing the iguana out of the bathroom with a hairbrush). But the entire toilet iguana story was actually an artistic media hoax meant to draw attention to an artist named Zardulu during Miami Art Week and the Art Basel Miami Beach international art fair.
The tale of the toilet iguana
“When I got bitten by the iguana it felt like a mouse trap snapped on my balls,” Profera told Unilad. “I’m lucky it let go because I can’t imagine the pain of it thrashing around while I’m hanging onto them.”
He added, “With the bite alone, they were sore for a few days. You can still faintly see little red holes in the shape of its mouth on my scrotum.”
Profera’s associate, Christopher Lopez, posted a video of the toilet iguana on Facebook which later appeared on a news broadcast on Telemundo. Both videos are below:
If Profera had actually been bitten, it would’ve been painful and might have even required medical care: Iguanas have anywhere from 80 to 120 small, sharp, serrated teeth. A soft bite from an iguana will draw small pinpricks of blood, but they have powerful jaws, and stronger bites generally require stitches. Their bites can also cause serious infections.
However, The New York Times discovered that the toilet iguana video was just a viral media hoax from a local artist named Zardulu. Zardulu specializes in such artistic hoaxes and uses media and social media, rather than traditional venues like art galleries, to show their work.
Zardulu called the iguana piece “The Usurpation of Ouranos,” a reference to the Greek myth of Kronos. The New York Times explains:
The iguana escapade, Zardulu said, retells the myth of Kronos, who rebels against his father Uranos, who had imprisoned his children in the underworld. Kronos rises from the underworld, castrates Uranos and seizes the throne. Underworld, throne — you get it.
We’re unsure if Profera is Kronos in this case, or if Kronos is the media, but whatever. The New York Times continued explaining how the hoax went viral:
As always, Zardulu’s work requires the collaboration of unwitting news organizations. Mr. Lopez said he approached Telemundo with his footage because “as a company, they’d rather not check the facts.” Two officials for Telemundo did not respond to an email for comment….
For those concerned about the welfare of the iguana, Zardulu said the hoax was overseen by a licensed herpetologist in accordance with the American Humane Society’s guidelines for the use of animals in film.
The hoax has since appeared on sites in Vietnam, Poland, Cuba and elsewhere. Zardulu told The New York Times, “Deep down, we don’t care about the truth. We want myth. We want our feelings and emotions to be represented in symbolic forms.”