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Fronnie Does China: Donnie's Apartment


Donnie and I are going to take turns writing some behind-the-scenes commentary about these vids. I encourage you to watch the episode first, as these write-ups will contain spoilers.

We shot this IKEA video just a few hours after I’d arrived. It’s a nod to an IKEA vid Donnie did years ago, operating under the narrative that he actually lives at there. More importantly, we wanted to highlight the bizarreness of the Shanghai IKEA–one of the weirdest, most surreal places I’ve ever been. Donnie thought this would be the perfect place to throw me right into the fire of China’s cultural eccentricities, and he wasn’t wrong.

The IKEA is PACKED with people, the majority of whom are not there to shop. It’s a social gathering hotspot. A lot of older people simply come to take naps on the display furniture. Younger people hang out for hours, lounging on the chairs and in the cafeteria. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve got free WIFI, AC, and it’s comfortable as hell. Given how many people occupy Shanghai’s IKEA on a daily basis, it made us wonder… what if someone actually lived here? This was the premise of the video.




The funniest thing that happened was when Donnie went to the cafeteria to get the food for me. He bought some bacon dogs, then walked over to the disposal conveyor belt and placed them on a tray to stage the joke that he was scavenging discarded food scraps for me. Donnie walked 10 feet down the line to wait for them, but the dogs never made it: they were were SNIPED in 5 seconds by an old woman. Look closely:

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What a sneaky bitch! Granted, this was untouched food, but she was doing exactly what we were pretending to be doing. Donnie then confronted her about it, at which point she knew we’d caught her, and she walked out.

Wanted: Chinese woman between the ages of 40-90, last seen stealing prop hot dogs at the Shanghai Ikea

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Once Donnie had assembled my tray, we walked back into the showroom to our “apartment.” This was my first foray into Donnie’s brazen disregard for signs, authority, and the law. There was a very clear sign between the cafeteria and the showroom that said “NO FOOD ALLOWED.” Donnie walked right past a guard with an entire tray of food, and she started yelling at us. His response? “Just walk faster.” It’s amazing how easily you can lose security guards among the winding pathways of IKEA. A little duck, headfake, and a quick jog had us back home safe and sound in our kitchen. I dove headfirst into those Swedish meatballs which left a decidedly horse-meaty aftertaste, but I was so hungry I didn’t care.

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2 minutes into the meal, the guards found us. But instead of telling us we had to stop filming our meal in IKEA, they just stood over my shoulder and watched. And by the way–this response was common. Throughout our trip, guards and police officers, rather than tell us we had to stop what we were doing, would stand very close and watch us nervously. I think this stemmed from a combination of confusion + white privilege. But also, they wanted people to think they had control of a situation that baffled them. Clearly, no one had ever eaten an entire meal in a fake kitchen in IKEA, but we were acting as though everything was normal, and we were from America… so what could they do? Donnie is very accustomed to this, having done it for years, but I never got used to it.

Lastly, one of my favorite visuals from the entire trip:

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Tune in Thursday for Episode 2!