Emmanuel is a simple emu: he likes the spotlight and he hates phones.
These traits, plus his charisma on camera, have made him an internet sensation almost overnight.
But not all credit goes to the emu himself, of course. Emmanuel’s newfound fame is also due to Taylor Blake, his caretaker and human documentary maker, who has spent the past few weeks posted videos of the emu interrupting her daily life at the South Florida ranch where she works.
“Emmanuel, don’t!” Blake often says to the emu as he walks past her and the iPhone camera. Emmanuel then pauses normally, stares into the lens and takes over the shot completely.
Blake and Emmanuel can be seen in videos hanging out at Knuckle Bump Farms, a South Florida hobby farm that focuses on miniature livestock, according to the Instagram bio. Blake posts Emmanuel’s videos to the farm’s TikTok account, @knucklebumpfarms, which has amassed more than 950,000 followers and 23.7 million likes. A compilation Blake and Emmanuel’s Misadventures has been viewed more than 23 million times on Twitter.
The now famous internet duo did not respond to interview requests. Blake tweeted Tuesday that the attention was overwhelming.
“My emails and DMs are absolutely flooded,” she wrote, adding, “I’m a little overwhelmed, but I want you all to know I’m doing my best! I appreciate every email and request.”
Their sudden popularity is not surprising. The attachment fans may feel toward a public figure — especially personal creators who are very active online — is often described as a parasocial relationship. Famous pets occupy a unique place in parasocial interactions. Fans can feel a close bond with the pet owner and care for the creator’s pet as they would take care of their own.
In the videos, Blake will often appear in brown Tommy Hilfiger overalls and a baseball cap. In one video, she even dresses Emmanuel with his own matching hat.
Sometimes Blake—like many parents who berate their children—call on the emu’s full name, “Emmanuel Todd Lopez.”
Emmanuel in some cases pecks at the camera, causing it to fall to the ground. Other times, he’ll heed Blake’s warnings and just step out of the frame.
The oldest video from the TikTok channel dates back to January 10. Most of the content was originally focused on the miniature cattle that lived on the farm. But soon Emmanuel’s contents took flight.
Emmanuel’s intermissions are not scripted or staged. Instead, Blake told the Washington Post, the emu has an “obsession with the camera” and with Blake himself.
Although Blake has to berate Emmanuel at times, the two have a close bond, with TikToks letting the couple hug and cuddle.
“Emmanuel, you are my best friend!” Blake tweetedalong with a video of herself and Emmanuel doing best friend activities like telling jokes and eating ice cream.
But Emmanuel isn’t the only emu on the farm. There’s also Ellen, a female emu who was adopted along with Emmanuel by Blake’s grandmother in 2015, Blake told the Washington Post.
Don’t start writing fanfiction about emu shipping, though. Blake wrote in a TikTok comment: “She [Ellen] and Emmanuel hate each other.”
In another TikTok comment, Blake wrote Emmanuel “hasn’t quite hatched yet, but we’re pretty sure he’s gay. We’ve had him since he hatched, he’s very sweet and loves to cuddle, but he is also a threat.”
In some ways, however, Emmanuel has become a symbol of standing up to authority. “Become Uncontrollable”, author Deanna Raybourn tweeted. “Be the Emmanuel you want to see in the world.”
On Sunday, Blake posted a photo to Instagram of her kissing Emmanuel on the beak.
“Thank you for everything,” she wrote. “All I ever wanted was to spread joy like wildfire. I feel like all my dreams are coming true. I can’t wait to tell my future children all about how an Emu changed my life.”
Still, Blake seems concerned that fame might give Emmanuel a bit of an ego.
“I’m starting to think fame has gone to Emmanuel’s head,” she wrote in the caption of a video posted Tuesday. In it, Emmanuel unexpectedly enters while another animal, Princess, is in the spotlight.
“Emmanuel,” she says before ending the video, “we need to talk off camera.”