If you live in Toronto, we have just what you need to help those winter blues – unless you work for Metrolinx, that is. Late last night, Toronto-based actor Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll ( Priscilla, Blackberry, CBS Ghosts, etc.) posted a series of “commercials” in an Instagram carousel.

The two videos found on the last slide were actual ads released by crown agency Metrolinx in October to promote its infamously delayed new Eglinton Crosstown LRT transit line. The first two were created by Fernandez-Stoll and other Toronto actors and hilariously mock the originals.

The real Metrolinx ads were shown at Cineplex Odeon theatres in Toronto pre-movie – and evoked more of a reaction from the audience than the films. In one word, they can be described as gaslighting.

The two real Metrolinx ads included in Fernandez-Stoll's Instagram post.

In each ad, the antagonist complains about the maddening construction and perpetual delays that have plagued the transit line – which runs along Eglinton from Mount Dennis to Laird – for years (and years). Then, a snarky protagonist essentially belittles their (very real) concerns as trite, mockingly highlighting how we should “see beyond the construction” (that’s the tagline) and that the benefits of new transit outweigh the costs. And they cuttingly do so in a way that would make anyone feel like garbage, frankly.

“We went to go see a movie at Cineplex, and they had the ads playing before the show,” says Fernandez-Stoll. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard a whole theatre laugh out loud like that at once – and just laugh in the most disgusted way. It was really funny. Nobody could believe that these gaslighting ads existed. We all saw them and were whispering about it. After, I started asking people if they’d seen them, and very few had. They weren’t on TV, they weren’t playing online, Metrolinx didn’t have them in their socials or YouTube.”

Fernandez-Stoll eventually came across the videos online, when Spacing provided links to them in an article last month on Metrolinx’s changing marketing tactics when it comes to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. “They were unlisted links on the Metrolinx YouTube page, so we were able to access the ads,” says Fernandez-Stoll. “We just couldn’t believe that these were real ads. There were questions like, ‘Who pitched this?’ and ‘How does this get approved?’ Was that pitch like, ‘Let’s gaslight the taxpayers and make them think it’s their fault for our shitty service?”

It was perfect material to get the creative juices flowing. Fernandez-Stoll called upon actors Tom Henry, Cotey Pope, and Saba Akhtar and got to work. “We make videos all the time and we just thought it would be really funny,” says Fernandez-Stoll. “You can call them parodies or spoofs, but I don’t even think that’s what they are, because what we did was just literally kind of copy their format and took it an extra level up. So, if anything, we just followed their tone and exactly what they were doing.”

The videos were written and directed by Fernandez-Stoll, with Edward Pond as the director of photography and sound engineering by Gavin Whelehan.

Once Fernandez-Stoll started showing the end result to his peers, he says that many thought that the original ads were part of the parody. Admittedly, when I first scrolled through Fernandez-Stoll’s carousel, I did too. “I just thought that I would post them all mixed in, and people can’t tell the real ones aren’t parodies,” says Fernandez-Stoll.

By morning, the post had garnered hundreds of likes and dozens of comments. This isn’t surprising; talented actors with comedy chops aside, the infamously delayed (and delayed again) transit line is an emotionally-charged topic for Toronto residents and business owners.

Presumably, it didn’t take long for Metrolinx to get wind of the flurry of social media activity. Earlier today, Fernandez-Stoll says that the videos embedded in the Spacing article were made private and are no longer publicly accessible online. “I thought that was really funny,” says Fernandez-Stoll. “But they know exactly what they did; you could say they played themselves. I think the main word here is tone deaf. Also, who’s paying for these videos?”

Based on the countless comments on Fernandez-Stoll’s Instagram page, he’s not alone in his sentiment.

After all, it’s no secret that the mere mention of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT evokes jokes, frustration, and even rage. After all, the “new” transit line has been under construction for 13 years(!) – something highlighted in one of Fernandez-Stoll’s parodies. What’s not funny are the devastating losses for Eglinton business owners, along with accessibility concerns, that have come with the construction of the transit line. But that’s a story for another day.

As for Metrolinx, when STOREYS reached out for comment, we were told one wouldn’t be available until tomorrow. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, all we can do is laugh, thanks to Fernandez-Stoll and his talented actor pals.