Shit Everyone Says: What Does the Latest YouTube Meme Say About The People Making It?
Screenshot from Shit Girls Say
Photo Credit: shitgirlssay.com
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Like most academic concepts, “meme” started out as a fairly low-key affair. Richard Dawkins wanted to create a cultural analogue to the biological “gene,” so he looked to the Greek word for memory, and voila. Starting out, a “meme” was any transmutable cultural idea, like the Mona Lisa and the tune of “Happy Birthday.” But the internet’s gotten ahold of the idea, and boiled it down to its narrowest definition: a slim idea that can be slightly modified and reproduced to form a highly involuted joke . Thus we have the “ macros” of Meme Generator , Single Serving Tumblrs galore , and the novelty Twitter account.
One of the most successful memes was Shit My Dad Says . It was started by Justin Halpern, aspiring TV writer, who describes the Twitter as the “shit [his 74-year-old dad] says.” Most of the jokes are just observations from an older, by-the-bootstraps generation (e.g.”You don’t have to be good to succeed. You just gotta be the least shitty option. Example: We’re eating at The Olive Garden.”). The account racked up a few million followers, some significant media attention, and a best-selling book, all of which culminated in Mr. Halpern’s dream come true: a network TV show. That dream was pretty quickly quashed, though. After a stream of critical savagery and just eighteen episodes, $h*! My Dad Says was cancelled.
The swift and spectacular failure of $h*! My Dad Says wasn’t its end, though. Like a recessive gene for baldness popping up every other generation on your mother’s side, the Shit Someone Says meme recurred last December. It started as a fairly popular Twitter account called Shit Girls Say , which began back in April. But its 700,000+ followers is nothing compared to the nearly 10 million the first YouTube episode of Shit Girls Say has garnered so far. Shortly after Shit Girls Say found its way into cubicles, computer labs, and cursory email forwards, the meme spread. There’s Shit Black Girls Say, Shit Gay Guys Say, Shit Drunk Girls Say, Shit Black Guys Say, Shit Southern Gay Guys Say, Shit Baby Mamas Say, and — if your credulity can bear — even more people saying shit on YouTube videos, many with at least hundreds of thousands of views.
People saying shit is an undeniably popular meme. The interesting question, then, is what this meme says about its sayers, and what it say about its viewers.
There’s a pretty sensible taxonomy to these videos. Some of them are purely self-descriptive and self-promotional. Shit Gay Guys Say is authored by a gay guy . The video is a reasonably funny collection of gay stereotypes (“We have rosé…”) Shit Fat Girls Say is also self-descriptive and fairly low-key — it’s not hilarious, but it’s not nearly as offensive as its title allows. Shit Baby Mamas Say is, well, see above.
These videos are like a lot of other cultural markers: they celebrate the differences between all of us in ways that aren’t entirely toothless. They aren’t mean, either. The meme has given rise to another whole set of videos, though, that belong to a different class.
One of the most popular mutations of the Shit Girls Say meme is Shit Black Girls Say . It turns out that black girls and (presumably) white girls are pretty similar: bubbly, not tech savvy, emotional. Like Shit Girls Say, Shit Black Girls Say is authored by a guy. This is not to say that people from one demographic can’t make fun of others, but it takes a lot more than dressing up in drag to make your punchlines land. Especially if there aren’t really any punchlines. Most of the humor that Billy Sorrells , the video’s author, attempts hinges on the fact that he’s big guy wearing a wig who happens to be saying girly things. The only really funny part is where he quotes Lil Wayne’s verse from the Drake song “HYFR.” The rest of the video ranges from not funny to pretty disturbing: the domestic violence joke where, apparently, it’s a stereotypically black girl thing to cry and say, “Put your hands on me again. I’m serious, I’m going to call my brother over here”.