The Washington Post

‘[Expletive] people say’ meme inverts itself before collapse

Like an ouroboros, the “ [Expletive] People Say” meme has finally inverted itself, feeding upon its already stale laughs for its newest incarnation: “ [Expletive] People Say About [Expletive] People Say Videos.”

It’s lived a full Internet lifespan: from the funny must-see of the day, to the vaguely sexist should-I-laugh-or-not clip, to eliciting scathing racial commentary. All in the span of weeks.

In the meme’s twilight, a look back.

(Graydon Sheppard in “[Expletive] Girls Say”)

[Expletive] Girls Say,” (Note: This and all links to videos in this post contain strong language) which stars Graydon Sheppard in drag as a chip-munching ditzy girl, was based on a popular Twitter feed of the same name, which was in turn based on another popular Twitter feed, “[Expletive] my dad says.”

The first “[Expletive] Girls Say” video poked fun at a certain type of girl — the girl who greets her friends with high-pitched screeches and is generally too spoiled to do anything for herself.

It hit a nerve (11 million viewers and counting), and an endless loop of less-funny spinoffs began, like making a photocopy of a photocopy: “[Expletive] Gay Guys Say.” [Expletive] Black Guys Say.” “[Expletive] Yogis Say.” “[Expletive] Apathetic Girls Say.” “[Expletive] Asians Girls Say .”

The videos quickly took a turn toward race and religion, starting with: “[Expletive] White Girls Say to Black Girls,” by Franchesca Ramsey. The video pointed out the racism in statements that might seem innocuous, like “Can I touch your hair?” Ramsey said she created the video to combat subtle racism that she endures from white peers who ask inappropriate questions and touch her dreadlocks.

It rose to the top of YouTube, and spawned dozens of other videos that are purported to combat discrimination: [Expletive] Christians Say to Jews,” and “[Expletive] sighted people say to blind people” to name a few.

Then the meme spiraled into even more esoteric racial and ethnic divisions. There is a “[Expletive] Sri Lankan Fathers Say,” “ [Expletive] Seminarians Say,” “[Expletive] Jamaican Guys Say,” “[Expletive] Natural Hair Girls Say,” “[Expletive] Caribbean Moms Say” and “ [Expletive] Drag Queens Say to Other Drag Queens,” for instance.

For Campus Progress, Naima Ramos-Chapman wrote that the meme is sexist, racist and should end because it portrays women as “weak, stupid, silly, bad with technology, and helpless ... in general, the videos that have followed are also offensive to typically marginalized communities.”

But rather than promote racism, the videos highlight “microaggressions,” small actions that create a hostile situation, writes Tami Winfrey Harris in Clutch. By pointing out the absurdity behind seemingly innocuous comments, the meme gave people pause over comments such as, “Hey, what do you call a Jewish church? Do you want to come to real church with me?”

Now, in the meme’s final 15 minutes — time to turn our attention over to the “I have no idea what I’m doing” dog — “ [Expletive] People Say” videos have become so simultaneously beloved and reviled that there is “[Expletive] People Say About [Expletive] People Say Videos.” With this one, if we’re lucky, the whole meme will self-destruct. Or get a television deal.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.


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