March 9 2017
For the past few weeks, America has come together to laugh at ‘Cash Me Ousside’ girl and revel in this slo-mo trainwreck of a human being. But apparently, according to buzzkill culture critics, the 13-year-old menace to society actually has deeply racist implications and you should feel bad for laughing.
A University of Maryland student thinks America’s obsession with Cash Me Ousside girl Danielle Bregoli “indicates serious racial issues.” And that writer isn’t alone—in the past week, Bregoli’s rise to fame, or rather surely short-lived virality, has been analyzed as a racial phenomenon by publications from BuzzFeed to Ebony to BET.
A recap for anyone living on the moon: Bregoli shot to fame after appearing on Dr. Phil as a “car-stealing, knife-wielding, twerking 13-year-old daughter” who uttered her viral phrase, followed by “how bout dah” and a challenge for “deez hoes” in the audience to fight. The clip has gotten more than 24 million views on YouTube alone, launching Bregoli into the exalted status of a living meme.
Pundits and Twitter users have debated whether Bregoli’s dialect was “an affected accent,” “culturally appropriated use of ebonics” or “African American Vernacular English.” Others have suggested her manner of speech is race-transcendent “trash” or “ghetto”—though those very descriptors often have racial connotations.
But the bigger complaint is this: Bregoli’s Internet-fame itself.
A controversial BuzzFeed article suggests that Dr. Phil chooses guests like the Florida teen “to demonstrate what can happen if you don’t keep young white women in line.” Her behavior “goes against the way we want white teenage girls to act,” BuzzFeed’s Scaachi Koul continued.
Several other critics note that Bregoli is attempting to get rich off her time in the spotlight—an opportunity (if you can call it that) unavailable to young girls of color, they say.
An Ebony correspondent who writes under the name LaSha says BuzzFeed’s take paints Bregoli as a “feminist Rocky for disrespectful white girls who operate with the impunity whiteness grants.”
She adds that “brutal criticism… would surely ensue if black parents allowed their 13-year-old to monetize her infamy, brag shamelessly about committing criminal offenses, star in a grown man’s video and curse like a drunken sailor who just stubbed his toe.”
Meanwhile, the University of Maryland’s Hannah Yasharoff writes that “subar memes created by white people get worldwide notoriety, while viral Internet sensations created by people of color rarely see the same mainstream level of celebrity,” she said. “If they do, it’s often without credit. … Why, then, do memes fall behind traditional entertainment in giving proper recognition to diverse content creators?”
Yasharoff mentions two other creators of viral memes, Alex Lee and Daniel Lara, both also white, as proof. But she ignores figures like Antoine Dodson (a.k.a. “hide the kids, hide your wife” guy), who later reported he had made “enough to move my family from the projects” with his viral catch phase.
Bregoli is 15-minute famous, but it’s precisely because everyone is making fun of her. Her virality is dark humor; behavior like Bregoli’s is disturbing regardless of race. But Bregoli’s critics seem to be the only ones taking her seriously. In doing so, they confuse ignominy with prominence—perhaps an easy mistake to make in an era where shamelessness is lauded as a virtue.
What, exactly, do her critics want? Equal-opportunity mockery?
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.