There are a lot of things that make memes funny. There are juxtapositions, cultural references, and absurd or catchy phrases that stick in our heads. Dat boi, one of 2016’s biggest entries into society’s meme-bank, combines a catchy phrase and absurdist humor, but the punchline’s racial connotations have sparked a fierce debate in “Post Aesthetics” a 40,000-strong secret Facebook group dedicated to posting only the dankest of memes.
As dat boi unicycled his way to the top of the meme Hot 100 list, users in Post Aesthetics pointed out that dat boi’s punchline is mostly the silly language associated with it — “here comes dat boi!!! … o shit waddup!” The problem is, “dat boi” and “waddup,” and by extension both phrases entirely, have roots in African American Vernacular English, AAVE for short – which is a unique dialect used by black communities around the country. Many black users and people of color in Post Aesthetics found dat boi to be a tired meme whose humor relied on appropriating and subtly mocking black dialect and black culture (it’s funny to say “o shit waddup” to a frog on a unicycle; less so to ask “how’s it going”?).
Of course, people are pretty territorial about their memes, and the internet’s anti-political correctness crowd is well represented in Post Aesthetics. Massive comment chains sprang up, and the debate raged over whether or not dat boi was offensive.
Paper Magazine got into Post Aesthetics and watched the whole thing go down. Post Aesthetics moderator Tamia Thompson told them how the schism in the church of dank memes happened.
The [original anti-dat boi] argument that arose was that dat boi was racist in its origin — mocking AAVE and using it as a meme instead of validating it as any other dialect [would be readily accepted]. The argument in response was mainly that dat boi was not racist inherently and [even if] the meme does take after AAVE, it should not be understood as being only ever spoken by black Americans. [Therefore] this meme exists to offend nothing by its sheer randomness.
In the end, the group instituted a blanket ban on dat boi memes. The unicycling frog lives on everywhere else on the internet, but his reign over Post Aesthetics is no more.