Whether you like it or not, or whether the end of this sentence will make you laugh, cringe or shut your laptop in disgust, memes are an increasingly legitimate part of entertainment culture.
That's something 13-year-old Danielle Bregoli, better known to the world as the "cash me ousside" girl from The Dr. Phil Show, knows all too well. She appeared on the show with her mother in an episode titled, "I Want to Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried to Frame Me for a Crime."
Now, rumors are circulating that she might even get her own reality TV show.
On Dr. Phil, Bregoli is rude, obnoxious and disrespectful. But the way she talks is unusual, and that's the reason for her viral success. Her now-infamous catchphrase, "Catch me outside, how about that?" — or, "Cash me ousside, how bow dah?" if we're going with the phonetic spelling — is all over the internet, T-shirts and a song remix.
It's not a particularly good meme, and certainly not one that deserves to continue for several months now. Moreover, it definitely should not warrant an entire TV series.
The main problem here, besides celebrating a subpar meme, is the underlying racial issues. Bregoli is white, though she's appropriating a speaking style prominent in black culture.
Both the appropriation of other cultures and the celebration of white mediocrity runs rampant in memes; it's why you saw #AlexFromTarget and the "Damn, Daniel" kid on Ellen but don't know anything about the guy tapping his temple like he just thought of something brilliant, despite probably seeing it more than a handful of times on Twitter.
For the record, his name is Kayode Ewumi, and he's the co-creator of a mockumentary called #HoodDocumentary.
There's a much better chance you know Alex Lee and Daniel Lara, respectively known as the stars of #AlexFromTarget and "Damn, Daniel." Both are white teenage boys who went viral for little more than being attractive. And while it's important to point out that neither are monsters who purposely sought out international fame, they also didn't do anything to deserve the fame they received.
All this is to say that subpar 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. If they do, it's often without credit.
The mainstream entertainment industry this year has seen a boost in diversity: Moonlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, all four musical acting awards at the Tonys went to black actors and people of color made up almost 25 percent of Emmy nominees, making it the most diverse list of nominations in the show's history. And though there's still a long way to go, the industry is headed in the right direction when it comes to giving rightful acknowledgment to a diverse group of entertainers.
But if there's one thing the internet has the power to do, it's promote diversity. Equal communication across the world opens us up to every perspective imaginable. Why, then, do memes fall behind traditional entertainment in giving proper recognition to diverse content creators?
"Cash me ousside" may be just a dumb meme. But it's also indicative of serious racial issues the internet needs to deal with — issues that simultaneously push the celebration of white mediocrity and the acceptance of cultural appropriation. Continuing to give Bregoli a platform only worsens those issues.