Quote Du Jour: On the White Cultural Theft of “Bye, Felicia!”

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Carvell Wallace, commenting on white friend’s use of the phrase “Bye, Felicia!” in a text message, writes perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve read so far this year:

Not knowing where something comes from is not a crime. But before responding, I spent some time thinking about how moments like this come to be. A person who never saw Friday, whose relationship to black culture is tangential at best, uses an app that furnishes lots of cute sayings. Maybe she’s seen #byefelicia in a comment on Facebook or Instagram, typed by a black woman she knows from college under a particularly ridiculous Trump quote. It seems fun and harmless, so she starts using it herself and never thinks about it again. “Bye, Felicia” is no longer a pointed moment from a meditation on hood life. It is no longer from anywhere. By the time it reaches her, it’s just something from the internet.

This is what happens when bits of a culture are snatched up, repackaged, and separated from their context. It’s as though people are buying stolen goods from a reputable store. The initial crime of theft is scrubbed away, hidden behind whimsical fonts and bright colors. It is, in essence, the fencing of pilfered intellectual property. …

Leave aside for a moment the chutzpah of a hip-hop fan condemning someone else for snatching up, repackaging, and separating bits of culture from its context. What’s hilarious to me is that Friday, a dopey comedy about black flight to the white ‘burbs that also gave us Chris Tucker’s pithy commentary on black-on-black crime and John Witherspoon confessing the size of his bowel movements, is treated with a solemnity and reverence that black intellectuals used to reserve for the writings of DuBois, or that Augustine reserved for contemplating the mystery of transubstantiation. “A pointed moment from a meditation on hood life,” he says. This is like calling the diarrhea scene in Dumb & Dumber “a pointed meditation on the corporeal nature of existence.”

By chance I recently saw Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic (like Friday, directed by F. Gary Gray), in which we learn the origin of the “Bye, Felicia!” catchphrase. After a concert, the guys are having an out-of-control orgy in their hotel room. There’s loud music, a thick cloud of weed smoke, guns everywhere, dudes gleefully banging groups. In the midst of this, an angry boyfriend comes looking for his girlfriend. He keeps saying her name over and over. Thing is, Felicia currently has someone else’s dick inside her. The boyfriend busts in, scuffling ensues, guns are drawn. The boyfriend finds his delicate paramour and chases her out of the hotel room. “Bye, Felicia!” the guys cackle, and a holy moment of black culture is born that can now take its rightful place alongside “The Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Funny how Mr. Wallace doesn’t mention any of that.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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5 Responses to Quote Du Jour: On the White Cultural Theft of “Bye, Felicia!”

  1. Will S. says:

    Hey, remember when MTV was just about music and videos?

    Alas…

    Like

  2. peterike says:

    The day our cultural overlords start making a fuss about the massive cultural appropriation of Ralph Lifshitz becoming the uber-WASP Ralph Lauren, well that’s the day I’ll start giving a fig about “cultural appropriations.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. JV says:

    Her first paragraph is exactly right and really doesn’t need any more commentary or moralizing. Culture, especially pop culture, is constantly morphing and being passed around faster than those NWA groupies in a hotel room. And that’s the BEST part about it. It’s almost a pure meritocracy where what catches on catches on and what doesn’t, doesn’t and there’s almost no predicting which path something goes, nor when. And it’s so intertwined that to claim ownership over this or that is ridiculous. Being part of the punk scene in the 80s, I get how it can be frustrated when wider mainstream culture latches on to something originating from the fringe. I did feel a sense of “ownership” over a band, for instance. But ultimately, one gets over that.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. peterike says:

    This is a much better use of the name Felicia.

    Liked by 2 people

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