This is officially the last post Videogum will ever publish about the “Harlem Shake,” and if we are lucky it will hopefully be the last post ever published on the entire Internet (JK, the countdown to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the backlash begins right after you kill yourself). We have already covered most of the pertinent information, from what the “Harlem Shake” meme is, to what the actual residents of Harlem think of it (SPOILER ALERT: nothing good!). While memes are traditionally a drop of pop cultural nonsense in a pop cultural nonsense ocean, this one actually seems to have larger implications, since Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” is currently the #1 song in MULTIPLE COUNTRIES due to the popularity of the white people doing their dance. And yet at no point in all of the developing controversy* over whether or not this is yet another example of white people carelessly appropriating (and trivializing) black culture has anyone actually shown the white people HOW TO DO THE ACTUAL HARLEM SHAKE. Until now. PAY ATTENTION, WHITE PEOPLE!

Dope though. For real. One of the doper shakes.

CLARIFICATION: I am not actually suggesting that white people start doing the real Harlem Shake. Just sit down. Read the New Yorker or whatever. Shut up.

*Not that there is any real controversy since the answer is yes, it absolutely is another case of white people appropriating (and trivializing) black culture. In this week’s earlier discussion about the racial dynamics of this phenomenon, a lot of commenters took the position that even if it was a case (it is) of white people appropriating and trivializing black culture, they didn’t think it was that big of a deal. HEY GUESS WHAT! That’s not really the argument. Whether or not you personally think that it is a big deal is a question you have to look deep inside yourself to answer, I guess, but even if you think it is not a big deal it doesn’t change that it is what we are calling it (appropriation/trivialization) and your argument that even so it is not a big deal to you seems like a very counter-productive way of de-clawing the larger discussion, as if the larger discussion is not even worth having, which I say is bunk. The larger discussion is ALWAYS worth having. No harm comes from HAVING the discussion, but much harm does come from PRETENDING THE DISCUSSION ISN’T IMPORTANT. On a sidenote: another commenter said that they felt that we as a culture still struggling with our complicated racial history (and present) were often handling ethnic/minority cultures with kid gloves. UH, OK, AND SO WHAT? Like, considering how much ACTUAL BLOOD has been shed in this country and how many generations of human lives have been lived under GENUINELY DEEP DARK SHADOWS OF FEAR AND OPPRESSION, I think handling things with kid gloves from time to time is literally THE LEAST WE CAN DO. Naturally, it was a white person who thought this was an issue.
Comments (12)
  1. YES! I love it when Gabe lays the smack down! Agreed on all points.

  2. When I first heard of this Harlem Shake phenomenon I imagined it was some old dance move, like swing or something. I was really disappointed when I actually heard the song.

    ps- I totally do the shoulder shake thing, I did not know I was doing the start of the Harlem Shake. I cannot, however, do any of the more advanced moves. I’m just gonna shimmy my shoulders and leave it at that.

  3. But what to do with the obvious point that if this meme were called anything else (in particular, something that is not also the name of dance move created and performed on the whole by black Americans), there would be no issue of appropriation? I guess I’m hung up on the fact that there is nothing in common between the two things besides the name. That may be a big thing, I don’t mean to discount it. I also realize that accidental appropriation is an issue even if it is accidental. Is there a point here or should I shut up?

    • I have the same issue with this controversy. The name of the meme comes from the name of the song, which I assume is an appropriation of the name of this dance… There are so many levels to the accidental appropriation, that I’m not sure that it can be called an appropriation of black culture — it seems to be instead an accidental muddying of the term “Harlem Shake” that might eclipse a piece of black culture. Which, while sad, is not the same to me as say re-recording gospel, rock, and blues music with white performers to sell to the mass market.

    • I feel like they did teach us white people the Harlem Shake on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance a few seasons ago. They are always showcasing local dance styles on that show during the auditions.

      Are we blaming the meme for appropriating black culture? It doesn’t seem to me like the meme has anything to do with black culture. White people are allowed to perpetuate silly internet memes, right? It’s definitely within white culture to post ridiculous videos on YouTube.

      I feel like the song is more the culprit. Except that the lyrics say “Do the Harlem Shake,” which is in some ways celebrating the dance style. It’s not saying “Do the Marin Shake” or something. Although a white guy did write/mix it, right? But he didn’t know people would then not follow his instructions to do the Harlem Shake. Because I’m sure people don’t dance anything besides the Electric Slide to the Electric Slide, or the Macarena to the Macarena, so it would be hard to anticipate this weird meme developing where people put Storm Trooper helmets on their heads or writhe around in sleeping bags instead of doing the Harlem Shake.

      Although isn’t the fact that white people in the videos don’t do the Harlem Shake less of an appropriation of black culture? Or is that where the trivialization comes in?

      I’ve seen plenty of multiracial versions of the Harlem Shake (although the majority seem to be bored white dudes) does that make a difference?

      One thing is for sure, I watched way too many versions of the Harlem Shake meme last weekend, because I kind of couldn’t believe it was a real thing!

  4. I’d just like to point out that the “Eracism” tag includes the articles “In Defense Of Gwyneth Paltrow” and “BREAKING: A PICTURE OF ZOOEY DESCHANEL WITHOUT MAKEUP ON!”

  5. Hi, I’m the “Kid Gloves” person!

    You’ll see that Gabe was correct: very white!

    • (Also: I hope that the above comment comes off as playful. I’m don’t disagree with Gabe in either his post from earlier this week nor his response today. But I was looking for an interesting way to add to the discussion. It seemed like the idea of being overly sensitive or too careful with something like this dance might be an interesting angle for folks to talk about. I tried to be pretty fair and cool about it, but maybe not!)(No sarcasto! Honestly, maybe not!)

  6. Have you seen that show Girls on HBO? It’s so racist.

  7. If you think Lisa`s story is impressive,, last week my girlfriends sister also earned $6115 working a fourty hour month from their apartment and there classmate’s step-aunt`s neighbour done this for 9-months and earnt more than $6115 in their spare time from a labtop. the instructions here…………. BIT40.ℂOℳ

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.