First off, Garbage Day reader artists, I got all your emails about collaborating on a shirt design! I was actually totally overwhelmed by the response haha, which is a totally cool problem to have. Expect to hear from me shortly. And thanks for the interest!!
Second, I have a Sidechannel event coming up next week! It’s on Monday night with the Data Society’s Cristina López G. We’re going to be talking about “content governance” — passing laws for hashtag clout — and how it led to El Salvador making Bitcoin legal tender. Hit the button below to get access to the Discord!
The Strange Life Cycle Of A TikTok Trend
I think it’s actually become really tricky to fully conceptualize all of the weird ways TikTok trends can evolve globally. The app’s hashtags, visual aesthetics, filters, and audios are all in conversation with each other. Users hop on each trend, changing it a bit every time. The app is also hoovering up content from around the web, using it as a launchpad for its own content creation. And this global free-for-all is how an anime foot fetish meme recently became a Brazilian TikTok challenge.
Per Know Your Meme, the first instance of the phrase “At first I was like ‘mmm feet’ as a joke, but bro … I don't think it's a joke anymore,” was on a post from a now-deactivated user named @downzyndrome in April 2019. It was photoshopped onto a picture of a character named C.C. from the anime Code Geass.
The image then made the rounds on all the usual places — meme subreddits, other Instagram pages, Discord servers, etc. There’s an entire content economy for anime fan cringe and this did pretty well.
Then another Instagram user named @cursed.voiceovers did a reading of the meme. You can listen to a YouTube upload of it here. Throughout 2020, the meme spread and continue to evolve. People would replace “feet” in the sentence with other things like “piss,” “cat boys,” “armpits,” stuff like that.
At the beginning of this year, however, the @cursed.voirceovers audio clip was uploaded to TikTok. The original post has been deleted, but you can find all the other posts using the clip here. If you’re wondering how and why weird anime memes end up on TikTok, it’s actually pretty simple. There’s a big intersection between Discord, streamer fandoms, and TikTok. Users on the app started messing with the meme, as well, substituting “feet” for other stuff, like “becoming a stripper” or “short guys”.
Now, to understand what happens next, you need to know a little about a new subculture/meme trending in Brazil right now called “mandrake,” or the feminine “mandraka”. You’d use it in a sentence like, “that’s very mandrake,” to mean something is cool or stylish. But it also describes a particular kind of urban fashion. To get a sense of what it looks like, you can check out the music videos for MC Paulin Da Capital and MC Lipi’s song titled, “Ela é Minha Mandraka” (or “She is my Mandraka”), which was released last year and currently has 29 million views on YouTube. The term is getting more popular right now. MC Nathan ZK and MC Rhamon put out a song with the producer Kondzilla in January titled, “Mandraka”.
Best as I can tell, while users on TikTok were riffing on the feet meme, a Brazilian user replaced “feet” with “virar mandraka” or “turning into a mandrake”. Which has since blown up into its own huge TikTok trend in the country. To the point where the app is promoting the tag to users in the country and, yes, the majority of the videos still feature @cursed.voiceovers’ line reading of the foot fetish meme.
This is especially jarring in a video like the one in the top middle of screenshot above, which is an older woman making a video to the anime foot fetish audio!
But, honestly, as weird as this all is, it’s also sort of cool. A random piece of internet ephemera made in 2019 by an anonymous person slowly bounced around the internet until it ended up colliding with a completely unrelated meme in Brazil and became a super popular TikTok challenge. Neat!
A Fascinating And Bittersweet YouTube Channel