It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours for Franchesca Ramsey. The 28-year-old New York-based graphic designer and comedian posted her hit video parody “Shit White Girls Say…to Black Girls” on Jan. 4, and in less than a day it got over 1.5 million views, thousands of Facebook shares and even generated a spat with celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. By Thursday, it beat out Justin Bieber for the coveted slot of the most watched video on YouTube.
Ramsey has become the star and creator of one of 2012’s first viral sensations. Of the dozens of videos that took up the “Shit People Say” meme, Ramsey’s was the first one to a offer a popular and critical examination of race. But why are these videos so popular? And as cultural critiques, can videos like Ramsey’s open meaningful conversations about race and racial justice?
The goal, Ramsey wrote earlier this week, had been simple: to make people laugh while, hopefully, opening some eyes. The video features Ramsey in an outlandish blonde wig, tossing around stereotypically offensive statements like “not to sound racist, but…” and “that’s so ghetto!” It is one of a string of parodies to hit the Internet since late 2011, starting with “Shit Girls Say.” In them, the protagonists—usually men—dress up as women and poke fun at mundane comments they assert to be most often said by women. Some, which rely solely on exaggerated insults, have been complete duds, like “Shit Black Girls Say” and “Shit Latina Girls Say.” But others, like Ramsey’s, have touched an online nerve and become enormously popular.
“People love to see themselves in media,” Ramsey told Colorlines.com. “The fact that you can watch the first one and say, ‘Oh my gosh! I say that!’ made it funny and made it something that you wanted to share.”