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White People Dancing (also known as “LOL White People”) is a caption associated with image macros, GIF animations or video clips depicting people of Caucasian descent dancing in an awkward fashion. Such images often the text “white people” or “lol white people” overlaid.
Preconceptions about White people’s poor sense of rhythm or dancing skills have been explored by Black stand-up comedians as early as since the 1980s with Eddie Murphy’s 1987 standup show “Eddie Murphy’s Raw.” In the skit, Murphy declares it as a simple fact that “white people can’t dance well”:
The comedy trope continued in the mainstream media throughout the 2000s, such as The Dave Chappell Show which frequently made light of the racial stereotype through skits. The most notable skit guest starring singer-songwriter John Mayer aired on February 4th, 2004:
In the world of stand-up comedy, the theme has been also referred to as the “White Dude, Black Dude” trope.
In Internet Humor
The early rise of “white people dancing” GIFs on the web began with a short music video skit found in an episode of MTV2’s Wonder Showzen titled “A Celebration of White People Throughout History,” which showcased various footage of white people dancing to a catchy tune. The original clip was aired on March 11th, 2005.
The song was soon paired with a GIF animation of two cartoon characters dancing awkwardly and uploaded as a YTMND site titled “White People, Yayy!” on October 1st, 2005.
On April 15th, 2006, YTMND user spanishfli created a new site titled “LOL… White People,” featuring a still image of a middle-aged man dancing wildly in a ballroom. In the following years, many more YTMND sites centered around the theme of dancing white people continued to emerge in the community.
The YTMND jokes fit into the “white people can’t dance” stereotype, sometimes referred to as “white people’s disease” according to the Urban Dictionary entry submitted on March 29th, 2010:
The inability to maintain or play to a rhythm. To have an Awful Sense of rhythm. This term is based on two stereotypes at once, African americans have a good sense of rhythm and Caucasian people do not.
If you find yourself invited to a concert with a white person, do NOT expect to dance. Prepare yourself for three hours of standing reasonably still. It is also advised to get a beer or (if legal) a cigarette so you have something to do with your hands. Although it is acceptable to occasionally raise one hand and point just above the stage.
Snuggie Family Commercial
In September 2009, sleeved blanket merchandise company Snuggie released a commercial featuring a White suburban-type family flailing their arms in the air while getting cozy in Snuggies at a camp site. The image was quickly immortalized into a GIF animation with the caption “LOL White People.”
Rebecca Black’s Awkward Dancing Friend
In March 2010, Benni Cinkle, also known as the “awkward dancing friend” of Rebecca Black, became a subject of numerous “LOL White People” GIF animations for her awkward dancing scene in the viral music video sensation “Friday.”