Opinion: Pop culture forgets its roots

Ann Vettikkal | Staff Writer

Sometimes, it sounds like high schoolers are talking in another language. The slang we use and things we laugh about can be so referential that even one day of not scrolling through the explore page of Instagram can disconnect you from what is funny in the realm of internet humor. 

Most highschool stereotypes are timeless. There are the jocks, the nerds, the artists — even the kids who skip class have a brand. But the stereotype of a VSCO girl is so oddly specific to today’s culture, it’s more of a temporary label than a permanent trope. 

The ‘VSCO girl’ is typecasted as a teenage female that is trendy and conforms to societal norms. Currently, this would mean she wears scrunchies, drinks out of a Hydroflask, and uses metal straws (after a campaign to save turtles from their plastic foes went viral). But on an even more specific note, the VSCO girl uses the phrase “and I oop” so frequently it has become both their buzzword and a clear identifier for those that make fun of them. 

But what do those three words even mean? 

The phrase actually stems from a viral video of Jasmine Masters, a drag queen, talking to a camera as she dons a satin robe, a full face of makeup, and some oversized white earrings. Over time, it became a running joke in pop culture that only those who had seen the video would understand. Now, the phrase has become so detached from its roots that it has become a thing of its own, consigned indefinitely with their new, turtle-loving owners. 

This is the way slang works. It’s usually created first in a subculture and then enters the mainstream. Sometimes an entirely new word is created (as seen in Masters’ video) but more often than not, a term already established in common vocabulary is modified to hold new meaning. 

For instance, Masters is not the only example of drag subculture producing slang. The term “spill the tea,” which is used when someone has gossip or a shocking truth to share, was coined by drag queens, particularly black drag queens, long before it was used in various tweets and conversational language. 

I have definitely used these phrases in my day-to-day. I see it as on-the-go humor that can quickly relate me to whoever I’m talking to. Simply put, slang is fun. It’s both inherently universal and easily personalizable. It can connect all of us highschoolers as the generation growing up into the real world. And for those wary of change, slang offers a gentler way to introduce new ideas and perspectives. But that is only on the basis that we can track where it comes from.

So I urge all of you to take a closer look at the gestures and phrases that have silently seeped into your everyday life. Slang is perfectly acceptable — as long as it is good intentioned and isn’t derogatory. At any rate, I think we can all agree that it’s annoying when someone takes your idea and claims it as their own. The notion of a VSCO girl is going to be funny as long as we let it be. But let’s not ignore its history. And give credit where credit is due.