In each edition of web_crawlr we have exclusive original content every day. On Tuesdays our IRL Reporter Tricia Crimmins breaks down the trends on the popular app that will make you cringe in her “Problematic on TikTok” column. If you want to read columns like this before everyone else, subscribe to web_crawlr to get your daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.
The main character of one video, however, seems to be confusing to many that are familiar with her: Xiao Xiao, a Chinese woman who went viral in September for kicking a drag queen multiple times onstage.
The original viral video has millions of views on TikTok and has been reposted by @ChineseJunkFood2023 many times since it was initially shared on Douyin, an app similar to TikTok popular in China. Xiao Xiao, who might have a genetic abnormality or be a person of short stature, is also prominently featured on the account alongside videos of other people with genetic abnormalities and what seem to beads for household products.
After the video of Xiao Xiao initially went viral, she turned into a meme and reached such prominence that she was written about in Know Your Meme. But even though she’s well known, many TikTokers have posted about her and her unknown circumstances.
“There are literally no context clues as to what’s going on,” TikToker @mrluxdaddy says in a TikTok. “I’m on [Xiao Xiao’s] side.”
“I’m just so confused. Who is kick girl?” TikToker Asher Lieberman says in hisvideoabout Xiao Xiao. “Who runs the account? Because it’s clearly not kick girl. Why is kick girl so angry?”
Xiao Xiao’semotions are the subject of many comments on videos of her. Many note that Xiao Xiao looks in pain or upset in some videos, especially one that shows a woman picking her up and spinning her around and another that shows Xiao Xiao locked behind a gate, screaming.
Additionally, many TikTokers have left comments on videos of Xiao Xiao calling her “Dobby,” a reference to a house elf character in the Harry Potter books. Likening people with disabilities or genetic abnormalities to mythical, non-human creatures is ableist and discriminatory.
Why it matters
Xiao Xiao’s situation could involve some level of exploitation and certainly is resulting in a lot of ableism—not just people calling her “Dobby,” but also her being physically lifted potentially against her will.
@ChineseJunkFood2023, which has over 5 million followers and posts almost 40 videos per day, is an example of the importance of critical thinking when you see something strange online.
Even though many enjoyed and laughed at the video of Xiao Xiao kicking a drag queen, it’s important to think about the people behind viral videos, how such moments were captured on camera, and if subjects of viral videos consented to being filmed.