The honey badger is a member of the weasel family, and according to the San Diego Zoo‘s page on it, “It would be hard to find a more quarrelsome animal than the honey badger.” Or, as the honey badger meme let people know when it emerged in the early 2010s, “Honey badger don’t care.”
The honey badger meme might not be in active circulation these days, but it crossed over from meme culture to sports culture thanks to a well-known player who was given that moniker as the meme began making the rounds.
Let’s get into the history of the honey badger meme, as it goes back quite a bit.
How the honey badger meme began
A Daily Dot story from 2017 points to a January 2011 video uploaded to YouTube that’s gotten an astonishing 102 million views since going up. Titled “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger,” it takes National Geographic documentary footage from 2007 and adds sassy commentary from “Randall,” an alias used by Christopher Gordon.
According to the story, Gordon’s memorable observations about the honey badger included the line “Honey badger don’t care,” which he did trademark en route to multiple intellectual property lawsuits, including “one against a greeting card company that claims it didn’t violate his trademark because it used ‘honey badger doesn’t give a sh*t’ instead of the copyrighted ‘honey badger don’t care.'”
Another story from the Daily Dot archives, circa 2012, shows “Randall” repackaging his honey badger narration for an episode of America’s Got Talent.
Know Your Meme points to earlier instances of an uncaring honey badger being showcased for humor’s sake, including a now-blocked YouTube video (due to BBC footage being used in it) called “I Hate Nature.” It also points to a Cracked article from 2010 that declares the honey badger to be No. 1 on a list of “6 Animals That Just Don’t Give A F#@k,” including the wolverine and the Tasmanian devil.
How did the honey badger meme spread?
Know Your Meme notes that throughout 2011, a number of internet destinations like Funny or Die and BuzzFeed gave the honey badger some love, and it even made an episode of Glee. Meanwhile, Gordon took to YouTube to make a series of videos dubbed “Randall’s Wide World of Animals,” with titles like “Honey Badger Narrates: The Miracle of the Daffy Jesus Lizard.”
Gordon also made the rounds in 2011 via more conventional media connections, such as a collaboration with MovieFone on Oscar nominees, and an article for Huffington Post on “The Pigs of Wall Street.”
Of course, with the videos came honey badger photos and captions emphasizing that honey badger don’t care.
Who was college football’s Honey Badger?
During the 2011 college football season, LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu earned the nickname “Honey Badger” for his tenacious play and ability to force turnovers. In a retrospective interview with ESPN, Mathieu noted the nickname “started with fans” and then really caught on when his coach brought it up in a team meeting.
A January 2012 article in the Washington Post, chronicling LSU’s national championship loss to rivals Alabama, included a quote by Gordon about Mathieu as Honey Badger, noting, “He just plays with such heart and vigor. It’s just very exciting. To me, that embodies the honey badger. He just takes whatever he wants and nothing is going to stop him.”
Though Mathieu was suspended from the LSU squad the following season for reported drug addiction issues, he was one of the top picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, and has enjoyed a relatively successful NFL career, with three Pro Bowl appearances in 11 seasons.