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The top 10 main characters of 2023

These cultural moments dominated the internet in 2023.


Ramon Ramirez


Posted on Dec 30, 2023   Updated on Dec 30, 2023, 4:38 pm CST



This list appeared first in the Daily Dot’s newsletter web_crawlr. Every week, our Trending team will tell you what has been driving the discourse online in their “Main Character of the Week” column. If you want to see more content like this before everyone else, sign up for the newsletter here.

10) Black Friday deals flopping

Online, young people are nostalgic for the Black Fridays of 2008. I get it: That may very well go down in history as the final hurrah of the doorbuster deals era. Shoot, I fondly recall waking up at 4am to make a 5am Sears run in order to purchase a discounted washer-dryer combo. 

At the time, Black Friday was framed on TV news as unhinged consumerism that showed our most shameful societal attributes: greed, envy, selfishness. Maybe it was just a healthy and competitive activity rooted in the love that we had for getting the best possible stuff for our favorite people and ideal prices? Because in 2023, Black Friday got canceled and it was a bummer.

As brick-and-mortar stores take a backseat to Amazon Prime, in-person deals not only seemed pointless but turns out there weren’t as many to go around.

9) Pizza fails

We get that pizza is pizza just like we know that love is love. In other words, it’s all good.

But lately, pizza has come in all sorts of confounding forms. We don’t quite know what to do about it online as consumers. Like, what if I told you that a pizza came with whole chicken wings on top of it? How about a pizza that came unsliced? And what if you didn’t actually ask for any of this from your area Little Caesars?

8) The Olive Garden

An evergreen source of viral news. A strip mall chain that’s been inspiring Americans since the ‘80s with its earnest, doomed promises of family at affordable price points. Everyone loves its stereotypical Italian menu and can recite at least three items off the top of their head: Tour of Italy, the cheap kids meal… and never-ending pasta.

Like the McRib, never-ending pasta was here for a limited time only. But one man arrived a day early to the party, and his cautionary tale blew up.

7) 9-5 Struggles Girl

It’s the woman who got a job and struggled to get through her new life in corporate America. First of all, same.

A TikToker named Brielle (@brielleybelly123) summed this up in a viral, relatable video after her first day of work:

“I know I’m probably just being so dramatic and annoying, but this is my first job, like my first 9-5 job, out of college. And I’m in person, and I’m commuting in the city, and it takes me f*cking forever to get there,” she said. “There’s no way I’m gonna be able to afford living in the city right now, so that’s off the table, like f*cking duh.”

She was roastedBut she was right.

6) Target

The enormous retailer that’s one of the few safe spaces Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

Americans lean on Target as a catch-all stop for grocery and clothing runs alike. Everyone knows that “I need to make a Target run” means you’ll stop-by for a $21 watch that you won’t care gets damaged during soccer practice but leave with Tostitos salsa, Milk Bones, and new pants. But as of late, these shopping gestures have been on ice due to locked in-store items.

So is the era of the “Target run” officially over? That was the case made by Dr. Emily Long, whose viral TikTok posited that even essential items are behind glass cases.

It happens at Walmart too. But now, apparently more affluent and white communities are experiencing the same policing that Black communities have for years. And they don’t like it.

5) Clothes

Specifically, the quality of the in-house garb you buy at strip mall cornerstones like Target and Old Navy came under fire this year. And as a corollary, the unrelenting churn that results in overloaded Goodwills.

As TikTok user Aly Rook said:

“Please tell me someone else has noticed how every clothing brand right now is making their clothes thinner and worse quality, but they come up with a new name for the thinner, cheaper fabric that makes us think it’s innovative?”

By contrast, she claims, the new fabric line from Old Navy, Power Soft, is less durable and thinner. In the comments, users piled on brands like American Eagle for the same thing.

4) The McDonald’s app

This fall it rolled out controversial new terms and conditions, much to TikTok’s dismay.

The fast food app has become popular as Americans deal with food deserts and soaring prices. This has allowed fast food chains to fill the nutritional gap further by building sticky funnels of rewards points and thereby gamifying drive-thru orders. It’s common to see internet talking heads going viral for loopholes about deals on the McDonald’s app. It’s common to see people with more rewards points than dollars in their bank accounts.

But as we reported: “a shocking clause in the new Terms and Conditions of the McDonald’s mobile app that reportedly requires users to waive their right to a trial in court, including their right to a jury trial, if they want to continue using the app.”

It sparked comparisons to the infamous “hot coffee” case of 1994 where a woman infamously sued the fast food giant for carelessly serving her hot coffee. Does this mean a similar incident would make it impossible to sue? That’s unlikely, because a company’s ability to enforce its terms can be challenged in court.

Customers were also suspicious of the app’s propensity to crash when users needed it most: When they’re actually at a McDonald’s. (Anecdotally, this happens to me all the time with the Petco app.) Could McDonald’s be bracing for a class-action lawsuit and that’s why it updated its terms of use? Has McDonald’s been baiting its app users with a faulty system that won’t actually deliver the goods its promised? It’s unclear.

3) The self-serving kiosk asking for a tip

Until recently it was understood that you go out to eat and you tip 20%. If you fail to do that, you are out of touch with the American worker

But now you go to the Starbucks drive-thru and are asked by a Starbucks barista to leave a $5 tip. Five dollars on a $3 coffee! And the last straw for readers? Tipping an inanimate object.

2) Office potlucks

Maybe it’s the holidays, but folks are still debating the ethics and decorum of taking side dishes to their office potluck. Perhaps because younger workers don’t have too much experience with this sort of gathering because they work from home and have no friends, but this Great Depression-era ritual is all the rage. Its discourse pertains to the fact that maybe potlucks are actually a health hazard and preserve the status quo.

It started with a TikTok user saying that he was suspicious of somebody bringing in an oyster casserole. Yes, this is a real dish that is commonplace. But the idea of eating seafood outside of a controlled environment near the waterfront will always give people pause. One commentator on this video said they only ate store-bought items brought to office potlucks to avoid illness.

This whole ordeal stirred the pot (no pun intended) on long-simmering gripes pertaining to these events.

1) 48 oysters girl

Sometimes a man asks you out so much that you get him back for the audacity to not take no for an answer. So you go on a date and order a lot of food as a getback.

But sometimes this guy gets the hint that his long-awaited date is actually a troll job… after you’ve slurped 48 oysters and ordered lemon drops. So he gets up to use the bathroom and leaves you with the tab

And the decorum violations relative to who was in the wrong here ignite a firestorm of cross-platform conversationHence, Oyster Girl! The most memorable main character online of the year.

have sympathy for the subject of the video: I think it was a harmless misunderstanding that reasonable minds can disagree over and I think stereotypes about gold diggers and the internet’s general disdain for women boosted the story’s punchline. 

Ultimately: It’s OK to expect the princess treatment from a man who won’t stop promising it via his advances.

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*First Published: Dec 30, 2023, 6:00 am CST