- How does Apple Pay work? 11 Months Ago
- Multimillion-dollar ‘Farming Simulator’ franchise enters world of esports Wednesday 7:38 PM
- Sandra Bullock, Chris McKay are making Netflix comic film ‘Reborn’ Wednesday 7:22 PM
- Instagram revokes Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s verified status Wednesday 5:23 PM
- Transgender people suffer when debates over their rights are framed as ‘distractions’ Wednesday 4:57 PM
- Hulu with Live TV just hiked its prices Wednesday 4:05 PM
- Hacker infiltrates Nest cameras to gain PewDiePie subscribers Wednesday 2:37 PM
- YouTube time traveler claims MLK’s granddaughter will be the last U.S. president Wednesday 2:30 PM
- Media coverage of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitch cameo erases Chelsea Manning Wednesday 1:39 PM
- New Alexa skill lets you sing with Queen’s Freddie Mercury Wednesday 1:13 PM
- Netflix is the first streaming platform to join MPAA Wednesday 12:59 PM
- Can you spot an email from a hacker? Wednesday 12:46 PM
- Gina Rodriguez cries over being called anti-Black, gets dragged for ‘fake tears’ Wednesday 12:21 PM
- Boots Riley explains why he got snubbed by the Oscars Wednesday 12:20 PM
- Review: ‘Buffy’ returns with a modern comic book reboot Wednesday 11:47 AM
What are thoooooooose?!
Black Panther, Marvel’s latest blockbuster, has been widely praised for its casting, fashion, soundtrack, and oh my god the designs of those Wakandan ships, but it also excelled on another important level: memes. It was particularly cool to see “What are those?“—a hugely popular catchphrase born from Black internet culture—pop up as a gag in the movie.
“What are those?” is a sarcastic, hilarious way of mocking someone’s shoes. The words themselves say that you really want to know what kind of cool kicks they’re wearing, but the tone says “ahahah, look at that garbage footwear.”
The phrase originated in 2015 on Instagram and went viral on Vine, the late, great video platform whose comedy scene was dominated by funny black creators. The original video, by Brandon Moore, showed a conversation with a police officer at the scene of an arrest. Moore told the officer, “I got one question for you,” then panned the camera down to the officer’s bland, standard-issue shoes.
“WHAT ARE THOOOOOOOSE?! WHAT. ARE. THOSE?” he shouted, making history.
Nearly three years later, the phrase would appear in Black Panther. T’Challa the Black Panther, a superhero and the king of a powerful nation, gets a big “WHAT ARE THOSE?!” from his smart-aleck younger sister, Shuri. Zoom in on Black Panther’s ugly sandals. Cue audience laughter. Shuri 1, T’Challa 0.
“What are those?” is now officially so big that it made waves in Wakanda, a country that intentionally isolates itself and its advanced technology from the world.
Marvel could have added any meme to Black Panther for an extra laugh. Spider-Man: Homecoming put the “this is fine” dog on Peter Parker’s laptop, for example. Instead, Black Panther’s creators chose to carry on the legacy of “What are those?”—a meme from and for Black internet spaces, a meme that originally mocked the police as they arrested a Black woman, a meme that white teens also loved (even if they could never quite pull it off).
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting bit of internet culture to add to a movie that, as Washington Post put it, “fully embraces its blackness.”
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.