The ultimate kiss-off is over two decades old.
It’s common practice to send off a coworker with an appropriate GIF. After two friends left for new opportunities, I found myself with Giphy in one open tab and a Google image search in another, desperately hoping the animated loop I was about to send would suffice.
What I found was a whole lot of shade, punctuated by the ultimate kiss-off: “Bye Felicia.” Hell, it even has its own category/hashtag on Giphy, to say nothing of its presence on Twitter.
What may have been a throwaway line from the comedy classic Friday has taken on a life of its own since the film debuted in 1995. Over two decades later, it’s become the internet’s go-to meme of dismissal.
First, a bit of context. For those who haven’t seen Friday (and you really should), the movie revolves around two friends who need to make $200 by 10pm that night. Not a hard sell in this hustling day and age, right? Except both Smokey and Craig are unemployed, and Smokey’s meager source of income is something he just can’t stop smoking.
The clip that launched the timeless meme features Chris Tucker’s Smokey eviscerating a neighbor named Felisha after she asks to borrow a car, then borrow a joint. All Craig (Ice Cube) has to say is “Bye Felisha” to send the message that they’re not about her mooching ways. He’s slumped over. He won’t even look at her. It’s damn near impossible to recreate that kind of cool dismissal most now see as a sassy, passive-aggressive fuck you.
“Bye Felicia” was commodified for a larger audience when it hit the LGBT scene. Know Your Meme traces it to tweets from Jeffrey Star; others cite the hit reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race. This came a full six years after “Bye Felicia” had hit Urban Dictionary in 2008. A correct spelling of the character Felisha’s name wouldn’t hit Urban Dictionary until 2015.
Gay audiences were watching the metamorphosis of the phrase right around the time when r/OutoftheLoop was dissecting it and Nicole Richie was awkwardly schooling Ryan Seacrest on both “Bye Felicia” and “thot,” or “that ho over there.” Here, have a cringe-inducing look.
Everyone wants a little glow while they’re throwing shade, and the dusting of glitter that “Bye Felicia” got as it entered the meme cycle poised it for greatness. Google Trends shows a massive spike in searches around the summer of 2015, just as the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton was hitting theaters.
The Friday movies are some of the funniest stoner fare on the silver screen. More than that, the trilogy was a launching pad for its cast and crew. Following an incredible dramatic performance in Boyz n the Hood, Ice Cube proved he could own comedy, starring in and co-writing the script for Friday.
He not only reprised his role as Craig for the sequel, Next Friday, but produced it with his flagship production company Cube Vision (and you can thank the same company for bringing the Barbershop movies into this world). Friday director F. Gary Gray was later tapped to direct Straight Outta Compton, which includes a “Bye Felicia” easter egg. And this is where it gets controversial—as if the cries of appropriation by white and/or gay culture weren’t loud enough.
As appropriation is a problem in the unequal exchange rate tarnishing our cultural currency, so too is representation. The moment that Ice Cube’s son (playing Ice Cube) tossed out a groupie with a simple “Bye Felicia” is when the line started running afoul of its audience.
According to Gray, its appearance in Straight Outta Compton was a matter of the stars aligning. “The girl’s name was Felicia in the script, she’s written as Felicia and it was just a coincidence,” Gray told FastCoCreate last year. O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son and the actor who portrayed him in the movie, came up with the line in the middle of the night after dozens of takes of the scene simply hadn’t stuck.
“It was like four o’clock in the morning and it was like the 23rd take or something like that of this one shot. And at the end, O’Shea Jackson Jr. says, ‘What if I said “bye Felicia?” Wouldn’t that be funny?’ And we all busted up laughing, and I said, ‘Grab the cameras, grab the cameras, let’s do this one more time.’ And so we added this little extra coincidental joke,” Gray says.
Straight Outta Compton‘s Felicia is shoved out of a hotel room nearly naked after her boyfriend and a friend go looking for her. She’s demeaned, physically assaulted, and slut-shamed. In an article about that brief moment, which saw laughter from fans as well as cast and crew, The Cut‘s Allison P. Davis calls Gray to answer for the line. Davis points out that the easter egg highlights larger questions about N.W.A. and the film itself, from the group’s misogynistic lyrics to Straight Outta Compton‘s inability to honor women in the scene, much less tackle Dr. Dre’s 1991 assault of Dee Barnes.
She calls up Gray to gain some insight into the “Bye Felicia” scene and more but comes away with a pissed off director crying foul over political correctness. This may highlight the downturn in Google searches. Folks simply aren’t content to wrangle with the meme’s complications any longer. Or it’s something no longer sought after at all, shedding its controversies in favor of humor because, as Gray claimed to Davis, it’s not something worth reconciling.
Plus, “Bye Felicia” has morphed yet again. Now there’s “Bye Felipe,” because apparently calling a fuckboy by a female name is somehow unacceptable. Who knew? “Bye Felicia” even became a short-lived VH1 reality show about makeovers. Dismiss a Felicia no more once they turn aesthetically pleasing.
I sent my departing friends SpongeBob GIFs when the time came to make a decision. It’s not like I wanted them to be rudely dismissed. And going through the topsy-turvy history of “Bye Felicia” has even called into question what it means to use the phrase. The line has come a long way since its 1995 utterance. Where it’s headed next is anybody’s guess.
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