That One Sound is a weekly column from senior internet culture writer Audra Schroeder that explores the origin of popular sounds heard on TikTok. Suggestions? Tips? Email [email protected].
I found this TikTok recently, and it kind of sums up the process of trying to find a TikTok sound that you don’t really have words for. But sometimes the origin falls into your lap at an unlikely time.
This week, while scrolling through tweets about James Wan’s new film Malignant, I discovered the origin of one sound that’s escaped me for months.
I won’t bury the lede: The sound is from The Wendy Williams Show. I knew that much from hearing it on TikTok, but I never had context for it. And the context is very important here.
In the clip most used on TikTok, Williams says: “That’s what she said, and you know what? I— what was that?” She pauses, then says, “OK… James.”
People have used the sound in a variety of ways, and one of the most popular has been used in more than 109,000 TikToks. One common trend is using the audio to zoom in on flaws or weird moments caught on film.
And some accounts have leveled it at people actually named James.
Where’s it from?
It’s from a Halloween 2019 episode of The Wendy Williams Show. In the clip, Williams is dressed as a ringmaster, and the audio comes from a segment about Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore. Williams becomes visibly panicked after the camera catches one audience member in what appears to be a zombie mask, and the “James” part is her asking her security guard if everyone wearing a mask was asked to show ID.
Later in the segment, she alludes that anyone in a mask could be someone trying to get close to her and “stare with hate.” Williams has a fixation, exacerbated by the masked nature of Halloween, on “the killer” getting her. There are whole compilations of Williams referring to “the killer,” and the fixation spans years. It’s never a specific person, more of an abstract, ever-present paranoia. In one clip, Williams says she’s been “aware of the killer since birth.”
She might be on to something: The tweet that sparked my discovery of this rabbit hole was about Malignant‘s Gabriel, who could certainly be described as “the killer.”
Williams has received her share of backlash for comments on her show, but she remains a popular audio source on TikTok. Her mispronunciation of Dua Lipa as “Dula Peep” became a meme, and a clip of her saying “Oh she passed away?” has been put to good use. Williams’ words have become a Twitter meme too.
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