Roll Safe Meme

Meme History: Roll Safe

Looking back on the 2010s, it’s still one of the most indelible images of the internet from that era.

 

Kyle Calise

Video

A lot of memes can, in a way, boil down to a means to say how smart you are. But ask any social media consumer, and they’re likely to say that there are actually a lot of dumb people on the internet. The math doesn’t quite seem to add up.

So here’s a character who embodies just that dynamic. Is he an airhead? Maybe. But we all know who he is, and that’s exactly what he wanted.

On June 1st, 2016, BBC Three uploaded the first episode of its new web series #HoodDocumentary to YouTube

Titled, “Happy Belated,” the first episode of the mockumentary follows Reece Simpson aka, R.S. aka Roll Safe, as he shows us around his hood, and then goes on a date with his girlfriend, Rachel.

Roll Safe began as a recurring character on actor and writer Kayode Ewumi’s Vine channel, back when he was still in college. He’s a wannabe rapper, “triple threat” singer, actor, and dancer, total bro, and all around, kind of a dummy. 

About a minute into the episode while waiting for his date, R.S. as he’s more commonly referred to, makes an oral sex joke about Rachel while tapping his finger to his head, resulting in the image we all know and love today.

“Happy Belated” is the first of six episodes in total, and it reached over a million watches in the first 8 months. 

Five or six months after the episode was released, the first known Roll Safe meme was posted to Twitter, using it as a way to state how smart one would be to get rid of their girlfriend so that they could play video games all day.

The Roll Safe template spread to Reddit, growing enough that it warranted its own /r/OutOfTheLoop thread, but mostly it circulated in Black Twitter, which is a community known for generating and fostering the spread of other memes, like That’s None of My Business, and Let Him Cook, among others.

In Body Image
In Body Image

By January of the following year—six months after the original run of the show—tweets containing the image of R.S. would regularly earn tens of thousands of likes and retweets.

The broad appeal of Roll Safe might have to do with how immediately understandable it is. Like R.S. himself, a Roll Safe meme is a way for a creator to make a tongue-in-cheek statement about a thing, and more, do it in a way that will make people laugh.

It was one of the most ubiquitous memes of 2017, frequently appearing in roundups for that year, as well as for the whole decade, on sites like BuzzFeedThe Daily DotInsider, and more. Looking back on the 2010s, it’s still one of the most indelible images of the internet from that era.

In #HoodDocumentary, R.S. wants perhaps more than anything else, to be famous, and now he is—but only because he’s a symbol of verbal irony.

Kayode Ewumi created the character as a means of getting laughs and popularity by mocking both hip-hop culture and the very idea of a mockumentary. And it actually worked.

Pretty smart if you ask me.


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