On Saturday, controversial Silicon Valley personality Shanley Kane went on a (now partially-deleted) tweet rant about the word daddy. “Don’t have deep psychosexual Freudian and Oedipal trauma/dysfunction?” she wrote in a now deleted tweet. “Good for you. Stop appropriating ‘Daddy’.” She continued:
For the uninitiated, the daddy meme has been floating around for a while now. It’s a highly sexualized way of identifying a male authority figure, and there have been countless essays and think pieces written about the internet’s relationship with the word daddy. Go through the comments and replies of any marginally famous man’s social media and you’ll find countless teens (and probably adults too) writing “daddy,” “choke me daddy,” and other similar sentiments. In June, I penned an essay about the word for New York magazine’s short-lived men’s blog, Beta Male, where I sum up how the meaning of the word has evolved:
What “daddy” signifies in the 2010s is forever morphing and expanding, from parenthood to a way to express sexual deviance to sex work to gay slang to meme. At this point, it’s ineffable: A daddy both is and is not a real live person because a daddy is an adjective, noun, and rubric of measurement. You might moan “yes, daddy” in bed out of pleasure, as a coy neg, or a little bit of both.
The same day my daddy essay came out, We Are Mel also published an exploration of the internet’s obsession with the word. The daddy meme had been adequately explored, and like any meme that’s been analysed so thoroughly, the internet’s obsession with the word simmered down a bit. Daddy, of course, remained in the mentions of famouses and at the centre of certain memes, but it felt like we were done theorising about the whole thing.
When Kane tweeted her daddy diatribe on Saturday, I immediately thought of former poet laureate Mark Strand’s “Coming to This”:
Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.
Cheapening the meaning of “appropriation” and sucking all of the fun out of the daddy meme, Kane’s tweets mark a new era of online discourse about “daddy.” Memes are fun, and they lose currency when they cease to be fun. What makes daddy so appealing is that daddy belongs to everyone, by virtue of the fact that we all have dads, and thus, we all have daddy issues. Whether we’d like it to admit it to ourselves or not, we play out some of our issues with our parents in our sexual relationships. Daddy as both a sexual fetish and as a multi-generational fascination will endure—we wouldn’t be talking about it as much as we do if it didn’t hold some larger cultural meaning.
Memes, arguably, never truly die. Kane by no means “killed” daddy. The meaning of any meme is innately flexible and Kane’s tweets are a turning point. Her condemnation of all these alleged normies moaning ‘fuck me daddy’ as they engage in passionless hetero intercourse offer a reminder: There is no saving grace. No place to go. No reason to remain.