Pop quiz: what has over 28-million YouTube views, a shoddy grasp of gender politics and a depressing idea of womanhood, and now, a book, in the most depressing deal of 2012 that wasn’t 50 Shades Of Grey? No, it’s not Justin Bieber: it’s Sh*t Girls Say!
You know, those “hilarious” videos in which a dude - Graydon Sheppard, who creates the series with Kyle Humphrey - dresses up as “girls” and spews forth all the things all girls say, lol, because omg women, amirite?
Harlequin picked up the rights earlier in the year - heralding the deal with the deadening sentence “full-color images that capture the hilarious essence of everyday phrases used by women” - and the book was finally released a couple months ago.
As we grind towards the end of the year and/or the apocalypse, looking back on the Sh*t Girls Say turnaround from meme to irritant to book in the space of a year feels a little like a metaphor for 2012’s broader trend of cultural mediocrity.
You can watch the HuffPo’s Shira Lazar talk to Sheppard and Humphrey about the deal here. “Girls are always saying shit!” says Humphrey with an eye roll. Man, these guys are just so real, you know! “Like, ‘Hey, Sarah, this is Sarah’ - stuff we could never come up with,” offers Sheppard. You’re right, Graydon, nobody could ever come up with dialogue that brilliant.
“Content creators”, as Lazar calls the pair, must surely be up there with “social media expert” as one of the most depressingly empty phrases of this generation.
But what does it say about the quality of our cultural discourse that “content” has such a stranglehold on us all, as “content consumers”? I’m sure it seems insignificant, in the broader scheme of things, that Sh*t Girls Say has scored a book deal, but how about the fact that something based wholly on outmoded stereotypes of women can get a big bucks book deal (no doubt TV will follow, a la Sh*t My Dad Says), when only 18% of “of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films [of 2011]” were female, or the fact that actual girls and women are outnumbered 3-to-1 by male characters in family film, and that that ratio has remained unchanged since 1946?
“Well,” you say, “publishing is different to film and TV”, to which I wonder, is no one (other than comic artist Kim Funk) in the least bit bothered that Feminist Ryan Gosling is #1 in Amazon’s ‘Feminist Theory’ section, rather than the actual feminist theorists that “he” spouts, like bell hooks or Helene Cixous? Chances are if the 35-year-old black woman behind Feminist Ryan Gosling, Danielle Henderson, had written a book of feminist theory minus pictures of Gosling, it would not have been met with such breathless, viral acclaim.
And, of all the “Shit [insert group/type here] say” variants that the original spawned (and Racialicious offered an extensive and insightful examination of them here), isn’t it a little depressing that it was the most sexist, least funny and least incisive one that ended up with a book deal?
You could argue that the rash of book and TV deals for so-called ‘single topic blogs’ - This Is Why You’re Fat, Feminist Ryan Gosling, Pets Who Want To Kill Themselves, Awkward Family Photos - says as much about the death rattle of publishing as it does anything else (and no, I’m not cross because nobody ever gave my effort, Stoned Cats, a book deal. I smoked my cares away on that front long ago).
There’s something about the Sh*t Girls Say book, though, that feels like we’ve hit the bottom of the meme-publishing barrel. This particular meme had already eaten itself back in January; the book deal happened in April; the book itself was on shelves in time for the lead-up to Christmas.
Then again, in a year when a Twilight fan-fiction with the names changed became the fastest-selling novel of all time, perhaps there’s very little to be surprised about here at all. What would Sh*t Girls Say say about that? Oh, don’t ask me, I’m just a girl.