Late yesterday morning, a funny thing was published on the Internet. It was a series of posts by whoever has the user account @KingBeyonceStan, built around a recurring motif or punchline:
Amy Lee:— vodka lemonade (@KingBeyonceStan) June 21, 2016
-The first white woman I ever loved.
-Hauntingly beautiful timbre
-She doesn't have the range. pic.twitter.com/YO67l8ooRc
If no one has already thrust the “She doesn’t have the range” sequence at you, click through on that tweet and go read it where it was meant to be read, on Twitter. It is cleanly threaded and well structured and highly entertaining. It is a vast improvement over the decent comedy sketch that supplied the raw material of its catchphrase.
But you should enjoy it now, because it is doomed. It has already been diagnosed, at length, as being in the process of becoming a “meme.” If the internet does what it’s expected to do, “She doesn’t have the range” will slot in exactly where “o shit whaddup” previously slotted. Hillary Clinton’s Twitter team is almost certainly whiteboarding when the best time to drop it on Donald Trump would be, and debating whether to keep the problematic “she” or just use “he.”
This is a terrible mistake. Since the joke’s being murdered in real time, even now, I’m going to go ahead and explain why it was funny, in the hopes of sparing future good jokes the same grim fate. Here goes:
“She doesn’t have the range” is funny because it is about the assumption of unchallenged, categorial authority. Almost nobody has any idea who @KingBeyonceStan is, but that does not stop @KingBeyonceStan from delivering definitive pronouncements as to which world-famous singers do or do not have the range. The tone is the tone of absolute expertise—now apologetic, now scathing, now pitying, each judgment presented as a product of only the most serious individual consideration of the performer.
The glory of this comic register is that you can’t get in on it. It is the opposite of meme culture, the whole point of which is “Me too!” It is both the fullest realization and the negation of Twitter’s eternal democratic open-mic promise: Anyone can say anything, but now no one else may say this. There is no use trying to expound on what “the range” might mean, and it is pure, embarrassing folly to try to make the gag your own:
slavoj zizek— Max Read (@max_read) June 22, 2016
- king of "precisely"
- ultimately a boring hegelian
- she doesn't have the range pic.twitter.com/vjcQK3VqVA
Nope. After LeBron James blocked the bejesus out of that shot to kill the Golden State Warriors, did you walk around looking for shots you might block yourself? No. You enjoyed it and admired it. Maybe, if it was your job, you wrote about how great it was. And then you let it be.