A Brief History of Saying ‘Gay Rights!’ Online

Last night, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz said, “Gay rights!” The pair — both awards-season favorites for their performances in, uh, The Favourite — were walking the red carpet ahead of the British Academy Film Awards posing for the paparazzi and greeting fans. That’s where an enterprising fan asked the pair to say “gay rights.”

“What gave me the idea was because Rachel always talks about kissing Olivia with such joy,” the videographer, a 19-year-old named Grace, told the Press Association. “Olivia followed closely behind and Rachel was all giddy telling Olivia about the gay rights video I had her do. Then I asked Olivia if she would too and she was super excited to do so.” The two clips, edited together, were also aggregated by a Rachel Weisz fan account.

Why the video of two celebrities, exclaiming “Gay rights!” without any context or elaboration, has captivated a certain corner of the internet requires knowledge of a somewhat convoluted series of events. The overall concept has been something of a running gag online for a while, most famously encapsulated in a fake FCKH8 ad featuring Jennifer Lawrence. Since then, the trend has mutated substantially.

Photo: the unknown depths of the web

Stage 1: “Pizza man said fuck work”

It all began last year, when a Papa John’s pizza delivery man who goes by the handle Papa Boardslide, decided to take some unauthorized time off from work and go to a party. A viral Snapchat screenshot that circulated online showed Papa Boardslide playing beer pong, captioned with the now-widespread phrase “Pizza man said fuck work.”

The photo, and more importantly, the caption — the sheer concept of a pizza man saying “fuck work” — quickly went viral. In one video clip, a man asks a crowded bleacher section, “What’d the pizza man say?”

“Fuck work!” they respond in unison.

“Pizza man said fuck work” is our meme patient zero, but this viral strain had to mutate a couple more times before it reached Weisz and Colman.

Stage 2: “Isabelle said fuck work”

The next stage involves Nintendo’s recently released Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the popular fighting game that features different video-game characters punching each other. In the run-up to the game’s release, Nintendo put out a series of elaborately constructed clips revealing new additions to the roster. One of Ultimate’s new inclusions was Isabelle, a character from the Animal Crossing series who works in the mayor’s office. In her reveal clip, Isabelle is overwhelmed by her workload before receiving a letter inviting her to join the Smash Bros. roster. She promptly accepts, figuratively saying “fuck work” in the process. That’s how “Isabelle said fuck work” became a meme.

Stage 3: “Donkey Kong said trans rights”

The meme then jumps to another Nintendo property, Donkey Kong (Nintendo properties are particularly rich veins for mining memes). Last month, the YouTuber known as Hbomberguy hosted a marathon Twitch stream to raise money for Mermaids, a U.K. charity that supports transgender youth. Over the course of a weekend, playing the classic Donkey Kong 64 nonstop, Hbomberguy raised more than $340,000 for Mermaids. His stream also featured call-ins from the likes of Chelsea Manning and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He also received a call from Grant Kirkhope, who voiced Donkey Kong 64’s titular character. On-stream, Kirkhope said “trans rights” in DK’s voice.

In other words, “Donkey Kong said trans rights.” That quickly became a meme, complete with fan art of Donkey Kong waving the trans flag and offering up support to the trans community.

The Donkey Kong iteration also has loose ties to internet memes like the one that casts the Babadook as a gay icon. At this point, the “X said Y” formula begins to solidify. X is [anyone] and Y is [a self-explanatory concept that the average person can get behind], whether that’s hating your job or supporting the LGBT community.

Stage 4: “Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz said gay rights”

Which is brings us to now, when on the red carpet of the BAFTAs, two of the stars of The Favourite said “Gay rights!” How much more of an explanation do you need? “Gay rights!” Simple, obvious — what more is there to say. The person you like voiced support for a thing you like. That’s all you need to know.

A Brief History of Saying ‘Gay Rights!’ Online