YOLO, Shutter Shades, and Rapid Pop Culture Shifts [2012]

Man… pop culture has changed a lot since the YOLO Swag days.

LMFAO was a big deal. Shutter shades actually existed. Jersey Shore was a big deal.

American culture was, for a brief period, transfixed strongly on the obnoxious spray tan Miami beach white rapper excess aesthetic. It was the most ridiculous period ever.

Or was it?

Was this whole cultural period ever embraced with any true sincerity? Or was it all done with a sense of irony and silliness?

I certainly never enjoyed it, not for a second. I made fun of it all the time, wearing my National Honor Society sunglasses with a backwards cap when I posed for photos and stuff like that. But there was never a point in my life where it ever seemed genuinely “cool,” not even a little bit.

And yet… WAS it cool? Did people really think this stuff was cool?

YOLO Culture Lives

We got the Harlem Shake… I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it qualified under the “weird obnoxious party” banner, since most of the Harlem Shake was old white people thinking they were funny. But when I searched for it on Youtube, the recommended next video was Party Rock, so I guess it qualifies!

The Harlem shake… Wow

Proto-Vine/Tiktok video memes are really interesting, but I also don’t care about them enough to write about. So all I can contribute is that I was annoyed by the Harlem Shake videos constantly, and they have aged terribly.

So has everything about the shutter shades era.

But… wasn’t it meant to age poorly? Wasn’t it always vaguely self-aware about how trashy and annoying it was?

Gangnam Style certainly knew what it was doing, which is how it became such a massive success. By combining a humorous middle aged man rapper with a ridiculous music video, it turned into a phenomenon so big that it got played at my friggin’ high school prom. Ugh.

Yolo Culture Dies

The entire aesthetic died quickly, as if it never truly took off. It changed so fast that by 2015 or 2016 it already felt outdated to make fun of. By 2020 it’s ancient history. Nobody says swag. Nobody even says YOLO ironically. The Jersey Shore was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. At this point, the entire era is nearly nostalgic.

Okay, maybe not “nostalgic” in that nobody actually has fond memories of LMFAO. More like “nostalgic” in that mono no aware sense that everything’s changed so much in so little time.

Well, at least the backwards hat party rock aesthetic fared better than the dubstep rave culture from the same time period. The musical styles may have influenced a lot of modern pop, but it’s basically vanished besides that. For all Skrillex did, his only important contribution is that his hairstyle reigns dominant among bisexual women, and will surely be dominant for decades to come.

The early 10s were a very different place, especially for politics, where shipping Obama x Romney was not only acceptable, but encouraged. But things have sure changed since then, huh?

It’s also very difficult to make a living writing on the internet these days. Donate on the Quinlan Circle Patreon to help make my life easier!

2 thoughts on “YOLO, Shutter Shades, and Rapid Pop Culture Shifts [2012]”

  1. I remember my cousins playing LMFAO, but always with ironic detachment (with the same smug love they’d use to sing Cascada’s Everytime We Touch). I remember people wearing shutter shades and saying YOLO in the same vein.

    The high school I used to work at, however, included shutter shades in their graduation bundles, a tradition that has lasted at least until 2019. They let me have some of their spares because I had ironic, detached enthusiasm for them. To this day I have multiple pairs of shutter shades with “2016” branded across the front.

    Now I’m reminded of the time a teacher at that school said she started dancing in front of her elementary school-age kids, but they told her it was “cringe.” I really want to know more about how that term “cringe” is entering the mainstream for populations OTHER than ironic teens and twentysomethings.

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