Featured Article: “The Original Renegade” by Taylor Lorenz
How many times in the last week have you, or someone around you, done the Renegade dance? Can you remember where you first saw the dance? Do you know who created the Renegade?
If you are not familiar with the dance, here is the creator, Jalaiah Harmon, demonstrating it:
In the featured Times article, you will learn about this 14-year-old who, in September 2019, created the dance and posted it to Funimate. Then you will use media literacy skills to think about the intersections of cultural appropriation and crediting online creations.
Take five minutes to scroll through your TikTok, Instagram, Dubsmash or other social media feeds and note what you observe about the top posts. Record your observations on a piece of paper:
Who created the post you are viewing? How many followers do they have? If they borrowed or shared the content, how many followers does the original creator have?
To your knowledge, is this person who posted the original the creator of the content? How do you know? If they are not, do they give credit to someone else?
Is the post a cross-platform share? For example, is it a post originally from TikTok that was shared on Instagram?
Compare your findings with those of your classmates. What do you notice about how content and ideas are shared across platforms and between content creators? What do you observe about the norms on each app around crediting creators?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. How does Jalaiah Harmon’s experience show what it means to be “coming up in a dance world completely reshaped by the internet”?
2. Why, according to those quoted here, is TikTok “like a mainstream Dubsmash”?
3. How was the Renegade dance created, and what moments led to its popularity? What happened when Jalaiah first tried to receive credit for creating the dance?
4. According to this article, “To be robbed of credit on TikTok is to be robbed of real opportunities.” Why?
5. Why has there been a clash about crediting between TikTok users and Dubsmash users?
6. What is your understanding of the role race has played in conversations about who gets credit for dance creation?
7. What questions does this article raise for you — whether about the Renegade, the role of race, how things are shared and credited on social media, or anything else? Do you think that sharing something online is automatic consent to its being copied, regardless of who is copying it? Why or why not?
Many commenters on this article posted a version of this reaction: “Nothing new. Black culture is always appropriated and the culture vultures always overlook the originators.”
What other examples of this can you think of — whether now or in history?
The Times frequently covers questions of credit and appropriation in the arts. For instance, as part of the 1619 Project, The Magazine looked at how black music has been appropriated for centuries. A recent article on an exhibition in Miami called “Who Owns Black Art?” explains:
At a time when black creators are being celebrated as much as ever — from Hollywood to the fine arts — some are raising the question of whether black people are truly the main beneficiaries of the culture they produce.
What black creators do you admire, whether they are alive today or from the past? To what extent are or were those creators beneficiaries of the culture they produced?