This week in TikTok: And the song of summer is …

Hello from The Goods’ twice-weekly newsletter! On Tuesdays, internet culture reporter Rebecca Jennings uses this space to update you all on what’s been going on in the world of TikTok. Is there something you want to see more of? Less of? Different of? Email rebecca.jennings@vox.com, and subscribe to The Goods’ newsletter here.

I spent the majority of the past week on TikTok, for reasons having mostly to do with existential dread about the orange sky over half of the country among other national emergencies (and also because who knows how long TikTok will exist in its current format — more on that later). So instead of having one big section explaining one specific meme, today I’m just going to do a power ranking of the memes that keep showing up on my feed. Let’s enjoy the inanity while we can!

  • Coming in at No. 1 one: the song of summer, “M to the B” by British icon Millie B. That’s not actually the name of the song; the diss track from the Blackpool grime artist went viral in 2016 and blew up on TikTok in August after famous e-girl Bella Poarch posted a video of herself head-bopping to it. Hers is now the most-liked TikTok of all time (32 million!), thanks to the hypnotizing zoom-in effect and Bella’s photogenic self, but most of all because of the absolute banger that is “M to the B.”

It’s also caused a minor scandal among TikTokers who are angry because, they say, if their video lip-syncing to a song went as viral as Bella’s, they’d be able to pay off their student loans or buy a car (it’s unclear whether Bella has made any money directly from the video). Algorithms, of course, are never fair and greatly privilege the beautiful. Now, Millie herself wants a piece of the action — she’s joined TikTok and made a joke that it’s now “her turn” to profit off of the meme.

  • Remember when teens were making fun of millennials whose whole personality is loving Harry Potter? This, as it turns out, is not a generational flaw but an internet-wide one. Harry Potter — specifically fanfic about a love triangle involving Hogwarts hunks Cedric Diggory and Draco Malfoy — is all over TikTok, where users are inserting themselves into the Potterverse using clever editing tactics or creating aesthetics inspired by each house (Slytherin is “alt baddie,” while Hufflepuff is “soft arthoe,” naturally). It’s a very delightful mix of fashion month and back-to-school, with a healthy dose of cringeworthy cosplay.
  • Dr. Phil is begging you to stop calling him “daddy.” Using the popular meme format “You have to stop,” the founding father of daytime television pleads with the app’s legions of dark-humored horny 21-year-olds who have become ironically obsessed with him. Which, fair.
  • Send thoughts and prayers to your local McDonald’s workers this week: TikTokers are filming themselves at the drive-through ordering the new limited edition Travis Scott-branded burger by blasting the opening bars of “Sicko Mode,” much to the chagrin of exhausted cashiers. Unfortunately for them, the videos are absolutely hysterical and are unlikely to stop until the promotion ends.
  • A physics professor whose content mostly revolves around roasting students has totally taken over TikTok’s For You page. It’s hard to explain exactly what Chris Sutherland does that makes him so watchable — there’s the fact that he only ever wears the same red button down shirt or his frequent use of the face stretch effect — but his videos are surreally antagonistic. “Why do some students do bad on tests … just answer the questions lol …” reads the caption on one of his most-liked videos. Commenters, meanwhile, respond with the same amount of vitriol (e.g. “this man live on my fyp rent free go grade a paper or sum”). It’s almost like that very specific kind of dual respect and animosity you only have with really good teachers who teach really difficult things.
  • There’s a guy on TikTok whose whole thing is finding the Polish flag within other countries’ flags. I know this sounds extremely silly, and it is. Each video is set to the techno anthem “I Love Poland,” and over the past few weeks of its existence, the meme has spread and only become more absurd: People are now trying to find the Polish flag in other random JPGs, like a Snapchat screenshot of a girl crying because she walked in on her boyfriend cheating.

Now for the real news:

TikTok in the news

  • TikTok has a new owner! Sort of! But not really! The software company Oracle beat out Microsoft for the ultimate prize of Gen Z’s favorite app, although it’s not actually a sale — Oracle will be a “trusted tech partner” in the US, according to the WSJ, and the proposal will be reviewed by the US government this week. Whether it will be enough to stave off a full TikTok ban in the US is still up in the air, and ditto whether Oracle will get its hands on the all-powerful For You page algorithm.
  • The New Yorker delves into how TikTokers are whitewashing Black music.
  • Here’s the story of how a graphic suicide went viral on TikTok, and how difficult it can be to scrub horrifying videos like it from social platforms.
  • The latest viral hit to spike on the platform: “Mad at Disney,” a cutesy song about how Disney movies create unrealistic expectations of romance. Rolling Stone has the inside story of how the 21-year-old artist and her managers leveraged the platform to make it a hit.
  • She’s All That is getting a remake. It’s called He’s All That. It’s starring a TikToker.

One Last Thing

This parody of an influencer taste-testing overnight oats will trigger your fight-or-flight response!

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