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How a Viral Video of Cybergoths Presaged the Emote Dance Craze

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Given the internet’s ability to transcend physical borders and language barriers, it’s no surprise that dance videos have always been a cornerstone of meme culture. The online-dance-craze ecosystem started with viral videos like the Numa Numa Guy and Star Wars Kid, and then harnessed by more deliberate efforts like the Soulja Boy dance or Baauer’s Harlem Shake. The next evolution of the viral dance craze is the emote: premade dance animations that players can make their avatars perform. Because games have a limited selection of dances available, a popular game can propel any move it incorporates into ubiquity.

That’s what’s happening with Fortnite, which has added dance moves like the Milly Rock (in-game name: “Swipe It”), the Carlton dance (a.k.a. “Fresh”), BlocBoy JB’s “Shoot” dance (a.k.a. “Hype”), and Backpack Kid’s signature dance (a.k.a. “Floss”). Attend a middle-school dance or a family wedding or any large gathering of the youth and you’re more likely than not to see these moves performed.

Perhaps the unlikeliest of these well-known moves is a dance called “Orange Justice,” which was popularized by a boy known as Orange Shirt Kid. Last spring, Fortnite held a contest in which contestants could submit videos of dance moves, and the winning move would be added to the game. While Orange Shirt Kid did not win — he placed 23rd — his video was a fan favorite that went viral, leading Epic Games to add the move anyway. His mother, Rachel McCumbers, is now suing Epic on behalf of her son, claiming he is the victim of “unauthorized misappropriation of Orange Shirt Kid’s highly popular signature dance.” (Because he is a minor, Orange Shirt Kid is only referred to in court documents as “C.C.M.” He and his mother reside in Maryland.)

The Fortnite effect is most vivid on platforms like TikTok, the video-sharing platform that lets users recycle each other’s sound bites and remix and iterate upon each other’s posts. If one scans the app’s feed, or watches compilations of memes like “We got em,” they are greeted with endless performances of Hype, Floss, and Orange Justice.

The popularity of dance moves and their transmission around the internet can lead to a number of tangled questions that the culture is currently wrestling with. What does it mean to “create” a style of dance? Can someone own a dance move — legally or even morally? If a dance goes viral, who deserves the credit? While Orange Shirt Kid’s role in the popularity of “Orange Justice” cannot be denied, he also owes a debt to his viral forebears: the cybergoths.

Cybergoth is a hybrid aesthetic that emerged in the late ’90s, combining goth and raver fashion. Its color scheme, combining black and neon clothing, was described by Vice as “too creepy for the ravers, too neon for the goths.” There is a bit of rivethead flare too — some cybergoths wear gas masks or goggles. They might also wear bright hairpieces known as cyberlox. The preferred musical style of the cybergoth is techno........

© Daily Intelligencer