Why Does Everyone Hate That ‘Boys at the Pub’ TikTok So Much?

Max Lepage-Keefe's viral video has clearly struck a nerve, so we asked a digital culture academic to unpack the vitriol.
Boys at the pub TikTok screenshots
Image: Natalie Morena; screengrabs via TikTok

If there is one thing British people love, it’s the pub. If there are two things British people love, it’s drinking pints, at the pub. So why has a TikTok of a bunch of guys drinking pints outside the Blue Posts in Soho caused the internet to erupt in rage?


Well, the simple answer is because the video is of those guys, drinking those pints at that pub. If you haven’t seen it yet (which would make you part of an elite offline minority, given the original vid has been viewed over two2 million times), let me paint you a picture. Dusty Springfield’s dulcet voice rings out; a man with a moustache and floppy hair clutches a Guinness. He turns to another guy with a ‘tache and laughs, staying perfectly in frame. The other dudes laugh, their bodies pivoted towards the camera,  which is presumably propped up on a ledge.

“Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little boy like you,” Springfield croons. Everyone is dressed in pristine vintage clothes in an pristine autumnal palette: trench coats and tightly buttoned collars; soft tones of khaki, denim and sand. One pint boy is wearing an Arcteryx hat. All of them have lots of rings. Over the top of the video, text reads “pints, chit chat and good people >”, and the caption simply says “grateful for the friends I have”. 

Pretty benign stuff, right? Wrong. “One of the hardest watches this year,” one commentator wrote. “Nightmare pint rotation,” wrote another. “‘Why do you hate London’,” a third asked, adding: “*gestures broadly at this video*”.


It might help to lay out some facts here. The TikTok was made by influencer Max Lepage-Keefe. The London pub the boys were chit chatting at was recently the venue of a Palace x Stella Artois collaboration, and transformed into a “Palace Artois”, featuring special-edition signage and barware. And, Max is drinking Guinness, which, in the words of the anonymous creator of The Real Housewives of Clapton meme account, “isn’t fancy, but it goes back to this whole thing of caff culture, bloke-core, fry-ups, beans on toast… labour, salt of the earth”.

So: Those guys, drinking those pints at that pub. But who ever wanted the simple answer anyway? When a new internet obsession is born, surely it deserves a deep dive. It deserves serious attention. Therefore, VICE asked Dr Niki Cheong, a lecturer in Digital Culture and Society at King's College London, what the internet’s reaction to the “pint boys” says about digital culture and society.

VICE: So, you’ve seen the video. What was your first impression of it?Dr Niki Cheong: I don’t remember thinking very much about the video when I first saw it. I mostly just glossed over it as another random video on TikTok. I don’t think I had strong feelings about the “pint boys,” other than possibly acknowledging this might be another social media trend that I have missed… Interesting to now discover that it has become the trend!


Why do you think people are so obsessed with it? (And by “obsessed with”, I obviously mean “hate it”.)
I’m not sure that the obsession is any more pronounced than any other video or social media content that has gone “viral”. The reaction to this video, particularly the negative aspects, are commonplace now on social media: Eeveryone has an opinion and they want to share it. You see this everywhere – other content that social media influencers or celebrities post. My feeling is that this cannot be seen separately from online culture linked to polarisation and vitriol – sometimes just “for the lulz” (remember 4Chan?) – that has seen many people, public personalities and even politicians encounter.

Having said that, when I first watched the video, I didn’t realise that it was created by and featured a bunch of influencers. I think influencers are an easy target for online attacks and mockery because they generally function on the basis of authenticity, when so much of their content is staged: “‘I’m sharing with you aspects of my life, never mind that I’m wearing sponsored clothes or have a product placement in this video’.”

So, whether or not this particular video by the “pint boys” was edited or intentionally set up, the mere fact that even something as mundane as random drinking outside a pub was recorded in the first place alludes to some form of inauthentic performativity, that could lead people to be enraged.


A lot of commenters said the boys were treating working class culture as an aesthetic. What do you think of this take, and of the broader trend for “working class cosplay” on social media? (I'm thinking of Palace Artois and Burberry's recent takeover of Norman’s Cafe etc…)
Part of it, of course, is broadly related to the rhetoric of culture wars and identity politics that is pervasive in society today. We saw similar scoffing when hipsters came into popular culture consciousness in the late noughties. 

I do feel that there are additional layers at play with this particular video beyond just how these “boys” were dressed. The context – outside of a pub – also plays a part, particularly in the UK. I’m reminded of the work of the anthropologist Kate Fox, who in her book Watching The English, wrote at length about pubs as an established English Institution with its own social rules and dynamics. You behave in a particular way in a pub, and recording yourself seemingly ignoring the fact that you’re recording yourself appears to have broken some of these rules.

Now, whether this is, as Fox calls it, “nostalgic moaning” about how pubs (and conventional social behaviours there) have changed or otherwise, the mockery of the “pint boys” comes across as being laced with an undertone of “this is not how you should be at a pub”.

The creator of the video said he thinks the reaction to it is "a toxic masculinity thing”. What do you think it says about the way masculinity is performed online?
More so than the Fitzroy Garage Party that everyone is referring to in the comments, I actually first thought about the “lads in jeans”. It made me think about the complicated notions of masculinity – the Birmingham lads are buff, but even that doesn’t seem to be enough – which suggests that anyone can be outraged about anything online. In this case, these four “lads” weren’t even influencers. I expect that if they were, and were making money off their content, that there might have been more outrage.