Nearly a decade ago, the “basic bitch” reared its ugly head. She loves Pumpkin Spice Lattes, aggressively branded leggings, and posting photos of avo toast. And for some reason, that’s not OK.
The basic bitch is the embodiment of vapid, unoriginal trend-following, we said. To be basic is to have no real personality; to have tastes or opinions made up of the median of everyone’s likes and dislikes. If it’s in the Billboard 100, it’s in their Spotify On Repeat.
In a globalized world that prizes originality, people are only deemed cool or interesting if they’ve formed a body of interests that’s unique to them. “Oh, you adhere to the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi? That’s so cool!” Now that who you are and what you consume are clearly visible on social media, it’s easy to judge and dismiss others as either cool or basic. Anyone who enjoys commercial trends without calling them a “guilty pleasure” must be in the latter camp.
But in 2022, is being basic still an insult?
After all, so much of what is deemed cool and original is based on what’s trending. Growing up, for example, I was hipster trash. When everyone was belting out the lyrics to NSYNC and Backstreet Boys’ songs, I was listening to the less popular British boy band Blue. When people split camps between Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, I was team faux-lesbian (and, I now realize, problematic) duo, t.A.T.u.
I could only be “cool” and “original” because everyone else wasn’t. Congratulations to me.
But liking things based on anyone else’s opinion is inherently absurd. Saying Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is your favorite movie is just as preposterous as saying The Avengers is, if not more pretentious-sounding. This rejection of mainstream to come off as original has blown up to such an extent that, in some cases, it’s even considered counterculture to be mainstream. Some people argue that liking Taylor Swift is not basic because so many people hate on her.
According to Urban Dictionary, the basic bitch is “tragically/laughably unaware of her utter lack of specialness and intrigue.” By this definition, you could argue that what people are looking for is self-awareness, intentionality, and authenticity. If you only listen to Taylor Swift because everyone else is listening to Taylor Swift, then you’re basic. But if you listen to Taylor Swift because you believe in her quest to reclaim ownership over her songs, or whatever, then you’re cool.
But let’s be real—who cares what your intentions are for liking what you like?
I used to be ashamed of my basic tendencies. But at the ripe age of 30, I’ve come to find comfort in them. When I’m craving caffeine, I go to Starbucks and order an Iced White Chocolate Mocha, no whip, which provides me the sugary satisfaction that a $15 dollar pourover at a third-wave coffee shop never could. When I’m bored on a Friday night, I whip out a random episode of Friends and boo at the screen when Ross exclaims “We were on a break!”
I realized that to be basic is to rid yourself of the burden of originality. It’s to listen to the same playlist over and over again (Harry Styles’ Harry’s House) and to post Boomerangs on Instagram. It’s to stop giving any fucks about how interesting I am because it’s been a long week and I need a cold drink to help me get through hump day. So hand me those aggressively branded leggings because I don’t have the brain space to have a personal style, and make me an avocado toast so I can get my daily dose of healthy fats and feel fuller for longer.
Life is full of difficult decisions. Being basic is easy. There’s also no point in fighting the fact that I am a cheugy millennial who is destined to remain uncool amongst this new breed of Y2K-wearing Gen Zers.
This article isn’t about the sexist, misogynistic undertones of the term “basic bitch,” though that’s certainly a thing. It isn’t a commentary on class or consumerism. It’s just acceptance and surrender and liberation.
I can be vapid. I can be unoriginal. But at least I’m free.
Follow Nikki Natividad on Instagram.