Recently, clips of white women crying and then abruptly stopping, as if to show how easy it is for them to fake crying, have been going viral on TikTok. You can trace the roots of this weird trend to the CW show The Vampire Diaries.
Over the past few weeks, people on Twitter have been posting TikToks of Black people reacting to what they call a trend of white women performatively crying. These videos are often made using the "stitch" feature on TikTok which allows a TikTok user to append their own response to the end of another person's video. When you watch these, you usually see a few seconds of a white woman crying, then abruptly stopping, and then the response from the user commenting on it. Many of these videos describe what they're responding to as a trend of white women crying, and they talk about how disturbing it is to see white women be able to switch emotions so quickly.
In their reactions, Black people are saying this trend is disturbing because, historically, white women’s tears have been used to justify the oppression of Black people, especially Black men. White women’s fear has been used to justify violence against and over policing of Black men throughout history. In the case of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy who was beaten to death after being accused of whistling at a white woman in 1955, the woman who accused Till of whistling at her later said that her claims were false. TikTok users responding to these clips of white women crying sometimes make reference to Till as they explain why this trend is so upsetting.
None of the people reacting to these clips of white women crying, or pretending to cry, are incorrect about what disturbs them about these clips. But what stuck out to me about these clips was that they were all using the same sound on TikTok. This sound originally came from The Vampire Diaries, and came to TikTok via a Vampire Diaries fan account.
According to YouTuber Jenny Nicholson, while The Vampire Diaries began as your average attempt to cash in on the popularity of Twilight in the late 2000s, it would soon become a convoluted mess. One of the contributors to that mess was that in The Vampire Diaries, vampires can literally turn off their human empathy as if it is a lightswitch, meaning characters are constantly changing allegiances with good and evil with diminishing returns.
The idea of being able to turn off your humanity has become a huge part of The Vampire Diaries mythos. The audio clip that plays beneath all those TikToks of white women crying comes from a scene in the show where one vampire has to convince another to turn off their humanity. Many of the clips that use that sound are re-enacting that scene, or imagining their own sexy vampire moment. Some of them use the hashtag "tvd" for "The Vampire Diaries" or explicitly mention turning off their humanity switch, which is from the show.
Looking at the most popular clips using this sound, it has definitely reached spaces outside of The Vampire Diaries's fandom. The most popular videos using this sound are either "relatable" humor, or very specific memes from people who work in healthcare about how they manage their emotions.
None of that negates how gross it is to watch white women cry on command. In fact, the link to The Vampire Diaries means that the people who participate in this trend are mimicking vampires by being cold and unfeeling. Without the context, many of these crying clips do just look like white women demonstrating that they can look upset without feeling anything at all. It's sad that Vampire Diaries fans did not appear to think about the optics of this fandom trend, because it creates yet another situation in which Black people have to explain basic historical facts. At the very least, you don't have to worry about a nebulous "white women crying" trend taking over TikTok, unless you're a big fan of vampire shows on The CW.