On April 1st, Dylan Mulvaney uploaded an approximately sixty second video to Instagram celebrating the end of their 365 Days of Womanhood, a promo of Bud Lite featuring her likeness, and a nod to March Madness.
Dylan as a creator was known for positive content that garnered over ten million followers on TikTok and two million on Instagram. She’s popular.
The partnership with Bud Light signaled an effort from the company to reach a younger and more diverse audience, thus falling victim to one of the famous classic blunders*.
(*Famous classic blunders: a land war in Asia, death match with a Sicilian, and supporting gender diverse people.)
On April 3rd, Kid Rock showed us that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then firing an automatic rifle at cases of beer must be worth a manifesto.
Altogether these two videos accounted for less than two minutes, but generated millions of hours of engagement due to a perfect storm of moral panic, grifting, and capitalism.
Mulvaney took the deal for building her brand, Bud Light partnered with her to expand their market share, and Rock’s video was just a promo for his upcoming No Snowflakes Tour.
Before going on, it’s worth acknowledging that the vast majority of people are not invested in Mulvaney, Kid Rock, or Bud Light. These people and brands were just the latest iteration of the outrage machine that we refer to as the “culture war.”
While culture war is the nomenclature we assign to social conservatism’s backlash to diversity and notions of progressivism/wokeness, a more accurate summary would be a Culture Tantrum.
That’s because it’s largely one-sided, exists as a response to people in power not getting their way, and makes that everyone’s problem regardless if you want to be part of it or not.
The Tantrum of Kid Rock
Rock’s video above is representational of social conservative values and regressivism. The video showcases a MAGA hat, the outdoors, a pick-up truck in the distance, and shooting cans.
When looked at from a distance it is extremely pandering and cringe. He was for the moment a diva for this entire iconography associated with an identity movement and I feel even social conservatives felt embarrassed by him peacocking around in their regalia.
This was a grown adult that drove to a secluded place and fired a gun at cases of beer, because beer/Mulvaney made him upset. He then swore at his phone like a big man! Not exactly alpha behavior.
All of it was just a performance to sell tickets, but it helped build into the few weeks of outrage, protest, and boycotts against Bud Light/Mulvaney.
While this isn’t the first or last adult tantrum we’ll see, I did want to review this particular Culture Tantrum (CT) because traditionally when trans people were concerned, the CT had to be associated with adjacent outrage and perceived damage to religious freedom or cisgender women and girls.
To understand this, let’s say I put you in a room with a teddy bear. It’s an okay time. I then tell you that teddy is a girl. It doesn’t phase you. What is it to you?
Then I tell you that teddy just took your daughter’s sports scholarship and now you’re upset at teddy, but it’s not a big deal, just keep teddy away from sports and we’ll all be cool.
Then I tell you teddy is destroying womanhood, defying god, and mutilating your child. That’s where the…checks notes…discourse is on trans people right now!
It’s no longer what trans people do that’s a problem, the outrage has moved into believing fundamentally who they are that must be stopped.
Dylan Mulvaney is a perfect reflection of this, because the only thing one can find to be outraged about is that the content creator is transgender and therefore serves as a representational token for “transgenderism.”
She was not the new face or spokesperson of Bud Light. Her involvement could not have been less, however the message of this boycott is that any involvement with any trans person is unacceptable.
The usual Hashtags of “Go Woke, Go Broke,” were accompanied by pictures of empty lines in front of Bud tents. (It is dubious if this is effective overall, with most companies reporting profits even with inclusion and boycotts, since they tend to own everything anyways. Grifts on the other hand are still lucrative.)
We also see this reflected in some of the public backlash to Chris Tyson, a contributor of MrBeast, coming out as gender diverse and being called a nightmare for the brand.
While we could argue there is a lot more complexity to all of this, I believe it’s fair to say most people don’t care. That the average person engaging in this outrage isn’t thinking about the deep nuance of the topics nor is a personally impacted stakeholder.
It’s important to understand that these Culture Tantrums are largely performative and function more closely to engaging in ceremony.
They tend to have story arcs of intense outrage and feeling, commiserating and meme’ing with other followers, and occasionally being rewarded with intense payoff/catharsis when there is observable impact like someone getting fired.
This is why CT’s only typically last 2–3 weeks before losing steam and they tend to be entertainment more than actual constructive action for meaningful change, as people keep looking for their next fix.
That is to say most people aren’t invested in the subject of a CT as much as they are the performance and experience of outrage, the connection/intimacy they get with the ingroup, and the validation/attention they can experience para-socially as they feel like they’re part of something important or big.
(Individuals who spend their time searching for any trans content to insert themselves into with aggression are the cultural Jehovah Witnesses of our day trying their faith at anyone who will engage.)
Defining Culture Tantrums
While I don’t want to spend significant time on this, I do want to take a moment to clarify some items when talking about Culture Tantrums.
CTs are a sociological tool for dominant ideology to both maintain power and a way to vent, process, and grow into changing culture. It almost always uses ingroup women and children as an emotional appeal to resist change towards outgroup dynamics.
(For the record metal music wasn’t creating Satan worshippers, gay and interracial marriage didn’t destroy religion, and desegregation/Civil Rights Act didn’t collapse the country.)
The distinction from CT or other ingroup/outgroup considerations is that power and anger are the defining characteristics leading it. A tantrum is itself defined by anger or an outburst often with a person not getting their way.
Therefore CT is not an appropriate way to refer to justifiable anger at injustice, harm, or discrimination. The George Floyd protests as an example were not a CT, but it is possible other dominant ideology groups beyond social conservatives could and do have CTs.
The framework of CT also doesn’t suggest the dominant ideology cannot ever have valid concerns or criticism or that they shouldn’t ever be taken seriously or time shouldn’t be allowed for growth. It’s more about better contextualizing the behavior and power dynamics accurately.
One curious thing is the Kid Rock’s CT is more like a marketing ARG than any real investment in hating trans people. While the impact and outcome to transgender populations are ultimately the same, I have a hard time believing he cares. It’s just a grift to sell tickets and merch.
And it’s important to understand that while some CT’s are organic events, most of the time they’re astroturfed or hijacked by companies/brands like Kid Rock to grift people into buying things or by politicians to get elected or pass legislation.
I think one would be better suited to consider this a feature of CT’s rather than an abuse of them. In fact, one can almost expect most CT’s to include a way to throw money at something to solve the problem they’re trying to make you upset about.
Not all CT’s are going to be equal, if they’re especially provocative they can evolve into a full blown moral panic.
The Full Blown Moral Panic of “Transgenderism”
The fight against “transgenderism” has a narrative arc not unlike the stakes in Marvel Movies. You know, this escalating problem over several years and different movies where trans individuals are collecting the infinity stones and will snap women out of existence any day.
The reason we’re dealing with narratives like “transgenderism” is erasing women or mutilating kids is because the problems have to keep escalating like Dragonball Z villains or people will stop caring.
When you read what a moral panic is then you get a sense for what kind of kayfabe we live in right now:
“Moral panic has been defined as a situation in which public fears and state interventions greatly exceed the objective threat posed to society by a particular individual or group who is/are claimed to be responsible for creating the threat in the first place. ”
When you step outside of the CT and just stop pretending any of it actually matters, you can see this whole current fiasco is the result of an aging white musician, who grew up in a well off family in Michigan, cosplaying to sell more concert tickets.
CTs count on people with hair-triggers who won’t critically examine issues, but want to feel the cycler addiction to intense emotion like, but not limited to, anger. As I said above, the issues are complex and nuanced, so they require an active suspension of disbelief to pretend they’re simple.
If we take this boycott against Bud Light, it’s a boycott of Mulvaney, which is actually a boycott of “Transgenderism.”
“Transgenderism” is similar to “wokism” in that it seems extremely straight forward, but is actually a nebulous concept that could mean an ideology, political party, idea of sex or gender, mental illness, social contagion, grooming kids, and/or trans people.
And when someone says “Transgenderism” is bad or should be eradicated, this is an intentional use of a motte-and-bailey rhetoric. What do they actually mean when they say that?
Ultimately, “Transgenderism” simply dehumanizes transgender people and casts them as representatives or victims of an ideology rather than actual humans.
This serves as a blanket that goes over trans people, so when individuals are told to fire at the monsters that is “Transgenderism,” they don’t see the harm they’re doing to real people.
Culture Tantrums are a Sign of Growing
The enormous amount of effort, money, and time it has taken to get people to be upset about trans individuals is a testament to the shelf-life of the current moral panic and Culture Tantrums as we go kicking and screaming into the future.
The main goal of this current tantrum is to culturally or legally normalize or maintain social conservative values. (Or in Kid Rock’s case make more money.)
This is why everything that doesn’t align with these values is often called political, radical, or far left. Even when looking at historically unaligned organizations like hospitals or libraries. No matter how neutral you live your life, they will pull you into this tantrum and make you choose a side.
When understanding this it’s easy to see that CRT, wokism, or transgenderism aren’t even issues agitators care deeply about. These are the vehicles and wedge issues through which they throw tantrums about in order to make American values as closely aligned to social conservative values as possible.
While it’s more than okay to have the values and beliefs of someone who is socially conservative, the issue comes when we legally mandating everyone follow these beliefs and have big disruptive tantrums when people aren’t.
I don’t want to undersell the real life impact of these tantrums, because these are not kids throwing toys around and screaming. These are often grown adults with a lot of power.
Legislatively we are seeing voters losing rights, women and queer populations losing medical autonomy, college and schools given state sanctioned education, and more public funding diverted to private schools. Many states are being gutted and repurposed to exclusively protect and serve social conservative values.
But the good news is that they have to do all of this work to simply maintain a status quo that was the norm of the 1950s. They have to create laws and outrage, because the default state is becoming more tolerant, accepting, diverse, and inclusive.
And we will likely see an enormous backlash to them going all in on a negative partisanship tactic where they presented themselves as the solution to “transgenderism” for your money and vote.
- Inevitably someone following the outrage will have someone they love, respect, or trust come out as trans and this is devastating for the necessary mechanisms of creating a political enemy that you other and demonize.
- Anger is a force that needs fuel to burn and it takes constant effort and escalation to reinforce hate. People are already getting bored, annoyed, and burnt out on anti-trans rhetoric.
- Culture is moving on, requiring a ton of effort to continue to create controversies.
When you step back you can see that we’re being told to get really mad about trans people, wherever they are, for whatever reason.