If you spend much time on the internet—which, of course you do, hi—you have invariably come across the term “dumpster fire.” In 2016, it has become the go-to term to express world-weary exhaustion with the general state of humanity, in particular when used in conjunction with the presidential election. (Which, to be clear, please get out and vote, we are almost fucking done here, etc.) Still, the conclusion of the election seemed like a great time for The Daily Beast to assemble an oral history of the term “dumpster fire,” a piece that pulls up some surprising insights, even though—to be pedantic—it is more of a roundtable of commentariat than a true oral history.
Pretty much everyone surveyed by The Daily Beast agrees that the term’s moment has passed. Tommy Vietor, former national security spokesman for the Obama administration, notes of its spread, “It was like the Crying Jordan of politics. The political universe is a profoundly unfunny group of people.” Elias Esquith of Cafe.com concurs, saying, “It is like Harambe or Ken Bone jokes—it offers people who aren’t funny or irreverent the chance to role-play being both of those things.” All of which is not to admit that there was a certain inherent beauty in the term before its overexposure. Dodai Stewart at Fusion says, “It’s such an evocative, visual, damn near cinematic term,” praising it for print-friendliness and “sense of futile hopelessness—a fire you DON’T want to extinguish, because there’s no point.”
A more vigorous but less fact-checked history of the meme is held (where else?) at KnowYourMeme.com, which traces one early use of the term back to a review of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. Five years later, an Urban Dictionary user helpfully defined the term as “a complete disaster” or “something very difficult that nobody wants to deal with,” the latter of which is a striking way of describing the latent rage, xenophobia, and racism that has made the past year so effectively dumpster-fiery.
Regardless, all surveyed at The Daily Beast agree the time has come for us to retire the term—or at least, to toss it into that great flaming dumpster in the sky in which all our abandoned memes smolder eternally. There may it join “hot garbage,” “garbage human,” Ken Bone, Harambe, and per Fusion’s Stewart, “FUBAR, crazy town, the shit is bananas, epic fail, hot mess, and insane in the membrane,” as well as everything else you briefly thought was cool to say then suddenly didn’t.
Here is perhaps the world’s most famous GIF of a dumpster fire, which you are invited to now salute quietly from your laptop.
[via The Daily Beast]
[Note: Fusion, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]