„Are we the baddies“ is a meme that people use to express that they are not sure if their behavior is okay. The meme can be translated into German as „Are we the baddies?“ It qualifies as a meme because a person not only asks himself this question, but also always addresses it to other people who exhibit similar behaviors. The meme can refer to basic political attitudes, certain social structures, or very concrete individual actions.
„Are we the baddies?“: Origin
The phrase „Are we the baddies?“ comes from a sketch by the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb that aired in a 2006 episode of their television show That Mitchell and Webb Look. In the sketch, comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb play two Nazi SS sergeants who find themselves on the front lines at the time of World War II, where they realize in a conversation with each other that they are doing something evil. This realization is expressed by one of the two characters played by the question, „Are we the baddies?“
„Are we the baddies?“: Evolution into a meme, usage, examples
It was not until nearly 10 years after the sketch aired that the phrase appeared in its original meaning in other Internet content. In 2015, a user on the comedy website funnyjunk posted a photo showing a scene from the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in which a leader of the imperialist and militaristic First Order organization gives a warlike speech to an army of foot soldiers called Stormtroopers. A second image shows two of these soldiers with the heads of Mitchell and Webb asking, „Are we the baddies?“
In 2018, columnist Hadley Freeman noted in an article for the Guardian magazine that the meme gained further currency in the U.S. in response to Donald Trump’s presidency. Several policy actions of the U.S. government at the time, such as pulling out of international bodies and treating refugees at home, were questioned by U.S. citizens online with „Are we the baddies?“ memes.
Since 2020, the meme has not only been found in images, videos, and GIFs. It is now also referenced in political articles. For example, in an article for the internet magazine The Majority, Scottish publisher and political activist Mark Devlin uses a reference to the meme to accuse Scottish politicians of championing a bad cause but continuing to think they are the good guys.
In 2021, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a non-governmental organization that advocates for refugee rights, published an article referencing the meme to call on European states to rethink their refugee policies.
„Are we the baddies?“: The meme as art
In addition, British artist DONK sells a variation of the meme as a print on his website. The print features an image of a boy pointing at a statue of Edward Colston and asking his father, „Daddy Are We The Baddies?“ Edward Colston was an English entrepreneur who was involved in the enslavement of tens of thousands of people in the 17th century.
What is a meme?
Meme is a term for an Internet phenomenon. It refers to content that conveys a message in a humorous, satirical or socially critical way, spreads via social media, forums, blogs and websites and thus reaches many people in a short time. Memes are usually short and concise, usually a photo, a GIF, a short video or a catchy phrase.