"Airhead", also known as "Trixie" (in Chicago), "basic bitch", or simply "basic", is a slang term in American popular culture used to pejoratively describe middle class white women who are perceived to predominantly like mainstream products, trends, or music. "Airhead" dates back to the late 1980s as a derogatory term for a stupid or unaware person, usually female but sometimes male. "Basic bitch" originated in hip-hop culture and rose in popularity through rap music, songs, blogs, and videos from 2011 to 2014.
Their male counterparts are usually termed "bros", "Chads", or "urban preps". International English equivalents to the "basic bitch" or "airhead" include preconceived notions that some people have about contemporary British "Essex Girls" and "Sloane rangers", Irish "D4s", and Australian "haul girls" known for their love of shopping for designer gear, and uploading videos of their purchases on YouTube.
Before the 1980s, "airhead" was general American slang for a ditzy, clumsy or stupid person. With the rise of the valley girl and preppy subculture however, the term was applied to cheerleaders and nouveau riche or middle class hangers-on who imitated the uptalk speech and clothing of the upper class popular girls. These airheads, material girls or gold diggers were stereotypically viewed by their classmates as unintelligent, gossipy bimbettes who were interested solely in spreading rumors about their rivals and entering relationships with the wealthy jocks.
1990s and 2000s
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, airheads began to be regarded as a distinct, middle class subculture in many suburban American high schools, although appearance-wise they initially differed little from the traditionalist upper class preps. At the time, many wealthy white jocks and younger preppies had begun imitating urban fashion trends, eschewing the semi-formal conservative look of the 1980s and 1990s in favor of gold bling, expensive designer clothes, sneakers, dark jeans, and sweatpants. Rich girls who dressed this way were known as Queen Bees and their followers were known as plastics, or airheads. Members of this clique believed their designer clothing, as a manifestation of conspicuous consumption, was key to being popular.
The term basic bitch was coined in 2009 by comedian Lil' Duval. Over the next two years, it appeared in several American rap songs. In the songs "Hard in the Paint" by Tyga and "I'm not a Human Being" by Lil Wayne, the singers insist that they are not basic bitches, while in the song "Basic Bitch" by The Game, the singer warns others to avoid basic bitches because they are fake.
In 2011, rapper Kreayshawn debuted her song "Gucci Gucci", which included the chorus: "Gucci Gucci, Louis Louis, Fendi Fendi, Prada ... basic bitches wear that shit so I don't even bother." In 2014 CollegeHumor released a parody video of a wife being diagnosed by a doctor as a "basic bitch", to the horror of her husband.
Fashion and stereotypes
From the 1990s until the early 2010s, both guys and girls from the predominantly white popular clique often combined budget preppy clothes with supposedly edgy elements of mainstream hip hop fashion, in imitation of the outfits worn by early adopter black rappers such as Kanye West. Miniskirts, Nike brand sneakers, bleached blonde hair, pastel colors like pale blue or baby pink, expensive Aeropostale, Hollister Co or Abercrombie and Fitch designer gear purchased by one's parents, grey marl sweatpants, crop tops, white Converse sneakers, leggings, and Ugg boots remained common among American airheads, Aussie haul girls and Essex girls during the 2010s. Other items of clothing formerly fashionable in the 1990s, such as polo shirts with popped collars, have gone out of style. Common amongst this subculture is a love of brunch (often with Prosecco) and sweet, modern cocktails such as Porn Star Martinis.
Popular girls in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada are often accused of meanness, gossip, snobbery, narrowmindedness, homophobia, intolerance, flaunting their apparent wealth, backstabbing, shallowness, body shaming, slut shaming, contempt for the poor, and openly bullying other girls to maintain their own privileged position.
Interpretations and criticism
Referring to an object or a person as "basic" has a variety of connotations. When used to refer to people, it can mean a criticism of shallow materialism; in songs that use the term, popular luxury brands like Gucci and Prada are referenced to suggest that the people who wear them are buying, rather than earning, their fashionability and social status. Decrying the basic bitch's love of bland, boring products like Ugg boots and Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes is a rhetorical technique that allows the singer to appear cooler by comparison. Rapper Kreayshawn describes a basic bitch as: "A basic bitch is just someone who likes what's typical to like. The radio puts stuff on the radio that they think is typical and you should like it, and that's something a basic bitch would like. She likes those normal brands and wears them all the time because that's some basic shit."
In an article in The Guardian titled, "Why I'm proud to be a 'basic bitch'", journalist Daisy Buchanan has criticized the cultural trend of using "basic bitch" as an insult, pointing out that those who call out other women for being basic bitches are "dismissing all cultural feminine signifiers" and "make assumptions about a woman's interests and habits based on her gender." Widespread usage of the term to mock the behavior and interests of girlfriends or wives "conforms to the most bland and uncreative stereotypes of late capitalist femininity" and suggests a misogynistic attitude toward all women, according to Michael Reid Roberts in an article in The American Reader.
In the media
Since the 1980s, the airhead or popular clique have often been cast as the antagonists in high school and teen movies. Examples include Valley Girl, The Clique, Heathers, Girl Fight, A Cinderella Story, Odd Girl Out, Frenemies, Pretty in Pink, Mean Girls, and Clueless.
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