I didn't leave my bed this morning so that Good Morning America's Twitter account could rename Kermit the Frog #TeaLizard. But somehow, it happened.
This morning, the ABC morning show took a shot at being hip and cool to internet culture. But instead, before the eyes of the account's three million followers, someone in charge of GMA's Twitter account revealed that they cannot tell the difference between the world's most famous frog and a lizard. Indeed: At 7:52 a.m. the account asked if Crying LeBron is worthy of other great memes like Crying Jordan, something called "#smockin" (a possible Mask reference that doesn't seem to be popular anywhere), and "#tealizard," a reference to the popular 2014 meme of Kermit the Frog throwing shade, choosing to ignore the drama and silently sip his tea.
Imagine the pitch meeting: Crying Jordan might be the meme of a generation. It's an image that exists at the glorious intersection of small goofs and overdramatic personal tragedies — we are all Michael Jordan's weepy face, and he is us. #Smockin? "Let's just put syllables together and see what happens," someone might have said. Didn't you spend your childhood watching Kermit the Tea Lizard on The Muppet Show? Wasn't it Kermit the Tea Lizard who sipped a Lipton drink and became the greatest meme of two years ago?
To be sure, calling Kermit the Frog a "Tea Lizard" was an honest mistake that Google or a 6th grade zoology textbook could have corrected. But GMA's tweet — and the resulting fallout — represents a problem that has become a regular occurrence. The fruits of Black Twitter's comedy labor are whitewashed and reappropriated by people with no idea what they mean or what online culture they're important to. When Kermit the Frog's tea-sipping meme becomes Tea Lizard — a made-up, meaningless moniker — the Black community that mainstreamed the joke gets sidelined.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Atlanta rappers danced "The Dab" before Hillary Clinton brought the meme to daytime television on Ellen. #TrapCovers, which found Black twitter users adding raps and basslines to Michelle Branch ballads, came to fruition as a response to white musicians making emo covers of "Formation," Beyoncé's song celebrating her "negro nose" and nappy hair.
But Black Twitter is never credited, even as the non-Black creators of other mainstream memes are known and praised. The creators of "Damn Daniel" made it to Ellen; few people respeck Peaches Monroee's name, even though she brought "on fleek" into our cultural lexicon.
GMA later apologized, but their correction was misplaced. Whether he's called a frog or a Tea Lizard (come on, the character's name is literally Kermit the Frog), the Kermit Sipping Tea meme has origins in Black Twitter's queer and female communities, and the show's social media editors made a clumsy attempt at capitalizing on it. Memes aren't exactly the most important fault lines for discussions about cultural appropriation, but instances like these are examples of inside jokes being mined for street cred as the cultures that created them are ignored.