Sometime after a man supposedly found shrimp in his cereal and before Amazon bots started taking over Twitter (again), Chet Hanks introduced us to a concept that seemed fated to become an even bigger meme than those images of the Suez Canal: White Boy Summer. “Look, guys, I just wanted to tap in really quick. I just got this feeling, man, that this summer, it’s about to be a white boy summer. Take it how you want,” Hanks said in an Instagram video. “I’m not talking about Trump, you know, NASCAR-type white. I’m talking about, you know, me, Jon B., Jack Harlow-type white boy summer. Lemme know if you guys can vibe with that.”
The video has been viewed over 400,000 times, and Hanks has since shared several follow-up videos, “rules and regs” for White Boy Summer, and even a new line of merch (which was criticised for using a font similar to one used by white nationalists). In some ways, it’s unsurprising that this video took off: We’re living in a golden age of TikTok humour and himbo aesthetics, and Hanks’ general social media presence offers both. Plus, there’s something funny about watching the son of renowned actor Tom Hanks take serious care to denounce plaid shirts and the word “smokeshow.”
Hanks has doubled down, though. Along with White Boy Summer, he’s started verbalizing his support — and selling merchandise — for Black Queen Summer. (Which, he clarified, is actually an “all year-round” thing for him.) But people have pointed out that it feels weird and inappropriate for Hanks, a white man, to benefit from the sales of merch for and in celebration of Black women. And although Hanks has said that prejudice, discrimination, and racism are decidedly “not White Boy Summer,” there’s no way those WBS shirts won’t end up purchased by white supremacists, right?
Hanks’ behaviour has crossed the line into cultural appropriation and racism before, specifically when he tried to use Jamaican Patois at the Golden Globes and defended his right to say the n-word. (He later apologised for using the n-word, blaming his previous problems with drugs.) But even more concerning are the court documents with claims that Hanks abused his ex-girlfriend, Kiana Parker. According to Parker, Hanks broke her phone, physically pushed and grabbed her, and threatened to jump off a balcony if she left his hotel room. Parker recalled Hanks saying, “He was Chet Hanks and I wasn’t shit, no one would believe me, I was just a ghetto Black bitch.” In another incident, he reportedly verbally abused her, wielded a knife, and chased her around their house in Sugar Land, TX. In January, Parker was granted a temporary protective order.
According to the Blackburn Center, 31.5% of all women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. For Black women, that percentage jumps to over 40%. Some might think Hanks is just another milkshake duck (that is, someone who goes viral for a very silly or innocuous reason, and turns out to be violent, offensive, or abusive — again, see Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shrimp Guy), but it's deeply, uniquely disturbing to learn about Hanks hurting a Black woman as he's profiting and building a brand off something called "Black Queen Summer."
The memes were entertaining, but White Boy Summer isn’t. And neither are those shirts — but at least, maybe they’ll remind people who to avoid in public once bars reopen.