The Master's Memes: Privilege Denying Dude Tumblr Shuts Down

"I know what racial oppression feels like... my ancestors were Irish." "Assuming I have male privilege.... is sexist." If you missed out on the short-lived but prolific Tumblr page of Privilege Denying Dude (a series of images that used a stock photo of a white dude sandwiched with all-too-familiar privilege-denying text, like that seen here)—you missed the beginning of a genius appropriation of a popular meme (or internet trend) that shoveled smarm back in the face of the privileged cluelessness that litters YouTube and social-justice blog comment threads alike (not to mention IRL). What started as a simple trend went viral, with thousands of submissions (all with their own unique manifestation of privilege!) coming in . But due to a terms of violation with the image used, Tumblr shut down the site last Friday.

Channing Kennedy at Colorlines spoke with PPD's creator, Diana Lopez, about the trajectory of PPD's run on Tumblr. There were the highs ("People asked why PDD saying a certain something was bad, and boom, extensive discussion [followed]. It was great."), the lows ("Straight white men [were] specifically displeased, speaking out about [the joke being on them], and demanding results. They felt entitled to their space, the Web.")—and ultimately its official end (but according to Lopez's Tumblr, something else will be back up soon).

But internet memes are harder to kill than Justin Timberlake's dream of an acting career. And like the advice dog/courage wolf meme that spawned it, memes don't listen to the laws of copyright, and you can make your own PPD (new stock dude included!) at

And Ryan Gosling (the new face of Privilege Denying Dude) is only the start of what will hopefully transform into other meta-memes. After all, cocky white guys aren't the only ones out there with privilege, and commenters have already come up with several follow-up memes including Nice Guy (TM), the The De-Rail-Inator, and Big-Picture Bro on on Garland Grey's recent post on PDD on Tigerbeatdown.

And now, your moment of zen from Lopez:

The Internet could help [people unfamiliar with the concept of privilege] see others' oppression—and I don't mean oppression from across the country expressed in a blog post. But rather mistreatment close to them they always knew was 'off,' but didn't know was systemic oppression. For example, a family member with a disability having trouble finding work. I hope with all my heart that something clicks for all of them so that we become allies.

"Privilege Denying Dude" and the Fight for the Right to Snark [Colorlines]
A Very Special Episode of Grey Areas: Privilege Denying Dude Edition [Tigerbeatdown]

by Kjerstin Johnson
View profile »

Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

Still Reading? Sign up for our Weekly Reader!

13 Comments Have Been Posted


I'm surprised that Ryan Gosling is the new face of PDD, considering that I've read he is a pretty outspoken feminist: Does anyone know why he is the chosen one? I'm not saying that a feminist can't also be a privilege-denying dude, just that there are probably famous white guys out there who are better candidates than Gosling (who I have a big fat feminist crush on).


Yeah, I could see Mel Gibson as that poster child..PDD and Anti-Semite..

Still unsure of my vote.

I'm puzzled by the Gosling pick too, but I can't be the only one who never wants to see Mel Gibson's face again, even if they <i>are</i> making fun of him.

ryan gosling

I wish Ryan Gosling (as a feminist? I know only what was said before) had okay'd his image's use. Since as a feminist male, he would understand what white males represent (privilege!!!) to many feminists females. But, I am sure this is not true...

On memegenerator there's even

On memegenerator there's even a third option for token white dude, so I don't know how official RG is. Someone commented on Facebook that Gosling <i>did</i> give permission (cause he like, gets it!) but I can't confirm that that's true or not.

It speaks volumes about my

It speaks volumes about my involvement in the Internet that I knew about PDD, but had never heard of advice dog or courage wolf before now. Go me?


The Privilege Denying Dude site is (and has been for a while) blocked by my place of employment's web filtering software for "Tasteless"... I think this indicates that the categorizers at Websense are Privileged Types themselves.
(I've always been bothered by the category "Tasteless" because, exactly who decides what does or does not have taste? It seems like that one comes up a lot when surfing on my lunch break, and I know I'm not trying to view anything terribly inappropriate.)

"Tasteless" - Hahahaha,

"Tasteless" - Hahahaha, that's bizarre. This is how they define the category: tasteless sites "offer offensive, grotesque, frightening, lurid, material with no redeeming value". Woah, ok there. I do not miss Websense on my work computer.


Hmmm, it does also seem kind of not-quite-feminist to me to use someone's image without their consent or knowledge...especially as a random white dude to mock.

Lots of people have their photo taken without their consent, or as a paid model for a specific purpose, or for any reason...then it comes up on the internet and it's used by others without that person's informed consent. I know that's how the internet and tumblr tend to work, but that's not an excuse.

I was actually wondering about that before PDD got shut down (and about most memes). It's a cool project but unless they have a good reason to mock some specific white guy, maybe they could get their own "stock" models.

Stock photo purchase

Good point, Pat. In the case of PDD, Diana Lopez paid for the use of the stock photo, which I believe (correct me if I'm wrong, copyright experts!) means that she can legally use it on her blog. Like you're saying, though, a more ethical choice may have been to get permission from someone who knew about the mission of the blog from the outset.

Legit stock photo agencies

Legit stock photo agencies will provide licenses that include a model release (meaning the model has given written consent to the use of their likeness) for images where the person is recognizable (e.g. back of the head OK without release, full face OK with release). If there are constraints on the types of acceptable contextual use (e.g. in print only; one-time use; in "questionable" contexts such as with drugs or defamatory subjects), it will be explicitly stated in the purchase agreement. Many agencies require a standard model release from all photographers submitting images. Except in extremely fancy cases, the model has no say in the use of the image once they've released it—that's implicit in the release.

So while purchasing a stock photo does not necessarily allow one free use of the image, as long as Lopez got it from a legitimate agency, it's extremely likely that she was/is within the standard terms of use for the image.

New PDD volunteer stock photo guy!

<i>"Anyhow, I read comments on several blogs (namely Tiger Beatdown and Jezebel) asking for some willing feminist dude to stand up and volunteer to be the new Privilege Denying Dude. To this end, I humbly submit that I, one of the most privileged members of society, might be that face you are looking for."</i>

So if you feel uncomfortable about the unethical use of the original model's photo, and you like Ryan Gosling too much to see him as PDD, here's your guilt-free option!


This guy is great. I love how he went out of his way to make the smuggest face possible. Way to go Edman, new face of PDD!

Add new comment