It was the summer of 2017, and a stock photo taken in Girona two years earlier was about to go global. That same summer, an Atlanta photographer walked through the doors of a dance studio to help promote her cousin’s business. She may have even seen the Distracted Boyfriend meme herself earlier that day, the day she set in motion the same fate for one of her sister’s students.
But young ballerina Fatima, as she’ll now forever be known, was never meant to become a meme – even in 2019, when a UK cyber security training programme found the photo of her strapping up her pointe shoes and used it as part of a tactless-at-worst campaign about careers in tech.
No, to become a meme, Fatima still needed a pandemic to make the UK government undermine creative industry jobs and engender an atmosphere of online sensitivity around the subject. Without it, she would have been held back with the bakers and supermarket workers in a dormant CyberFirst campaign nobody even knew about.
But in 2020, Fatima got her pandemic, and that, along with the Tories’ contempt for the arts, led to Fatboy Slim finding the image from that CyberFirst campaign and angrily sharing it out of context.
And so, in defending a creative from hypothetically retraining in cyber, the creative community, with its repetitive, chronically unfunny takes, outed itself as anything but, and just like the Spanish model now only known as Distracted Boyfriend, or the Brazilian actress now only known as Math Lady, Fatima has retrained solely in being a meme.