Damn, Daniel! Even if you’re not an active user of Twitter or Vine, it’s likely that you’ve witnessed one high-pitched young man’s overly enthusiastic and repeated praise for Daniel’s impeccable fashion sense. It’s only 30 seconds of video, but it’s 30 seconds that have changed the lives of two kids. Here’s the full story behind those Damn Daniel bros.
The Damn Daniel phenom began on February 15, 2016, when Josh Holz, a student at Riverside Poly High School, posted the brief video to his Twitter account, @Josholzz. Today, Josh has over 174,000 followers, but at the time of the Tweet, he had only around 400. Something about Josh’s praise of Daniel’s white Vans struck a chord with viewers, and the video was retweeted over 350,000 times from Josh’s account alone, though Internet-wide views are estimated to be in the multi-millions. Maybe it’s because Daniel is a handsome devil, or maybe it’s because Josh’s genuine enthusiasm and kindness towards his friend is infectious, but the world quickly learned of Daniel and Josh.
The real star here is Josh Holz, the meme’s excited 16-year old narrator. In an interview with Hollywood Life, surfer/skater Daniel indicated that he wants to ride his impromptu catchphrase for longer than just these few moments of fame, and will be bringing his unique view of the world, whatever that might be, to YouTube. For anyone under 15, YouTube is like Vine, but you can upload videos that are longer than thirty seconds. A crazy concept, it’s true, but one that might just work.
It’s been suggested on his Twitter that “Geez, Josh” is the only proper response when you get hit with a “Damn, Daniel!” in public. Josh is a big fan of Kanye, because some things can’t be helped, and based on his retweets, he knows he has a strange voice, and he’s totally cool with it. Total California.
The fashionable kid featured in the Vine is just as surprised by the weird viral fame that he’s found. Poking back into past Tweets, it seems like Josh had been working on this bizarre compilation of compliments for a while, and only completed it after the urging of friends, thus launching Daniel (@daniel_laraa) into fame at the tender age of 14. Daniel isn’t much of a Twitter user, though the meme has earned him over 300,000 Twitter followers—even more than the creator of the meme. He’s an active player of Black Ops 3, an aspiring guitar player, had braces until October of 2015, and apparently, he’s a fan of taking prolonged showers despite California’s serious drought conditions. Clearly Daniel has a dark side.
Other brands and social media outlets latched onto Damn, Daniel with surprising quickness and ferocity. One of the first to latch on was Vans, who posted a survey on February 18 that asked “Back at it again” or “With the white Vans.” Not exactly a survey, but who’s counting? Other big companies also reposted the video with their own content; an offer came in from Clorox to clean Daniel’s white shoes, while Axe made some weird meme about the shoes (or possibly Daniel) being magic. Denny’s, on the other hand, posted a surreal short story about Josh masquerading as Daniel’s mom, for no other reason than the people who run Denny’s Twitter are probably high on uncut syrup.
Some viewers didn’t take so kindly to the fast and reckless propagation of the meme and decided to harass Josh in real life, which is an unfortunate side-effect of fame, whether you’ve sought it out or not. On February 23, just a week after the meme first appeared, cops were called to Josh’s house after the local police got a false report that Josh had killed his mother, awakening and terrifying the family at 1 a.m. While the incident went off without any injuries, police have reported that they continue to get unusual phone calls about the Holz residence from anonymous sources.
To make matters worse, sometime on February 24, Josh’s Twitter account was taken over by an unknown source and the popular post was deleted, while the infiltrator posted racist content instead, meant to incriminate and harass Josh. After about a week, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of potential views, Josh got his account back and the content restored by Twitter. Daniel has since remarked that he’s afraid of the same things happening to him, but it’s already difficult for him to be a normal student, as all of his peers have been chasing him down for photos and Vines of their own.
It’s not all bad news, however, since the boys have been approached by numerous companies offering them free swag. Most obviously, Vans has given Daniel a lifetime supply of their shoes, as revealed on Ellen, since white Vans are now unofficially known as “Damn Daniels.” Also on Ellen, Josh was given a pretty rad surfboard—except for the fact that Ellen had her name emblazoned across it. According to recent reports from Daniel, their school is currently working with Vans to produce a commercial starring Dan the man himself. Amazon is nearly completely sold out of slip-on white Vans, so that’s certainly worth a few freebies.
Of course, memes beget similar memes, and even more similar memes, in a never-ending, all-consuming black hole of everyone wanting to be in on the joke, so imitations and variations popped up left and right. Popular fashion Twitter @Four_Pins posted a “Damn Daniel” starter pack, including white Vans and other accessories featured in the Vine, and the obligatory remixes appeared on every other YouTube channel on Earth.
What does it mean?
Popular YouTube poster I Hate Everything has explored the phenomenon and can’t seem to make sense of it, accidentally spawning an even worse meme, Durr Plant, in the process. What it comes down to is that people find repetition funny, being hyperfocused on a specific detail of something can be amusing, and Josh’s unabashed positivity is an anomaly in a world where online cynicism is almost required to survive. It’s a meme that doesn’t call someone out for being stupid, it’s not about being violent or angry, and arguably, it spreads a bit of positivity into the world. Will most viewers come away with that message? Probably not consciously, but it’s there, for better or damn.
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