Kat Deabill, Jeopardy!’s ‘Shade’ Contestant, and Gay Slang: VIDEO

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Almost as if it had been plucked directly from the somewhat popular @GayJeopardy Twitter account, a not so subtle nod to gay slang won one contestant $800 in a late round of Jeopardy! last week. “One term for talking trash about someone is ‘throwing’ this,” Alex Trebek hinted. “Like a big elm tree might do.”

‘What is shade?’, the answer, was obvious to contestant Kat Deabill, a 16 year-old high school student from New Boston, New Hampshire. The queerer corners of the internet hailed Jeopardy!’s incorporation of the term as another sign that gay subcultures a being increasingly accepted by the mainstream, but others felt as if the move deserved a bit of questioning.

Rafi D’Angelo, a contributor to Slate’s Outward blog, listed shade among “basic” and “kiki” as yet another term in danger of imminent appropriation, which prompted Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder to question “Is Gay Culture Over?”:

Another way to look at shade’s appearance on Jeopardy! is as a moment of critical elevation. Yes, the category in which it appeared was goofily titled “It’s Slang-tastic,” but as shade aficionados will know, the word—as a communicative practice, a mode of comportment, a means of negotiating power relationships, even a way of being—is far more than just a slang term.

Lowder posits an interesting situation in which Jeopardy! viewers unfamiliar with shade further investigate the term and, theoretically, glean a deeper understanding and appreciation for queer culture in the process.

Deabill, who has been inundated with internet attention since her Jeopardy! appearance, took to Reddit earlier today to share her understanding of the complicated conversations surrounding the ownership of terms like shade.

“I really like that it’s getting visibility because the LGBT POC community has been so ignored throughout history, but I’m afraid of misappropriation of the term.” Deabill responded in the AMA. “I don’t feel like I can comment more on that, as I don’t identify as a POC (since I’m about as white as Macklemore in the Arctic), so I’m going to defer to the majority opinion of those to whom the term belongs.”

When commenters expressed their surprise at Deabill’s nuanced response, she stressed the necessity of being thoughtful about the origins of cultural symbols:

“It’s something that’s always been important to me. The one thing that bothers me more than anything is when people try to downplay others’ struggles by laughing at or misusing a term that was created by that group to cope with and rise above their oppression.”

Watch the Jeopardy! clip that sparked this conversation AFTER THE JUMP

Comments

  1. oncemorewithfeeling says

    Can we let go of this ridiculous notion that any one group owns any language?

    If you don’t want other people to absorb your language, then find a corner of the world where you can wall yourself off and cut off all communication with the outside world forever.

    First it was “appropriation” and now it’s “misappropriation”? Enough of this nonsense.

    One culture incorporating another’s language into their own isn’t wrong and evil, it’s exactly how language works.

  2. anon says

    can anyone explain how “throwing shade” became a phrase that I’m guessing means to “dis” someone else? I mean, what does “shading” someone have to do with disrespecting them? How is throwing “shade” any more meaningful than throwing “tomato juice” would be?

  3. Derrick from Philly says

    @ “I’m really amazed and pleased that a 16 year old white girl has more maturity and sense when it comes to being cultural sensitive than most adults.”

    I second your sentiment, Derrick.

    Nobody is talking about appropriation or misappropriation–just remember where you got it from.

    You segregate people for three hundred plus years, then you find something about them that’s cute or expressive. That’s all right, BUT never forget the history–that’s all.

  4. Derrick from Philly says

    @ “I’m really amazed and pleased that a 16 year old white girl has more maturity and sense when it comes to being cultural sensitive than most adults.”

    Google Dorian Corey. The great queen will explain the difference between “reading” and “throwing shade?.

  5. Devon says

    Charles Pulliam-Moore is almost certainly an underemployed graduate with a degree in “cultural studies” or “queer studies”. The degree has no value to any employer, or indeed, to anyone living in the real world. So Mr. Pulliam-Moore gets a job at Towleroad, where for $8 per story, he inflicts on us his dreary, politically correct jargon and his robotic writing style.

    Hopefully, Mr. Pulliam-Moore will one day escape the queer theory cult and start to write like a human being with an individual personality.

  6. Derrick from Philly says

    @ “I recall the line “Imma throw shade if I can’t get paid” in a lil Kim song from the 90s. I guess gays stole it from the black community.”

    Oh, my. I forget how young some Towleroad visitors are.

    Nope, YUP, Little Kim must have stolen the “shade” term from Black Gays who used it going back to the early 1980s (as far as I can remember…”oh, Miss Thing is shady”).

    Also, a shout out to Alex Trebeck. He always seems enthusiastic about any Jeopardy topics (on Jeopardy) dealing with Black American culture(S). I appreciate that.

  7. Derrick from Philly says

    @ Derrick,

    Sorry. My reference to Dorian Corey was meant for the poster “ANON” who asked,

    “…can anyone explain how “throwing shade” became a phrase that I’m guessing means to “dis” someone else? I mean, what does “shading” someone have to do with disrespecting them? How is throwing “shade” any more meaningful than throwing “tomato juice” would be?”

    It’s all about respecting other folk’s contributions to the greater culture or cultureS. For instance, I think most THINKING Americans recognize and appreciate Black Americans contribution to American music. Stuff like that.

  8. Rey says

    Please let there be many more young women raised like Kat Deabill appears to have been.

    Her eloquence is even more impressive after reading many Towleroad comments.

  9. Derrick from Philly says

    You know it’s funny how one particular topic on Towleroad can grab your attention. This one has grabbed mine.

    Americans borrow (or take) from each others’ popular culture/language all the time. It happens.

    In the 1970s Black Gays used to have a phrase, “I’ll work you in circles, Miss Thing”.

    “I’ll work you in circles”

    I always wondered what the fvck in meant.

    Then one day while watching “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” I kinda’ realized where the phrase came from.

    Bette Davis gave Crawford a rat for dinner. Crawford lifted the top of dinner tray and was so horrified, and yet so helpless that she started to turn her wheel chair in CIRCLES.

    We all borrow from each other.

  10. M. says

    In 1977, Billy Joel wrote the song lyric “the most she will do is throw shadows at you, but she’s always a woman to me.” So who knows, maybe the term originated in white neighborhoods on Long Island! I kid; my only point is that language grows and evolves and belongs to us all.

  11. pablo says

    You can always tell when people hail from Tumblr. They all speak with the same buzz words and phrases, regurgitating the same exact ideas. It’s the inverse of what the Tea Party does with its cult mentality.

  12. Robert says

    “You segregate people for three hundred plus years, then you find something about them that’s cute or expressive…”

    Well, duh, Derrick, why do you think we made y’all DANCE so much back in the day?!

  13. Tom says

    Oh Pu-leeze!
    I knew what it meant and I am not young, not gay, not any kind of ethnic minority and only have one gay friend (at least to my knowledge.) I am a middle aged average white guy in a New England state. It’s a WORD and words get used in the “larger community”. Unless one lives under a rock, one pick things up!

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