Last month, “The Tonight Show,” became the center of a TikTok controversy. The show ran a segment with TikTok influencer Addison Rae, who performed an array of popular “TikTok dances” while host Jimmy Fallon prompted her with a poster board. Many criticized the performance for appropriating dances created by Black influencers who were not credited. Others added fuel to the fire by additionally criticizing Rae’s dancing abilities.
The problem that many critics pointed out is that popular white TikTok influencers, such as Rae and Charli D’Amelio, often perform these dances on a huge platform for millions of followers to see (79.9 million and 113.9 million, respectively) without acknowledging who originally created them. Louise de Oliveira, a second-year sociology major, is active on Tiktok and offered her thoughts on the issue. “I don’t understand why ‘The Tonight Show’ wouldn’t invite the original creators in the first place,” she said. “It would be the perfect place to have them on.”
Rae’s segment titled, “Addison Rae Teaches Jimmy Eight TikTok Dances,” also featured the show’s house band, the Roots, playing a medley of the eight songs which coincided with the dances Rae demonstrated. While Rae did most of the emoting on stage, Fallon joined her for two of the songs, “Blinding Lights,” and “Fergalicious.” USF junior computer science major Cameron Deputy was not a fan of the performance. “The whole segment was hard to watch,” he said. “It felt very staged and awkward.”
In response to the backlash the segment received, Fallon invited the creators of five of the dances featured in Rae’s segment to speak about their creative processes and perform the dances themselves on April 5. Dance creators Mya Nicole Johnson and Chris Cotter (“Up“); Dorien Scott (“Corvette Corvette“); Fur-Quan Powell and Camyra Franklin (“Laffy Taffy“); Adam Snyder, Nate Nale and Greg Dahl (“Blinding Lights“); and Keara Wilson (“Savage“), joined Fallon via Zoom.
Fallon began by reminding the viewers of Rae’s appearance on the show a month before. “Now, we recognize that the creators of those dances deserve to have their own spotlight,” he said. However, keeping the segment light, Fallon failed to acknowledge the full depth of the controversy. “Once content blows up and so many people copy it, people can lose sight of the source,” de Oliveira said. “It’s sad to see white influencers on TikTok taking advantage of that.” Fallon encouraged viewers to follow each of the creators on social media and provided their usernames.
While the Tonight Show tried to compensate for their mistake, some say inviting such a large group of creators to speak in just one segment seems like a quick-fix. “The fact that Addison got a whole segment to herself, and the original creators were all squished into one segment, seems like they were just trying to save face,” de Oliveira said.
Deputy said similarly, “They weren’t given the space they deserved. It really felt like an afterthought.”