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Astroworld and the Meme-ification of Tragedy

Online reactions to recent tragic events at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas show how the chasing of virality can lead to insensitive and tasteless public responses to tragedy.

Nov 28, 2021

On Nov. 5, [at least eight people were killed and 25 were injured] ( in a horrific crowd surge at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas. Audience members recounted the harrowing experience of being pushed and squeezed at a concert venue packed beyond its limits, as the crowd surged toward the stage where Travis Scott was performing. Perhaps the most haunting accounts are the [videos of Scott continuing to sing] ( despite the desperate cries for help from his audience. News of the Astroworld tragedy spread like wildfire across the Internet, as many accused Scott of mishandling the concert and gave their condolences to the victims. However, not all of the responses to the event have been entirely appropriate.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, many people began to make memes about the concert, a few of which are pictured below. These [memes] ( are fairly tasteless in their lack of regard for the lives that were lost during the concert, reducing them to a quick joke for Internet clout. The meme that mentions the rapper Juice Wrld is particularly insensitive, as it takes advantage of both the Astroworld tragedy and [the untimely death of Wrld] ( for a handful of upvotes on Reddit.
I do understand that humor can be a coping mechanism for loss, but I’d be more than willing to bet that the people making these memes have little to no connection with the people who lost their lives or were injured at Astroworld. This loss, therefore, is not theirs to claim. And yet, this trend has passed largely uncriticized.
This may be attributed to the way we interact with the Internet. In this increasingly digitized age, it has become more and more difficult to remember that there are real people interacting with you behind the screen. In addition, the Internet allows for constant exposure to an often depressing and bleak news cycle, which has begun to desensitize us so we no longer have the emotional capacity to respond appropriately to tragedy. This compounds in an environment on social media where social capital can be gained through quippy jokes and comments that lend themselves well to reposting. The consequences of which are insensitive memes such as those shown above, or [a horrifying TikTok comment section] ( on a video of the funeral of 10-year old Ezra Blount, who had recently passed away after sustaining injuries at the Astroworld concert, with a whole range of triggering comments, all vying for likes. The desire for fame is not new to this generation, but social media has made it much easier to become a micro celebrity, and therefore much more enticing to take advantage of any event to become Internet famous. While the reasoning behind the trend is understandable, these actions remain inexcusable.
If you type “Travis Scott apology” into your search bar, one of the top suggested results reads “Travis Scott apology video memes”, alongside videos with titles such as [“Travis Scott Apology Video Meme Compilation”] ( The memes largely consist of someone putting a caption over a particular section of his apology where he continually rubs his forehead; the captions range from “me tryna explain to my mom how $500 worth of robux is worth it” to “forgot to take out the chicken… y’all pray for me.”
On one hand, I understand the urge to make a meme out of his apology. It was ridiculous and tasteless to the point of farce that Scott thought a black and white video taken from a low angle on his phone was a sufficient apology for his extreme negligence in this tragedy. Even if you believe that Scott is blameless, his apology showed no sympathy toward the victims or their families. Unlike the previously discussed memes, these make Scott the butt of the joke rather than the victims, making them slightly more acceptable.
And yet, these memes still have the effect of minimizing the tragedy, reducing Scott’s actions to merely another “bad influencer apology.” Many of the memes do not mention what Scott is apologizing for and use clips of his apology in completely different contexts. While the tragedy has become ubiquitous, which may negate the need for context, the meme-ification of the apology may eventually result in it being divorced from its origins, leaving only the meme with no mentions of the tragedy behind. This is not to say that the impact of social media has been entirely negative — some have used it to raise awareness for those who lost their lives, or to call for Scott to take accountability for his actions. This, however, does not fully negate the harm of the above trends.
I’m not here to be the fun police or wax poetic about how phones are ruining this generation. But I think it’s well worth examining how our interactions online and the constant chase for online fame can lead to a lack of empathy and the exploitation of tragedy for the sake of a viral joke.
Emily Yoo is a Columnist. Email them at
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