"Basic", according to the BuzzFeed quizzes and CollegeHumor videos that wrested the term from the hip-hop world and brought it into the realm of white-girl-on-white-girl insults, means someone who owns things like Uggs and North Face and leggings. She likes yogurt and fears carbs (there is an exception for brunch), and loves her friends, unless and until she secretly hates them. She finds peplum flattering and long (or at least shoulder-grazing) hair reliably attractive. She exercises in various non-bulk-building ways, some of which have inspired her to purchase special socks for the experience. She bought the Us Weekly with Lauren Conrad’s wedding on the cover. She Pins. She runs her gel-manicured hands up and down the spine of female-centric popular culture of the last 15 years, and is satisfied with what she feels. She doesn’t, apparently, long for more.
The basic bitch — as she’s sometimes called because it’s funnier when things alliterate, and because you’re considered a poor sport if you don’t find it funny — is almost always a she. In more sophisticated renderings, her particularities vary by region and even neighborhood, but she is almost always portrayed as utterly besotted with Starbucks’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. It is the setup to nearly every now-familiar punch line about a basic bitch, her love for the autumnal mass-market beverage. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are “mall.” They reveal a girlish interest in seasonal changes and an unsophisticated penchant for sweet. They are sidewalk chalkboards announcing their existence in polka-dot bubble letters. They are from the mid-aughts. They are easy targets.
Basic rolls beautifully off the tongue. It’s a useful insult. Like trashy or gauche, it derives its power from the knowledge that if you can recognize someone or something as basic, you probably, yourself, aren’t it. It also feels restrained, somehow. You don’t quite have to stoop to calling someone a slut or a halfwit or anything truly cruel. It’s not as implicating as calling someone tacky — the basic woman is so evidently nonthreatening she doesn’t even deserve such a raised pulse. Basic-tagging is coolly lazy. It conveys a graduate seminar’s worth of semiotics in five letters. “So basic,” you think, scrolling through your Facebook feed. “She’s basic,” you offer to a friend, commenting on her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. It was a word we’d been looking for.
A handful of years ago, John Mayer wrote (on his most excellent blog. Really!) about the then newly-popular “douche” insult. He was aware that he was often the recipient of this particular phrase, and admitted that the word was satisfying to say: “Like sliding across a hardwood floor on woolen socks…doooouuuuuccchhhheee.”
"Basic Bitch" is a lot like that. Unlike "douche", though, it’s not my favorite. I’m not particularly fond of girl-on-girl bashing - we’ve got enough to battle in this world without having to worry about or bother with lady infighting - and the basic bitch insult…it just seems tired.
Also, I just so happen to fit almost all of the descriptions in the first paragraph. If buying Us Weekly with Lauren Conrad’s wedding on the cover is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. Did you SEE her wedding photos?! It was like a glowy autumnal fantasy paradise!