#ArmaniCaptions was the latest meme to be launched by Black Twitter, that nebulous group of mostly African-American Twitter users that often spontaneously weighs in on issues to the delight of those following its hashtags.
A meme is an Internet video, image, or symbol that goes viral and becomes so profusely shared that it becomes almost iconic.
When Twitter users unite behind a hashtag (a word or phrase prefaced by a “pound” sign that links all tweets containing the term), they are able to start a discussion shared by many about any topic.
When Black Twitter (or #BlackTwitter) users create a hashtag based on a news item, piece of gossip, or compelling social issue, not only is an exciting social media talk session spawned; usually these tweets — often delivered with great humor — have real world implications impacting how the larger world sees race in America.
Such was the case with the #ArmaniCaptions meme spawned on #BlackTwitter just a couple of nights ago.
How #ArmaniCaptions was born
It all started on November 18 when the storied fashion house Armani confused famous black actors Alfre Woodard and Idris Elba in a caption on its Instagram account.
“Idris Elba posing in a gorgeous Giorgio #Armani dress at the 5th Annual Governors Award,” the caption read, even though the image clearly showed Woodard at the Oscars.
“The mistake, which was highly offensive considering that Woodard was mistaken not only for another black entertainer but for a man,” reports RollingOut.com, “was quickly rectified, but not before it was seen by ‘Black Twitter.’”
Comments by black Twitter users and others on Instagram seemingly prompted yet another posting, which was to some just another failure.
Armani allegedly followed the image of Woodard with one of Elba with actress Naomie Harris — erroneously referring to his Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom biopic costar as his girlfriend in the caption. Yes, as Nelson and Winnie Mandela in the film they are love interests, but not in real life.
“Armani also apparently sent out inaccurate tweets for the photos as well, before fixing those too,” alleges feminist web site Jezebel.com, which also states the pictures are still on Instagram with amended captions.
#BlackTwitter goes on the attack
Perhaps spurred in rage over the “all black people look alike” implications of this error, popular African-American Twitter users with large followings began to spoof the mistakes of this brand.
Using the hashtag #Armanicaptions, users jumped on the social media bandwagon to pair photos of stars and unknowns with descriptions that intentionally mismatched celebrity names with fictionalized contexts.
“Celebrating the longevity of the incomparable Cicely Tyson. #ArmaniCaptions,” chimed in @ReignOfApril, jesting with an accompanying picture of Oprah Winfrey playing “Miss Sophia” in The Color Purple.
Reactions to the latest #BlackTwitter attack
The parodies of Armani’s captioning mistakes were numerous and hilarious, with some of the biggest names in black culture weighing in.
“One of my joys in life. The mighty #BlackTwitter!,” reads part of a message retweeted by award-winning director Ava DuVernay.
— Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC) November 19, 2013
Plus, the hashtag hilarity is continuing as you read this. Yes, folks are still adding to the stream of tweets clowning the international fashion brand Armani — or at least whoever is running its Instagram account — for seemingly being out of touch with the identities of important luminaries of African descent.
An indication of racism in fashion?
This hiccup occurs at a time when racism in fashion has yet again become a hot topic. Numerous black icons of style have spoken out recently about the lack of opportunity for black models on runways, and even behind the scenes at magazines.
André Leon Talley, contributing editor at Vogue, supermodels Iman and Naomi Campbell, and fashion activist and former model Bethann Hardison have all gone public with these assertions in recent weeks.
This Armani incident hearkens back to the Dolce & Gabbana scandal in which the fashion house sent earrings shaped like black women’s heads down the runway for Spring 2013. Called “mammy earrings” by critics, this design left many questioning if there were enough people of color at the company to properly vet this creation.
Some might be wondering the same thing about Armani now.
#BlackTwitter turns potential tragedy into hilarity
Yet, for the most part, the #ArmaniCaptions hashtag has refocused attention on the amusing game of punishing the brand by recreating its errors with the tongue-in-cheek creativity only #BlackTwitter can muster.
“More baffling than offensive, Armani’s now infamous ‘mistake’ sparked fake outrage and the hilarious #ArmaniCaptions hashtag that trended on Twitter for hours,” agrees black gossip web site Bossip.
#BlackTwitter, though, is far from just a virtual watering whole of African-American wit. The phenomenon was credited with forcing a literary agent to drop a book planned by a juror from the George Zimmerman trial who many believe gave an insensitive interview to CNN in the wake of his acquittal.
This group was also behind the #paulasbestdishes hashtag, which was said to help draw national attention to the Paula Deen controversy.
It is always exciting when this networked group of Twitter users hops on a trend, sometimes igniting real change.
TheGrio has reached out to the Armani Group for comment on this story, which will be updated with any response from the company.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.
This article had been updated to reflect that Idris Elba is black, but not an African-American.