What the boys remember is not one particular meme or video, but how Andrew Tate conquered their TikTok “For You” pages seemingly overnight. Without warning last summer, the former kickboxing world champion obliterated the NyQuil-chicken recipes, the Minion mobs, the Amber Heard mockeries, and every other trending brainworm. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that if you were an American male between 12 and 20 with a TikTok account, “Top G,” as he calls himself, was an unavoidable presence, uploaded by megafans, then reposted and shared, stitched and duetted by scrollers, critics, and stans. By the end of 2022, #AndrewTate had been searched on TikTok 22 billion times.
The boys clicked on Tate because of his striking appearance — the glossy shaved head, the physique “yoked as fuck,” as the comedian Noel Miller observed on The Tiny Meat Gang podcast, with a menacing cobra in a devil’s mask tattooed on his chest. But they stayed for the ostentatious, outrageous masculine display: the machetes and cigars, the diamond watches, the Bugattis and Lamborghinis, the obscene piles of banded cash like a scene out of Scarface. One viral TikTok showed Tate poolside in orange swim trunks and velvet slippers, chomping a cigar while demonstrating his nunchuck technique. In another, on a private jet, Tate taunts his brother, Tristan, for eating sushi. Eating “rice in a circle” will make men weak, Tate says, whereas his meal, fried chicken, makes men strong. “You know who eats sushi? Little fucking soy boys. Little fucking Democrats.”
His fan base lived all over the English-speaking world, and it seemed to defy race, class, and religion. Tate appealed to the rural American pro-gun constituencies and to the anti-vaxx, anti-mask communities; he appealed to schoolboys in Sydney and working-class immigrants in the U.K., to young rideshare drivers and to jet-setting tech bros. Tate’s saturation was so complete that he reached into the blue villages of New York City, where many boys in their bedrooms found his rude and ruthless evisceration of every sacred liberal value hilarious. Feminism, environmentalism, gluten intolerance, literature, Harry Styles, Lil Nas X — Tate assaulted all of these with pejoratives the boys themselves knew not to use. Outside of school, they took pictures posing like him, their fingers laced together with their index fingers pointed like steeples; they made machete jokes in the group thread and listened to Tate in the gym; in private, they said, “He’s my guy. I love him. He’s so smart; he’s so relevant.” But when girls were around, the boys knew to keep quiet. Girls hate Tate.