How much do you love the “cash me ousside” meme? Enough to buy a “Cash Me Ousside” T-shirt from the “official as fuck” store of Danielle Bregoli, the girl who first uttered that fateful phrase? What about a 252-piece puzzle of her face, caught mid-sentence? Any interest in a $250 blanket that is named “YUP A BLANKET HO” on her website? Well, too bad, because she’s all sold out of that one.
No one has commercialized their own inadvertent memeification quite like Bregoli, the 13-year-old girl from Florida who went on Dr. Phil last December, yelled her now-catchphrase at the audience, and then sat back and watched the internet to do what the internet does best. Bregoli was on with her mother to discuss her troubling behavior: infractions that ranged from eyerolling and cursing to stealing a Dr. Phil producer’s car and later going through the producer’s purse to steal her money. But the real gem in the hourlong segment was when Bregoli become agitated with an audience that was laughing at her. In her affected accent — one that she said she got “from the streets” — she called the (largely female) audience “hos” and told them to “catch me outside, how ’bout that?” Though, of course, her enunciation made it sound like “cash me ousside, howbow dah?” And a delicious meme was born.
Since then, Bregoli has done radio spots, filmed segments with moderately popular YouTube celebrities, "cold-clocked" a passenger on an airplane (which was caught by TMZ), and gotten in a physical fight outside a Florida bar (which was caught by the Daily Mail). In early February, Dr. Phil invited her to return in order to shame her yet again into good behavior, but she mostly laughed right in the host’s face. When her second episode aired, Bregoli’s half-life as a public figure had already extended far beyond how long a meme tends to stay alive. This time, he took away his studio audience in a flimsy attempt to pretend the show didn’t want to give Bregoli the attention she so clearly loves, bringing her out largely to just let her run her mouth again. And she delivered.
“I made you just how Oprah made you,” she told him, shooting a cautious glance at her mother, who had been screaming at Dr. Phil and his staff earlier in the episode when they accused her of not being thankful for the show’s intervention. “You were nothing before I came on this show.”
Bregoli’s return netted the show its third-highest rating for the year, with a 5% jump from the week before. Her appearances have made Dr. Phil the most relevant he’s been since Oprah first introduced him to daytime television. Yet he has a long history of commodifying the anguish of teenage girls, seemingly in order to publicly shame them and, later, attempt to rehabilitate them. Bregoli might be the first to flip that narrative on its head, give him the finger, and make money for herself instead. Instead of submitting to her public reproach, she’s cashing in, fully aware of who the public thinks she is and how she can profit.
Bregoli was supposed to come on the show and have the wildness shamed out of her, because there’s something ugly and unnatural about young white women acting out recklessly. She was supposed to learn her “lesson.” But instead, she’s even more turbulent, rejecting her “cautionary tale” status, and she doesn’t care if you don’t like it.
Bregoli’s trajectory to internet fame is unavoidably dark, and hardly her own doing. She didn’t post a funny Vine or a clever tweet; she merely responded in anger in the heat of the moment. She was dragged onto international television by her mother to talk about her poor behavior, the production riling her up to the point that she threatened to fight the audience outside of the studio. The episode, titled “I Want to Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried to Frame Me for a Crime,” starts with Dr. Phil telling the audience that Bregoli stole a producer’s car while they were taping, then shows home footage of the 13-year-old screaming at her mother. Bregoli’s mother, Barbara Ann, is brought out to tell Dr. Phil more about her daughter’s misdeeds. Once Bregoli enters, she’s gently prodded into arguing with Dr. Phil, and she laughs defiantly about how serious everyone else seems. By the end of the episode, Dr. Phil and Barbara Ann have decided to send her to a treatment center for out-of-control teenagers. On her way out, Bregoli sprays a camera backstage with water.
The entire purpose of her appearance on the show was to be rebuked by her family and by a medical professional/television host. Shows like Dr. Phil seem to bring girls like Bregoli on to demonstrate what can happen if you don’t keep young white women in line. She’s also part of a larger interest that daytime television, and the public, has always had with white teenage girls behaving badly. In the ’80s and ’90s, talk show hosts like Phil Donahue, Richard Bey, Maury Povich, and Ricki Lake created a cottage industry out of troubled teens — more specifically, troubled teen girls. Sally Jessy Raphael had “wild teens” in crop tops who flipped off the camera and “act[ed] like they’re lesbians together.” Jenny Jones had “outrageous Teens” who all looked like (Academy Award–winning) Suicide Squad extras. More contemporary examples include Dr. Drew’s “out of control” teens or The Doctors’ heroin-addicted anorexic teen.
Dr. Phil expands on this history. In the show's 15 years, he’s interviewed the teen who believes she was pregnant with Jesus’s baby, the teen in a viral fight video, the teen whose parents say they cannot discipline her, the teen who’s ready to move to Argentina for her boyfriend, the teen who might have gotten pregnant on purpose to be on reality television, the teen(s) obsessed with love, the teen catfishing other teens, the teen who might have stabbed herself, the teen who “gives massages with happy endings,” the social media–obsessed teen, Teen Mom Farrah Abraham, and of course the teen who was having a sexual relationship with her friend’s father (this is the show’s language — the girl was underage; this is rape).
Themes on these shows often revolve around teenage girls being in a rage, being sexually active, or being too mouthy, behavior that girls generally are not permitted to display. But whiteness is always paramount to the storylines, which capitalize on the idea that these white girls who could be your daughters are behaving in ways that we don’t associate with white femininity. Being abrasive, rude, or physically violent is not becoming: These girls are an abnormality, so they must be saved.
But first, we have to shame them publicly, make them cry, show videos of their actions and point at them as if to say, “Do you see yourself the way we see you?” Humiliation is fun to gawk at, but the end goal, always, is to cure these young white girls so they can return home and be chaste, sweet, and demure. It’s a transcendence that’s rooted in teaching young women a lesson. Most of them are carted off to a rehabilitation center, far from where they live. TV producers visit them within a few months once they are “behaving,” if they’re worth the ratings, or the teens are never heard from again.
Bregoli, however, didn’t bend like most of the girls before her. She went to the treatment center, sure, but once she started to become a meme early this year, she left and returned to her old tricks, profiting off them unlike any young teen girl before her. She’s nothing if not entrepreneurial, but it’s easy to forget that Bregoli is only 13 years old. How young is too young to exploit your own 15 minutes of fame?
On her first Dr. Phil episode, Bregoli is delighted to tell her host about all her misdeeds. She doesn’t bother lying, like girls before her, who tried to paint their behavior as better than it was coming off. Her aggression and rage is ruthless, and though it may well be informed by fear, there’s something both sad and fascinating about her. She calls her grandmother “such a fucking actress,” and when Dr. Phil chastises her, she rolls her eyes and huffs, “They have bleeps for a reason, right?” Watching her is uncomfortable, because nice white girls aren’t supposed to act like this. And if they do act like this, they’re supposed to be humiliated into readjusting themselves.
Any deeper look at her is undeniably depressing. Her father, Ira Peskowitz, a 49-year-old sheriff's deputy, has been talking to the press about how much he hates his daughter’s public behavior. “That behavior is appalling. And it’s appalling that anyone can think it is acceptable behavior,” he told the Palm Beach Post. “And Dr. Phil? Shame on him.” Bregoli seems to be under the impression that her father left her and her mother to start another family; documents of her parents’ divorce have since been reported on. Bregoli has made Instagram live videos talking about how much she resents her dad, how he left her and her mother, abandoning her when she was barely a few months old. Her mother, meanwhile, is behind her, feeding her tidbits of information.
But their daughter continues to be brash and ballsy, an oddly entertaining mix of annoying and lippy, intentionally overstaying her welcome as a public figure. She vamps on Instagram (which counts around 6.9 million followers), giving the camera the finger, chirping about how she wants a bar mitzvah “so there’s alcohol.” She is so bold that you can almost, almost forget that her life has been pretty difficult and her mother is happy to drag her onto television to say that she has given up on her child, while her father is giving quotes about how disappointed he is in her and creating a GoFundMe campaign to "save" her.
Had Bregoli’s episode gone the way Dr. Phil was likely hoping, she would have completed the inpatient treatment center he sent her to — Turn-About Ranch, where he sends so many of his out-of-control white teenage girls. The show boasts that most of the teens sent there return rehabilitated and happy. The teens get redemption, and so do their families. Bregoli would have dropped the accent, lost the long nails, stopped cursing and fighting and being angry (even if she has a reason for the latter in particular). She would have acted nicely, the way white teenagers should act. Instead, she became an unexpected hit and has been wielding her personality for profit instead of Dr. Phil using it for his gain. And though there’s something queasy about a 13-year-old waving stacks in a Kodak Black video, what else was she supposed to do with her forced public degradation? Let someone else profit off of her family’s trauma, off of her own? Why shouldn’t she sell a $250 blanket when a man 50-some years her senior tried to make money off of her all the same?
But there’s no doubt that she’s ruining the internet’s fun. Her aggression was funny and weird in the vacuum of Dr. Phil, or a meme, but now she’s blasting her dad on Instagram and fighting with real live people while her mother halfheartedly joins in. It was fine when her popularity was random, confusing, and context-free. Now she’s too tangible and too complex to find funny, and too in control of her narrative to manipulate. Bregoli knows her role: She’s aggressive and mean and witty and rude. She’s leaning in to the very thing that she was brought on the show to change. Her purpose was to stand still while people laughed at her, until it was time for her to be retrofitted as the Good White Girl. Instead, she’s selling T-shirts and being approached to do reality shows.
Danielle Bregoli and her “cash me ousside” meme is less about the simplicity of a funny inside joke; Instead, it reminds us of how white girls who refuse to fit their narrowly prescribed narratives are used for humiliating entertainment. Televised embarrassment isn’t new, but now there are figures like Dr. Phil to bring them onstage under the guise of rehabilitation and change. And who is more deserving of a redemptive narrative than a white girl who’s merely lost her way?
Scaachi Koul is a Culture Writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto.
Contact Scaachi Koul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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