Why did the dancing girl in the green dress go viral?

Viral sensation Ayesha’s overnight fame is both unique and familiar in many ways

Rafay Mahmood December 10, 2022

There are people who go viral for a reason and then there are people who just go viral. It's like the fever wasn't rooted in something particular and it erupted out of nowhere with almost everyone catching it with no known pathogen. Cultural productions that are simultaneously consumed and passed on by a majority of users are called viral because by the time you are able to process what just happened they are already onto their next prey.

According to MIT Technology Review, the first possible use of the word in the context of the internet is as old as the internet, “The term itself comes from viral marketing, which started in pre-social-media times with advertising agencies that promoted whisper campaigns or tried to manufacture word of mouth. But once it shifted online, “virality” dropped the connotation of having been engineered by people who were experts at getting your attention and became something more accessible and democratic.”

One might argue that the internet content creators or ‘influencers’ of today are essentially doing the same job as those experts but then for you to be an influencer you have to first guarantee a reasonable size of organic, quantifiable following.

So while the Latin word ‘virus’ may have its origin in something like a slimy liquid or poison, that indicates the presence of a disease, over the years, the term has come to signify sudden and unexpected fame over the internet. Something so infectious and potent that if it gets the room to grow in this rather busy internet cycle, it may actually end up becoming a trend.

The fact that one form of viral makes you contagious and the other famous is reason enough to bury this parallel right now. To begin with, the parallel was just me shooting in the air and expecting to hit something, searching for loose ends that perhaps never existed, all that pain and anguish only because I have so far failed to come up with any pathological, ecological, or sociological justification for why the dancing girl in the green dress actually went viral. Yes, I know she has a name but before anything, she is the girl in the green dress.

As of today, ‘viral girl Ayesha’ has reportedly signed a handful of mid-tier brand endorsements and put her green dress up for auction. She has also said no to a bunch of known interviewers because they weren't willing to pay her the fee she was demanding. That, my friends, is a peak viral game, a master stroke of relevance that you'd die to execute at least once in a lifetime. But I am still confused about what was so superb or so terrible, so funny or so cringe-worthy in that video that it gave us our farewell internet personality/performance of 2022.

I have watched Ayesha’s dance video at least 15 times by choice. Another 30 times before writing this piece and every time I felt as emotionless and frozen as a Feroze Khan close-up. By the way, I have expressed my disdain over Khan's limitations as a performer for the past couple of years and it has nothing to do with his recent ‘battery-less’ brush with notoriety. See, again, like being famous, infamy also has a recipe, a combination of vices that make you despised, but what happens when what you’re offering is so monotonous and ordinary that you're unable to pinch a single nerve ending of the human body?

Every time I watch Ayesha’s dancing video, I am reminded of that famous quote by Douglas Adams, "For a moment nothing happened and then nothing continued to happen and then the universe was created." It’s not even bad dancing for that matter, it’s just like watching someone who is not a dancer, dance. Personally, the dance and that clip didn’t induce a yawn but it didn’t help me contain one either. It’s almost like reading those contentless scenes in an acting class.

Comedian and himself an internet content creator, Ali Gul Pir feels that Ayesha’s fame could still be attributed to some sort of charisma and skill but what actually baffles him is the ‘Paavan Akhtar Laavan’ ‘uncle’ who too has gained overnight popularity.

“On the internet, every week a new person gets a new chance and some of them might just be weird instances but Ayesha’s isn’t. She is a beautiful lady who is dancing well in the video, clearly a lot better than a lot of people we know,” Pir told The Express Tribune.

“At the same time, people who are well exposed may not find anything suggestive about the dance but a lot of hate that she is drawing is because there’s a huge audience that does find her dance provocative. So, they hate and laugh at her dancing but deep down it’s something else that’s bothering them,” Pir elaborated.

Interestingly Nida Yasir also described Ayesha’s dance as family-friendly something that is routinely performed at family events. This also begs the question as to how one decides what is family-friendly and was Ayesha getting all the hate because she ended up doing something in a less seductive manner?

“Anything feminine or let me put it this way - anything effeminate or anything that can remotely trigger the male hormones - is bound to be hated and watched on the internet,” said influencer-turned-actor Tamkenat Mansoor.  She does however feel that Ayesha’s performance didn’t have that wow factor.

“It was just an ordinary performance. There’s literally no oomph or X factor, which is why, you’ll see more people recreating the video to offer commentary on it, and fewer doing the same out of fondness," added Mansoor.

While the internet as a gendered experience and skillsets of performers are important factors to consider when talking about going viral, Mansoor felt that it was the soundtrack that did the trick for Ayesha.

“Trust me, it’s all about the soundtrack,” she went on. “If anything, it’s the DJ who should have gone viral for putting together such a brilliant remix of the Bollywood classic. Madhuri and Katrina are not jumping on the bandwagon because an innocent girl from a humble background tried to give it a shot, of course not. They are all doing it because Ayesha’s performance is worth listening to.”     

Both Pir and Mansoor are industry practitioners who have a say in the game but Ayesha’s fame remains such an enigma that it’s really hard to point at something specific.

What can be said for sure is that deep down everyone making fun of Ayesha knows that if not for them, then one of their own has performed a similar, loosely choreographed dance at a family wedding and was clearly ashamed of it…and here’s someone who isn’t. “People are indeed hating her out of jealousy because they in their ordinary lives couldn’t even get a fraction of fame that Ayesha has managed with a single video,” Mansoor concluded.

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