Neckbeard: The Insult That Rose from Reddit into Hollywood
The list of phrases you can use to insult strangers online is virtually endless, but there are few that rival the power of neckbeard. The name itself makes you imagine a gross, basement-dwelling dude with a face covered in acne and Cheeto crumbs.
“Get a load of this neckbeard over here!”
But how did the name of a really bad facial hair style turn into an insulting stereotype for an entire subset of people? Like most online slang, we can thank the folks on 4chan and Reddit.
In this article, we’ll recap the nearly 20-year story of “neckbeard” going from a meme to a pop culture phenomenon.
What Does It Mean to Call Someone a Neckbeard?
“Neckbeard” is a derogatory slang term for a lazy, unkempt, overweight, awkward guy. It’s basically a more insulting version of geek, nerd, or dork. The term is derived from the cringe-worthy facial hair style where unruly hair spouts around the neck.
Here are some defining traits of a neckbeard:
- Terrible hygiene: brutal body odor, bad breath, dirty clothes, greasy hair, and a grimy face
- Absolutely no game with women—he could be considered a simp or stuck in the friend zone
- He’s borderline addicted to the internet, wasting obscene amounts of time online playing World of Warcraft or going down weird rabbit holes on Reddit
- The majority of his days are spent in a dark, depressing room, probably in his parents’ house
The term “neckbeard” appears to have originated around 2005 when Reddit and 4chan users posted memes with the caption “neckbeard cringe” to insult people they perceived as losers.
The term became so popular that a 2006 episode of South Park titled “Make Love, Not Warcraft” featured a character depicted as a neckbeard. In 2014, “neckbeard” was officially added to the Oxford Online Dictionary—crazy what a bunch of shitposters can accomplish.
More recently, The University of Melbourne published a shockingly-detailed analysis of the neckbeard stereotype, specifically as it relates to pop culture:
“At a cursory glance, the neckbeard is an easy figure to both loathe and laugh at: he’s the fat guy whose whole pathetic life plays out exclusively in cyberspace,”writes Lauren Rosewarne, Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences.
The rise of neckbeards appears to correlate with the rise of Web 2.0 in the post-2000s, when socializing online began to replace socializing in real life.
“He is a physical incarnation of modern-day gluttony—too much sedentariness, too much darkness, too much isolation, too much computing,” Rosewarne notes. “He is what happens to the body—to society—when we become too reliant on machines: we go soft, we go to fat.”
Examples of Neckbeards In Pop Culture
The gross, troll-like aesthetic of the neckbeard has made its way into plenty of 21st century entertainment, from music videos to movies to TV shows. Here are a few examples of how neckbeards are portrayed in pop culture.
Leroy Jenkins from South Park
Season 10, Episode 8 of South Park, titled “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” features the ultimate neckbeard, Leroy Jenkins: a middle-aged, obese, balding, gamer who lives in a disgusting apartment.
Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons
Jeff Albertson (AKA Comic Book Guy) is a recurring character in The Simpsons who’s morbidly obese, obsessed with comics, and ties his long hair into a ponytail.
In an episode titled “Bart the Fink," Albertson wheels a barrow full of tacos through town as he says “Yes, this should provide adequate sustenance for the Doctor Who marathon.”
Plague from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Plague is a 330-pound computer hacker who claims to be on disability. Another character, Salander, accuses him of never bathing.
Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time” Music Video
Towards the end of the video, Ariana enters a dingy apartment where she encounters an overweight, bearded, unkempt man standing in front of a bunch of computer monitors.
Whether you are a neckbeard or you just have one, it’s time to level up your life. Take a shower, tame your beard, go for a walk, strike up a convo IRL instead of desperately sliding into a stranger’s DMs.
When you’re ready to freshen up your armpits or your third pit, we’ve got all the wipes you’ll ever need.