It’s the perfect dismissal. It’s an evergreen burn. It’s a formal refusal to engage with someone who’s beneath contempt. Somehow, “Bye, Felicia,” a minuscule line from the movie Friday, became imbued with a sticky staying power that’s resonated for 20 years. Now it’s about to rocket to new zeitgeisty heights. When the eminently memeable insult makes a cameo in Straight Outta Compton, it’s a masterstroke of coincidence, legacy-building, and fourth-wall breakage that requires a ton of unpacking.
But first, this phrase made of parting words needs some introductory ones.
To the uninitiated, “Bye, Felicia” is a freeform kiss-off directed toward the person, place, or thing of your choosing. Any idea that’s tedious and unworthy of further consideration can be Felicia, and thus can be invited to go hibernate inside of a faraway shantytown. Look on Twitter’s search field right now, and within the last hour, several people have bid their own personal Felicias adieu. Not all of these Felicia-evictors, though, may realize that the namesake comes from the film, Friday. The original character Felicia was an unpleasant mooch who gets calmly but conclusively discharged from Ice Cube’s stoop. According to the film’s director, F. Gary Gray, it was just another line in the movie before inciting a catchphrase.
“It’s been popular since the movie came out, but it ebbs and flows,” Gray says, agreeing that the line is currently in heavy flow. “It pops up and it goes away and I have no idea why. It’s such a simple line, it just caught fire and 20 years later people are still referencing that moment from the movie, even if some of those people have no idea what Friday is.”
Friday was the first film F. Gary Gray directed, but he recently reteamed with its writer and star, Ice Cube, to helm Straight Outta Compton, the origin story of Cube’s firebrand supergroup, N.W.A. (Look for Co.Create’s in-depth interview with Gray about Compton in the coming days.) In order to preserve a non-spoiler experience for those who plan on seeing the new film this weekend, it’ll suffice to say that there’s a scene in which the young Ice Cube character briskly brushes off a young woman named you-know-what in a way that comes across as a hazy-eyed wink at the audience.
“The girl’s name was Felicia in the script, she’s written as Felicia and it was just a coincidence,” Gray says. “It was like four o’clock in the morning and it was like the 23rd take or something like that of this one shot. And at the end, O’Shea Jackson Jr. [the actor portraying Ice Cube] says, ‘What if I said “bye Felicia?” Wouldn’t that be funny?’ And we all busted up laughing, and I said, ‘Grab the cameras, grab the cameras, let’s do this one more time.’ And so we added this little extra coincidental joke.”
‘Coincidental’ doesn’t even scratch the surface. Considering that O’Shea Jackson Jr. is the actual son of Ice Cube, playing Ice Cube, ‘cosmically fated’ is more accurate. There are Shakespeare plays with fewer threads of significance than this joke.
“We shot it again with O’Shea saying the line and the crew went crazy, the cast went nuts and everyone just laughed at how strange it was to have Cube’s son say what Cube said in the first film that his father wrote and the first film that I directed,” Gray says. “It was just this weird kind of parallel universe, Back to the Future moment that we all shared and I think that’s part of the reason why it’s funny on a lot of levels.”
Apparently, it’s also striking viewers as funny too.
“The audience goes crazy at ‘Bye, Felicia’” Gray says. Co.Create can confirm that the applause in at least one screening was massive. “That moment gets one of the loudest laughs and cheers.”
Anyone doubting that it’s possible to make a broad, self-aware, current joke in the middle of an often-serious period movie–without taking viewers out of the movie–well, do we even have to say it again?