Article Thumbnail

‘Don’t Lean In’ Memes: The Thin Green Line Between Satire and Cringe

This Red Pill pick-up artist theory about green lines and alpha men is way too ridiculous to be sincere… or is it?

Update (4/6/2022): Rivelino has now brought his green line theory to the genitals. Read about it here.

I’ll bet you’ve never analyzed the body language in couples’ photos in order to make bold claims about their relationship dynamic. Ah, wait, I forgot Instagram. Even so, you probably haven’t taken this game as far as a Twitter character who goes by “Rivelino.”

Rivelino is the reason you might’ve lately come across these “green line” pictures, which highlight people’s angle of pose to reveal the surprising weakness of supposedly masculine men.

His theory holds that dudes leaning toward their significant others have compromised their integrity by realigning to a woman’s worldview. This red-pill line of reasoning — and the hilarious images meant to prove it — were the perfect ingredients for a subgenre of shitpost memes.

Rivelino faced plenty of ridicule when his thread took off, as it was mostly amplified by people calling him a loser. But for some, the temptation to try the green line out themselves was irresistible. Soon, we found out that the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein never leaned, the Titanic sank because it wasn’t alpha enough and Jesus Christ’s angle at the Last Supper was just a bit off. All checks out.

Now, here’s where it gets confusing: Rivelino savored the bafflement he’d stirred up, even retweeting the jokey riffs on his geometric epiphany and people calling it “stupid af.” When someone posted a green line diagram suggesting that he himself was the leaning beta to another Twitter who’d mocked him, he called it “the comment of the day,” with five laugh-crying emojis. I took these as hints that Rivelino didn’t actually believe what he was arguing — that the green line stuff was the work of a master troll, interested only in provoking an extreme reaction, in this case by satirizing the toxic fake science peddled in the manosphere by so-called MRAs, PUAs, incels and MGTOWs.

Except if Rivelino is a performance artist, he’s a frighteningly committed one.

Active on Twitter since 2010, he’s been posting for nearly a decade about how women are sluts, the art of negging them into bed and the joys of degrading them there. A short-lived WordPress blog (2011–2012) offered similar content and a list of “lays since divorce,” while a YouTube channel features clips such as “Red Pill Wisdom in Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

As I clicked through the different parts of his digital persona, learning that he’s currently in his mid-40s and at one point had ambitions as a photographer, I was forced to acknowledge that “the green line guy” is not some elaborate prank but the logical end result of years spent reading pick-up artist manuals and misogynist web forums.

My initial skepticism of all internet content (surely, I told myself, nobody is creating earnest proofs that “The Mountain” from Game of Thrones is a feminized failure of a man!) had blinded me to the reality: It was by forceful self-indoctrination that Rivelino produced a concept so stupid, recognizable and reproducible that others could enjoy or appropriate it ironically. He achieved the cringe that activates a viral kind of disbelief.

And so, funny as the green lines are, they will always be tainted by the fact that someone really thinks this way. That’s embarrassing for Rivelino, though it’s also sobering for me, an observer who ran afoul of a corollary of Poe’s law, which states that it’s impossible to satirize any form of extremism in a way that won’t be mistaken for a genuine opinion. The reverse problem — I’ll humbly submit it as “Klee’s law” — is that absurd extremism may easily pass for trolling or parody to anyone trained to detect those different levels of meaning and intent. The truth is, I wanted the green line to be a gag.

Oh, well. Rivelino means what he says — and if he doesn’t, it’s arguably more disturbing that he’s this deep into the schtick. At least the rest of us are simply pretending to see the wisdom of green line theory. Right? Because otherwise…