Root around r/braincels, the Reddit community for, by and about incels, and you’ll quickly become intimately familiar with a particular face.
It belongs to a diminutive male with an unfortunate haircut. He wears a black T-shirt for the 2012 video game Black Ops II, an entry in the immensely popular Call of Duty franchise. He’s pale with freckles and a weak chin. His eyes are wide and slightly asymmetrical, his lips broad yet thin like a cartoon fish.
His real name appears to be unknown, but to incels, he’s St.BlackOps2cel, the “patron saint” of incel culture. And his acolytes revere him as such.
Incels infested the mainstream public discourse recently after it was discovered Alek Misassian’s terrorist attack in Toronto was possibly motivated by his being being an incel. Short for involuntary celibate, incels are men who believe their poor genetics and resulting bad looks have rendered them utterly and irreversibly un-fuckable to the opposite sex. As with many corners of the manosphere, theirs is world characterized by misogyny and a confusing slew of insider jargon and esoteric jokes. And one of incels’ most indelible and essential memes is the portrait photo of St.BlackOps2cel.
To understand the deification of St.BlackOps2cel, one must first grasp the unique victim complex incels operate under. Incels subscribe to a fiercely evolutionary interpretation of sexual attraction, whereby a person’s desirability is almost solely determined by their looks. Women only want to have sex with the “Chads” of the world — men with naturally strong jawlines, broad shoulders and thick heads of hair.
The idea that an unfortunate-looking dude can attract beautiful women through wit and charm — or that that man can make himself more desirable by exercising, working on his personality, dressing fashionably and growing a beard that hides his nubby chin — is lost on them.
If Chads have won the genetic lottery, then incels have lost it. And no one encapsulates this image better than St.BlackOps2cel. He’s the epitome of their tortured existence.
It’s unclear who the man is, though. Reddit shut down r/incels, the platform’s most popular incel forum, last November for inciting violence against women. (Many incels are open advocates of raping women.) And the disappearance of those posts has made it difficult to track the origin and evolution of the St.BlackOps2cel meme.
Even incels are split as to the origins of the photo. One contested version of incel lore is St.BlackOps2cel posted a personal photo to r/rateme, where users seek honest feedback about their appearance, and was roundly mocked for being unattractive. Embarrassed, the man eventually deleted his account. Meanwhile, some incels claim someone ripped the photo from a gaming forum and posted it to r/rateme as a goof. The real owner, they say, is an unknown Bosnian gamer who used the personal photo as his avatar on gaming websites, and has no idea about the bizarre infamy he’s achieved in incel subculture. Still, others say that it wasn’t r/rateme, but r/amiugly, a forum for people wondering if they are indeed as ugly as they believe themselves to be.
The one agreed upon fact: The photo found its way to Reddit in 2014, at which point I Dela adopted him as the face of their subculture.
Who actually posted the photo is ultimately immaterial to incels, though. The fact that the entire internet ridiculed the man vindicates their worldview: Life is only as good as you look.
Or in the words of incels themselves (fyi: pbuh is short for “praise be upon him”):
Normalshits mocked him (pbuh) and ridiculed him (pbuh) for his (pbuh) looks all over the web. Even on call of duty forums he (pbuh) was made fun of. Until his (pbuh) pic reached /r/incels and… we saw those welcoming gentle eyes, that subtle warm smile. And we knew, yes we knew the moment we saw him (pbuh), that he (pbuh) was always there. We just had to look inside ourselves to realize it. We gazed upon his (pbuh) face knowing fully that it was over for him. That subhuman face, what utter genetic trash. He (pbuh) eventually and gradually became a saint of ours. And we had to bring him (pbuh) to his (pbuh) kingdom.