What is a milkshake duck? The term is internet slang used to refer to a person who gains rapid internet fame, only to then lose their newfound popularity following the widespread discovery of their distasteful or offensive past. The milkshake duck’s origins can be traced back to 2016, when Twitter user Ben Ward (AKA @pixelatedboat) tweeted, “The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes!” The tweet then revealed the sardonic twist, “We regret to inform you the duck is racist.”
The tweet gained significant popularity over the following year, gaining thousands of likes and re-tweets. The internet quickly latched onto the "milkshake duck" concept and began applying it to anyone whose dark past or questionable views came to light following a sudden stint of popularity. The term has now expanded well beyond the original tweet and embedded itself in the internet lexicon, with various online phenomenon being labeled "milkshake ducks." Two of the most notorious examples are Ken Bone and Chewbacca Mom. Bone was an instantly beloved participant in the 2016 presidential debate whose Reddit history later revealed an affinity for several dubious interests while Chewbacca Mom was a Christian-mother-turned-meme who used her internet fame to express her unbidden thoughts.
These and other milkshake ducks are listed below, starting with the most recent falls from grace, in this catalog of the internet’s forsaken stars.
Actress and photographer Rosey Blair asked to switch seats with a woman on a July 2018 flight from New York to Dallas so she could sit with her boyfriend. Over the course of the journey, Blair began observing the woman she had switched seats with and started recording her interactions with the man seated next to her. The videos captured the two chatting, touching elbows, and exhibiting generally flirtatious behavior. When Blair live-tweeted their interactions, the thread, dubbed "Plane Bae," blew up, accumulating 900,000 likes and gaining Blair thousands of new followers.
The story turned south, however, when the internet began obsessing over identifying the pair. Eventually, sleuths discovered Euan Holden and a woman named Helen were the couple in question. While Holden accepted the unexpected fame, Helen was discomforted by the internet’s invasive behavior and deactivated her personal social media accounts when she began receiving sexually explicit comments and messages. Blair later apologized to the two for involving them in the media storm without permission.
In December 2017, Kimberly Jones uploaded a video of her 11 year old son, Keaton, recounting his experiences being bullied at school. Countless sympathetic internet users came to Keaton’s aid, sparking a wave of staunch encouragement from friends and strangers alike.
Perceptions shifted, however, when old social media posts from Kimberly Jones surfaced, leading many to label her as a bigot. The photos, which showed her with the Confederate flag, were apparently meant to be ironic, as stated by Jones in her response to the backlash. Her apology did little to amend the damage done to the public images of her and her son, despite her further claim, “I’ve spent most of my life being bullied and judged because I wasn't racist."
In September 2017, three Florida cops from the Gainesville Police Department gained notoriety when they posted a picture preparing to assist with hurricane cleanup. Social media users were immediately smitten with the dashing trio, sharing the photo over 200,000 times. Countless comments expressed an increased desire to break the law solely to be in contact with the three officers.
Only days later, however, one of the officers came under fire for expressing antisemitic sentiments on his personal Facebook page years prior. Officer Michael Hamill, the middle officer in the photo, made several off-color jokes and statements regarding Jewish people, which led to immediate and nearly universal backlash online.
The department failed to specify if Hamill was disciplined in any way, though the officer did resign in December 2017, seemingly of his own accord.
Robbie and Sarah Tripp - a writer and body positive fashion blogger, respectively - became internet sensations in July 2017 due to a post Robbie uploaded on Instagram (above). The post featured a photo of the couple on the beach and Robbie wrote a lengthy caption praising his wife for her curvy frame while talking about having been teased in the past for being attracted to more voluptuous body types. Initially, the post received a lot of favorable responses and almost immediately had thousands of likes and shares across various social media platforms.
However, backlash followed within a few weeks. First, many social media users began to criticize Robbie for what seemed like a self-congratulatory post about loving non-conventionally attractive women, which some found more condescending and self-serving than body positive. Internet sleuths also dug through Robbie and Sarah's old social media posts and uncovered racist and transphobic comments, including comments dismissing Caitlyn Jenner's gender transition. Robbie responded to the controversy by saying he regretted the tweets and had since evolved, but the damage was already done and the couple quickly disappeared from the public eye.