Culture

Junk Explained: Why Has Debby Ryan’s Face From ‘Radio Rebel’ Suddenly Become A Meme?

Day 49 of self-isolation and everyone's becoming Disney Channel actors.

debby ryan meme explained

Whatever social media you’re on, you’ve likely scrolled past a video of a brunette girl with a smirk brushing her fringe off her face.

For those who don’t know, that girl is Debby Ryan — an American actress who rose to fame on the Disney Channel series, Jessie. Since then, Debby has, most notably, landed a role in Netflix’s fat-shaming Insatiable, which is why she may look familiar to the non-Disney stans.

But for some reason, in the last week, Debby Ryan’s 2012 straight to TV film, Radio Rebel, has caught the attention of people online. And it’s this movie that has spurred on all the Debby Ryan memes plastered all over TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.

What Is Radio Rebel?

For those unfamiliar with the Disney Channel film, Radio Rebel follows the shy Tara Adams (Debby Ryan), who has a podcast DJ alter-ego named Radio Rebel.

As Radio Rebel confidently streams from the comfort of her own bedroom, the students at Lincoln Bay High School start to follow and fall in love with the program. However, after hosting a lunch time dance party, the principal bans Lincoln Bay High students from listening to Radio Rebel.

As the students and staff begin to speculate over who could be secretly running the podcast, the principal cancels prom until the DJ’s identity is revealed. In response, Radio Rebel throws a MORP (prom spelled backwards, of course) and is voted MORP queen by the student body.

Finally having gained confidence, Tara goes on stage to reveal herself to be Radio Rebel despite facing expulsion. But because this is a Disney film, all the students begin to shout that they are actually Radio Rebel to save Tara from being kicked out of school. And… end scene.

But for some reason, the shitty storyline isn’t what’s making people laugh. It’s actually the facial expressions Debby Ryan makes throughout the film that have captured the interest of people online.

How Did Debby Ryan Become A Meme?

The trend started six days ago when TikTok user @peppermintflower noticed Debby Ryan’s very strange “shy smile” in a scene from Radio Rebel. Impersonating the coy smirk, this video inspired countless others to replicate the Debby Ryan-isms they found in Radio Rebel and the actress’ other work.

Either paired with the audio from the film itself, some soft, romantic tunes or a very bad rendition of the Jessie theme song, each video shows how ridiculous Debby’s facial expressions really are.

But it was the scene from the Radio Rebel MORP, where Debby’s love interest serenaded her on-stage, that people noticed the most. Dressed in her hot pink prom dress with her straightened fringe, Debby Ryan proves she’s the quirkiest girl in the room by smirking in the most irritating way known to man.

And once Twitter caught wind of the Debby Ryan impersonations, they began to meme the shit out of the MORP scene. Comparing her expressions to the smirking Mike Wazowski-Sulley Face Swap meme, people even went so far as to call Debby Ryan the “Halsey of acting”.

In response to all the impersonations and memes, Debby Ryan joked along with everyone else. Tweeting that she learned her skills from Roxanne from A Goofy Movie, Debby proved that she’s well aware of what she’s doing — which probably makes this whole thing worse, tbh.

You can watch ‘Radio Rebel’ on Netflix — if you’d like to do that to yourself.