Last November, after a screening of The Banshees of Inisherin, I ran to Twitter to do what any professional entertainment writer would do upon seeing a movie they really liked. No, I didn’t draft a 140-character review. Instead, I went to my search engine and typed in “colin farrell fancam,” to celebrate one of my favorite underrated actors’ emergence into the Oscars realm in a now-deleted tweet. (OK, maybe it was just me thirsting over his specifically Irish brand of sexiness.)
Scrolling through fancams, I was bombarded with tweets referring to the 46-year-old actor as “babygirl,” a term of endearment I’m obviously familiar with, but have never called a man. Like most internet jargon, coated with a level of irony, it immediately made sense. Colin Farrell, with his big, sad puppy-dog eyes, is “babygirl.” And apparently, so is Paul Mescal, Pedro Pascal, Succession character Kendall Roy, Jeremy Allen White, Jacob Anderson, and a bunch of male K-pop artists, according to Twitter and TikTok.
This led me to wonder what exactly does it mean for a grown-ass man to be “babygirl,” and why is this term so goddamn infectious?
After searching online, there don’t seem to be many concrete definitions of the term. Nor do the men social media users refer to as “babygirl” have a uniform aesthetic, at least not according to this Twitter prompt. A Mashable article, titled “2022’s Horny Dictionary,” defines “babygirl” as “a phrase used to describe when a man is so primally attractive that you want to provide for him that became mainstream in 2021.” Writer Elena Cavender adds that it’s “a term of endearment for when a man is being cute, comfortable in his masculinity, or weak in an evocative way.”
The popularization of babygirl could also have roots in the 2021 meme “Why Does X Call You Babygirl?” according to one Reddit user. The photoshopped image is a panel from the manga Mob Psycho 100, where a character in the passenger seat of a car asks another character, who’s driving, “Why does Serizawa call you babygirl?” The driver responds, “How about we stop talking for a little while.”
Overall, calling a man “babygirl” seems like an act of infantilization and, obviously, feminization rather than a direct expression of lust. Its usage brings to mind the cutesy internet term to describe a small, precious person, “smol bean,” or the adjacent “cinnamon roll” Tumblr meme. However, it differs from a “softboi” and its many subgenres in that there doesn’t seem to be any awareness on the babygirl’s part that they are, in fact, babygirl. In other words, you don’t choose the babygirl lifestyle. It chooses you.
With the term still somewhat elusive and not yet hammered to death online, I’ve assembled a list of the internet’s reigning babygirls to try to figure out what qualifies such a label.
Anyone who was incessantly referred to on Tumblr in 2011 as “smol bean” is obviously babygirl. However, I—and many of his critics—associate Styles more with the term “softboi” because of his concerted efforts to appear subversively feminine. He might even qualify him as its more extreme and obnoxious subtype “cuckboi.” However, he does have dimples and dresses like a giant toddler. So babygirl he is!
Like Styles, Bad Bunny has also been categorized as a softboi—although his gender-bending attire seems better received on the internet than that of Styles. Maybe that’s because everything he does, from selling out stadiums to repping his native island of Puerto Rico, lacks noticeable effort or corniness. It was his recent guest spot on Carpool Karaoke, though, where he enthusiastically breaks out into Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” that has cemented him as babygirl in my heart—as if the internet hasn’t already decided that he is one.
There’s always been something slightly pitiable about Colin Farrell’s career, which until recently hasn’t been as celebrated as he deserves. However, his ability to transcend bad material has always been impressive. So watching him go from underrated performer to one of the most lauded actors in 2022 made him extremely fun to root for during Oscars season. It also made him babygirl.
Since starring in back-to-back hit shows, like Narcos, The Mandalorian, and The Last of Us, the 48-year-old actor has gained a strong reputation as the “internet’s daddy”—so much so that he’s being awkwardly forced to discuss it in interviews. However, there are a number of tweets and TikToks dedicated to highlighting his babygirl-ness. And after watching him burst into giggles throughout that hysterical Saturday Night Live sketch when he hosted in February, I must say he fits this archetype slightly better.
Defined by perpetual yearning and sadness, Succession character Kendall Roy seems to be the poster boy for babygirls. In fact, there’s an entire meme economy dedicated to pitying the second eldest son of Logan Roy and talking about him like he’s a sad teenage girl. Despite how Machiavellian Kendall is at his core, you can’t help but want to give him a big hug anytime he’s verbally eviscerated by his father. He’s maybe the most clearly defined babygirl of them all.
Speaking of Succession, I have to draw the line with this supposed babygirl. In an Etalk interview, an interviewer informs Braun that he is “the internet’s babygirl,” leaving him initially confused but ultimately apparently flattered. I’m assuming this label is inspired by his role on Succession, which seems almost identical to his real-life persona.
Yes, his Cousin Greg is a bumbling fool. But there’s nothing particularly adorable or sympathetic about his take on that character or the sitcom situations he finds himself in. He’s honestly less babygirl than Tom Wambsgans, who has an obvious chip on his shoulder, even if he is evil. And at 6-foot-7, Braun exceeds the height limit I’ve established for babygirls in my brain. Sorry!
I’m decidedly not into race car driving. But I’m aware of Lewis Hamilton as one the few Black professional race car drivers and a famously attractive person. I’m also learning that many women are watching the Formula 1 show on Netflix in part to see a bunch of hot men, so maybe I should make myself more familiar. Anyway! From interviews I’ve seen of his, including a fun appearance on Desus and Mero, he’s soft-spoken and seems generally thoughtful. There doesn’t seem to be much sadness to him. But the cuteness factor is certainly there.
Currently, I’m worried that Mescal is so objectified on the internet that it will lead to overexposure and the public will be sick of him by the time we get that Gladiator sequel. However, he is textbook-definition babygirl, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop calling him that anytime soon. The Irish actor first started gaining the internet’s affection after his star turn in Hulu’s Normal People. But his Oscar-nominated role as a depressed father in Aftersun seemed to kick his babygirl-ification into high gear. Once you make audiences cry and become extremely horny in one performance, there’s no turning back from your babygirl-ness.
Jeremy Allen White
Since The Bear premiered on Hulu last summer, the Shameless star has everyone on the internet saying “Yes, chef” but in a horny way. Both White and his grief-stricken protagonist on The Bear, Carmy, have gotten the babygirl treatment online. And given the character’s sensitivity and White’s small stature, it seems rather appropriate.