Distracted Online Boyfriend. Scumbag Steve. Ehrmagerd girl. These are just a few of the countless meme figures that have achieved legendary status over the years. But being a meme icon comes with a strange duality.
Even with meme-sharing becoming the go-to form of communication in the ever-growing online ecosystem, either because of pain, or laughter, or collective exasperation, the actual people in the memes rarely get any real credit or compensation for their cultural contributions — leaving their image to be shared without profit or benefit.
But that may finally be changing, as Zoë Roth, otherwise known as “Disaster Girl” recently managed to make half a million dollars as a four-year-old face of the meme. If “Disaster Girl” doesn’t immediately ring a bell, the photo of a young girl grinning a house burns down behind her likely will.
Apparently “Disaster Girl” is now in college and just made $500k off an NFT of her meme… pic.twitter.com/TBkHhYCo9N
— Rustin Richtarik (@dieseldog97) April 30, 2021
To this day, it’s obvious why the meme took off, as the young girl’s look of casual amusement juxtaposed with the burning house in the background is both hilarious and unsettling.
And even though the truth behind the meme is that it was a controlled fire started by firefighters, Roth’s stare makes the photo look like it could be a terrifying remake of The Omen and once the photo surfaced online, it took on a life of its own.
Roth was four when the photo was taken in 2005 and by 2007, she had become an early meme star. But despite her face being plastered all across the worldwide web, like most meme subjects, Roth never had a way to monetize her strange fame. Until now.
The New York Times reported that Roth sold the original meme as a nonfungible token for 180 ether, which is a form of cryptocurrency currently valued at around $495,000. Additionally, Roth and her family held onto the copyright and will receive 10 percent of any future sales.
Roth is currently a senior at UNC and said she plans to use the money to pay off student loans, as well as donating a healthy portion to charities.
It appears to be a relatively happy ending for Roth, who said that she is “super grateful for the entire experience.” And Roth, is not alone, as other meme superstars have managed to leverage their online notoriety into real-life paydays thanks to NFTs.