‘Chucking the deuce’, the pose of two fingers straightened and held sideways, is common in photos poses across the world. It crosses language barriers, religions, music and continents, and has disputed meanings and origin stories. Millions from all backgrounds adhere to it when photographed impromptu. Occasionally, and somewhat offensively, known as “Ghetto fingers”, it’s normally coupled with a blue-steel, tilt of chin, half-smile, squinting eyes and/or a all-out pout.
Deuce-chucking has many meanings, and even more disputed origins. We know it originated in American gang culture over thirty years ago, while more recently a Houston-based Youtube video somehow laid claim. Whether West-Coast or East-Coast is contested, and whether Hispanic or African American is also up for debate – but more sources point to Latino culture in early-80s South-Central LA, with a big influence from card-playing.
To ‘Chuck’ is, of course, to throw, while deuce is a two of dice or cards. A two doesn’t win much, indicating the player has nothing left to play and is out – so the gesture was originally a gentle parting shot to friends. From the late 80s onwards, elements were added to it as specific gang signs, as well as later allegiances to tribes within Hip Hop. It morphed from a “See ya Later” to a “This is us”.
Nowadays, in club-poses, the gesture is most commonly a wonky “peace out”, a sideways departure – as seen in Chris Brown and Beyonce videos. In Brown’s softly-sung bitchy rant “Deuces” it’s a not-so-subtle “See ya” to an ex who was wise enough to figure out that this man could be enough of an emotional runt to write an angry song when things don’t go according to his plans. Even this appalling song didn’t stop Deuces being the most common pose in nightlife photos across the world when subjects aren’t necessarily leaving the premises.
But while fist-pumps have become a simplified universal Hi-and-Bye, also with disputed origins, Deuces rarely comes without the forced facial expression – the squint+frown, or pout – which gives it a stranger meaning now – an attempted affiliation with a mood or identity, more than a gesture, and more often from individuals who wouldn’t immediately be associated with gang culture.
Some groups are vocally angry about the use of deuces, or unaffiliated hand-signs – for cultural appropriation. In clubs where people are simply conforming to a comfortable pose, at least in this respect it can be seen as a positive reference to either American Latino or African American culture. While Bloods and Crips developed a complicated language of finger gestures and identification signs, Deuces are more commonly used now by millions who are neither of these – which for some, makes it a sign of being more open-minded as a global collective – more willing to identify with and reference cultures other than our own, largely thanks to the spread of Hip Hop music, than simply a vacuous pose for lack of imagination.
Even if the head-tilt is seen as an attempted allegiance to being tough or hard, people have the right to pose any way they want, although the topic becomes more foggy when both of these specific racial groups currently suffer more from cultural mis-appropriation than many other ethnicities across the world, and in their home nation, are fighting a very bitter struggle for equality on a number of fronts.
It can be argued that Hip Hop culture, one of the biggest cross-cultural movements in the world in the last forty years – arguably the biggest – is one of the chief reasons for its popularity, but you will typically see deuces thrown at anything from a House music night to a teenage birthday party.
In a world where boys from Bombay, Amman or Rabat are heard to call themselves Niggas, blonde ladies “native”-up for Coachella, Despasito can be mimed by Justin Bieber, Arab-Fro’s are common, and much of popular sneaker culture is intricately farmed by global corporations far removed from its origins, who’s to say what people can and can’t do, appreciate or affiliate with? Which cultural police decides where the lines of positive reference or negative interpretation lie, within all aspects of appropriation? Just as ‘tribal’ and prints are cyclically high fashion (and surely we are all, always in tribes) – where does the reference stop or the disrespect begin?
Either way, wherever and whatever its origins, in our selfie culture, Deuces are here to stay, in the same spheres as Joga poses and self-affirming quotes and #blessed. If we all tried to be entirely original in every image of ourselves, or knew the origins of every element of what we like, we might panic at the possibilities, explanations, defamations or appropriations. There can be comfort in sticking with what’s done, and not caring where it comes from. It just depends what, and who’s watching.
I don’t make animations. This isn’t one. It’s more of a Slideshow Musickness-Accompaniment-ism. But an MC in Dubai gave me his CD, and I wanted to give it a try.
THIS LINK RIGHT HERE is the article I wrote about the same artist and two more that inspire me for Uprising, the brainchild of Scott Goodson, rather clever founder of Strawberry Frog, an agency made up of individuals creating things they and their clients can feel proud of, that people can enjoy seeing.
I’m going to make another Hypermental-Slideshow Musickness-Accompaniment-ism, but for the next one I’ll be learning some proper editing packages and make some actual footage and actual stuff.
And for a chuckle at my expense, this here is the first animation I ever made back in 2003. It’s Medium-Rare Crappola, but made me laugh today by how perfectly terrible it actually is.