As bizarre as the fake death hoax around Lil Tay may be, eagle-eyed TV viewers may be scratching their heads over it due to an entirely different reason than the rest of the internet. The ongoing story around the 14-year-old influencer is eerily similar to a Season 3 episode of the FXX comedy series “Dave” that premiered earlier this year.
A commentary on the trappings of fame in the social media age, the comedy from Dave Burd and Jeff Schaffer follows a fictionalized version of Burd as he tries to prove he’s one of the greatest rappers of all time. That quest leads to Season 3’s ominously titled “#RIPLilDicky,” which was directed by Ben Sinclair and written by Starlee Kine.
While Dave and his manager Mike (Andrew Santino) are trying to cancel Lil Dicky’s ongoing tour, the tour bus explodes. With no service and nowhere to go in the desert, Dave and his friends wander away from the vehicle to look for help. It isn’t long before the smoldering remains of the bus advertising his name and tour are posted on social media, complete with a zoom-in on the legs of Dave’s sex doll. Within minutes, #RIPLilDicky begins to trend on social media.
Once the group receives cell service again, they learn most of the world believes Lil Dicky is dead. That’s when Dave is forced to make a choice that alters the course of his career and the season. He can use his social media accounts and press contacts to correct this story and clarify that he’s still alive, or he can do what his manager Mike suggests — wait a day and profit off the attention his “death” has brought about.
This isn’t to imply that the reasons behind Lil Tay’s delay in correcting reports of her death are in any way similar to the emotional journey depicted in “Dave.” On Thursday, Lil Tay revealed that her Instagram was “compromised by a 3rd party and used to spread jarring misinformation and rumors.” A hacked account would undoubtably make it more difficult for a celebrity to correct misinformation. Conversely, in the episode, Dave’s only obstacle is the temporary struggle of bad cell service.
But even the follower counts between the two are similar. In the episode, Dave has around 847,000 Instagram followers prior to the world thinking he’s dead. Within hours of that false report, his followers skyrocket to 2.9 million. Lil Tay’s current follower count is 3.5 million, putting her on a similar level of celebrity as Dave in the show.
There’s also the age difference to consider. Because Lil Tay is underage and under the guardianship of her parents, she has less control over her public image. Adding to the complexity of this story, before going silent, Lil Tay was caught in a custody battle between her parents, Angela Tian and Christopher Hope. It’s impossible to know exactly how this has impacted her use of or access to social media.
Regardless, it’s an odd coincidence that the broad strokes of an episode of prestige television would be mirrored so closely by a real-life story roughly three months after its premiere. It’s interesting in a “‘The Simpsons’ predicted it” way, not in any way that has anything meaningful to say about Lil Tay or her family. Except in this case, “The Simpsons” is a grown man who has turned R-rated jokes into an art form.
On Wednesday, Lil Tay’s Instagram account posted, “It is with a heavy heart that we share the devastating news of our beloved Claire’s sudden and tragic passing.” The post also claimed that the influencer’s real name was Claire Hope and that her brother had recently passed.
That was corrected a day later on Thursday. “I want to make it clear that my brother and I are safe and alive, but I’m completely heartbroken, and struggling to even find the right words to say. It’s been a very traumatizing 24 hours. All day yesterday, I was bombarded with endless heartbreaking and tearful phone calls from loved ones all while trying to sort out this mess,” Lil Tay told TMZ. “My Instagram account was compromised by a 3rd party and used to spread jarring misinformation and rumors regarding me, to the point that even my name was wrong. My legal name is Tay Tian, not ‘Claire Hope.’”