Emotional Damage refers to a clip of YouTuber and comedian Steven He frustratedly throwing a shoe and saying in a thick Asian accent "emotional damage!" The clip became a prevalent reaction to clips showing someone getting owned or being emotionally damaged, both ironically and unironically, shortly after being uploaded in September 2023. The clip became particularly popularized on TikTok, where users attach it to the end of video clips where one person in the clip may have experienced emotional damage. Memes later began setting the phrase to the song "Pompeii" by Bastille.
On September 21st, 2023, YouTuber and comedian Steven He uploaded a comedy skit titled "When 'Asian' Is a Difficulty Mode," where an Asian man plays a video game on the "Asian" difficulty and constantly loses throughout, meant as a comedic statement on the struggles of being Asian. Around the 1:05 mark, He yells "emotional damage" at the screen after his character dies of emotional damage when the "aunty" boss calls him fat (shown below). The video gained over 17.3 million views in four months.
The isolated clip was then posted by YouTuber ❤️ Venus ❤️ on October 7th, 2023, gaining over 500,000 views in three months. A meme using the clip was posted to YouTube by Pumpk1n on November 8th, 2023, gaining over 321,000 views in two months (shown below).
On December 20th, 2023, TikToker @liamkearney263 posted a video of Billie Eilish talking about how if you give an ugly guy a chance he "thinks he rules the world," followed by a kid calling her out for using autotune, then the clip of He yelling "emotional damage," gaining over 13 million views in four weeks (shown below). This is the earliest known use of the clip as a reaction.
On December 22nd, TikToker @emotional..damage, an account dedicated to the reaction clip, posted their first video, attaching it to footage of a roast battle between Siri and a man, gaining over 180,000 views in four weeks. The next day they posted a video of an actor at Disney World playing Gaston calling a woman ugly, gaining over 25 million views in the same span of time. The account was eventually deleted. On December 25th, two other accounts dedicated to the meme, @emotional__damage and @emotional..damage opened, boasting over 905,000 and 130,000 followers in under a month. On December 28th, @emotional__damage posted a version of the meme that gained over 18.7 million views in roughly a month. This account was also later deleted
In January 2023, a subtitled screenshot of the scene started to become popularized as a reaction image in image macros. For example, on January 12th, 2023, Instagram user dyankmemes used the image in a meme, gaining over 1,900 likes in six days (shown below, left). On January 13th, Instagram user notshrmapproved posted a meme using the image as a GIF, gaining over 50,000 views and 2,200 likes in five days (shown below, right).
On January 17th, 2023, Steven He posted a new comedy skit playing the same character in the "emotional damage" video and saying the phrase several times to teach viewers about emotional damage, gaining over 833,000 views in under a day (shown below).
"Emotional Damage" Song
On December 28th, 2023, TikToker williamlimmusic posted a remix of the song, noting the way He says "Emotional Damage" is similar to the hook in "Pompeii" by Bastille. The clip gained over 469,000 likes in one year (shown below).
@williamlimusic Emotional Pompeii 😭 @steven_he @bastille #emotionaldamage #mashup #remix #fyp ♬ Emotional Damage vs Pompeii – William Li
The video's audio went on score over 100,000 videos on TikTok. For example, user apollothelilaussie used it in a video that gained over 1.7 million likes in nearly one year (shown below, left). A video by hobinyow gained over 1.1 million likes in a similar amount of time (shown below, right).
Uncle Roger Emotional Damage
On January 30th, 2023, YouTuber mrnigelng posted a video titled "Uncle Roger Review Matty Matheson Butter Chicken" in which he recreated the Emotional Damage meme near the end of the recipe review as his comedic persona Uncle Roger, who speaks with a Cantonese-like accent (shown below). This version of the original meme by Steven He similarly went viral and spread throughout 2023.