One of the most revolutionary features of the internet is that it’s provided a space in which people can broadcast their innermost desires, to large swaths of strangers, in a multitude of creative ways. Last year saw some magnificent examples, from flash fanfiction about Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s calf-cramping proficiency in bed to lust for the mom from the animated Pixar film Incredibles 2. Amidst all this unmitigated passion, one particularly wild form of expression has become increasingly common: People are begging their crushes to run them over.
Who, exactly, is being asked to do this extremely reckless driving? BTS and One Direction band members. Delicate man Timothée Chalamet. Large, less-delicate man Adam Driver. Even larger man Jason Momoa. Ariana Grande, especially after she posted a photo of herself in front of a car. Danny DeVito. YouTube star Seth Everman even pleaded, “stop commenting ‘run me over daddy’ i don’t have a driver’s license.” The night of the Golden Globes, Twitter was lit up with people aching for celebrities to inflict grievous bodily harm on them, from one tweet that read: “excuse me while I lie down in the street and wait for Sandra Oh to run me over with a car” to a Taylor Swift fan wishing that the pop star would “run me over with a tank and throw what’s left in a wood chipper.”
At its heart, “run me over” — along with tangential longings, like “throw me off a building” — is a curious sentiment. It’s simultaneously over-the-top and relatively chaste. On a scale of “I want Stanley Tucci to take me out to a nice pasta dinner” to “I want Colin Firth to choke me out during sex,” it’s precisely in the middle; there is no actual sexual activity involved, but it conveys a catastrophic level of desire.
Delaney Graves, 21, told me that she’s been active in “stan” culture since she was 13 and first encountered similar phrasing on Tumblr shortly afterward, although it was more extreme. “It was definitely intended to be shock humor, not some dark underbelly of the culture where they fantasize about being murdered by their faves, but even this form of the joke was a bit too much for me and I didn’t participate,” Graves said. “It wasn’t until I shifted onto Twitter and saw the more subtle versions of this joke — ‘run me over,’ ‘punch me in the face,’ ‘steal my money’ — that I felt more comfortable posting my versions of it.” (Some of the earliest iterations on Twitter are “I WANT NIALL [Horan, of One Direction] TO RUN ME OVER WITH HIS CAR” sent in January 2013 and “Ed Sheeran could run me over with his car and I would still love him” from December 2012.)
Graves herself has tweeted, “goodnight i want timothee chalamet to run me over with a car.” She further explained that “what we’re saying when we say we’d like our favorite celebrity to run us over is that we love and admire them so much that they could do something terrible and we’d still love them — which of course isn’t literally true. I think that this joke format is used a lot by ‘stans’ because it’s a more creative way to say how much we love someone rather than just a wholesome ‘Timothee is amazing!’”
Although “run me over” may have originated within fandom communities, it’s become common internet parlance in the last couple of years. It also isn’t strictly used to apply to celebrities. Writer and editor Brandy Jensen, 37, recently observed that “everyone is suicidally horny these days my only reaction to seeing hot ppl is like ‘back over me with a truck.’”
I asked Jensen, who also once expressed that she wanted Natalie Dormer to hit her with a hammer, to elaborate. She pointed out that people constantly post both about being horny and about wanting to die, and those two have managed to converge. “I think there’s something about how the ideal resolution of a crush is to be completely obliterated by it and suffer no longer under the terrible demands of desire,” she said.
Plus, she added, “‘Cary Fukunaga throw me off a building’ is just an objectively funny thing to say.”
While the phrase may have origins as a hyperbolic way to communicate the most extreme shades of celebrity worship online, the joke’s popularity may also have to do with the fact that we’re living during a time when we’re constantly being reminded that the Earth is going to be virtually uninhabitable by the end of the century, that capitalism is wholly unsustainable, and that we’re just one push of a button away from perishing in a nuclear war. A breathless “run me over” matches our current fatalistic mood. Or, as writer Gretchen Felker-Martin, 29, poetically put it when asked at what point the masses started feeling this way, it was “the moment we realized the scales had tipped, the world is doomed, and the best we can hope for is to look at someone beautiful who loves us while we die.”