Many of us have heard the now infamous sound: ‘Pookie is looking absolutely fire today’. Georgia-based couple Campbell and Jett Puckett have rose to fame seemingly overnight, amassing over 350 thousand followers on her account @campbellhuntpuckett, by posting mostly ‘outfit of the day’ videos. They can be seen as a real-life channelling of the Barbie and Ken dynamic, with Jett complimenting his wife’s outfits in similarly gushing ways across their videos: ‘Pookie looks absolutely amazing’, ‘Pookie looks absolutely fire tonight’, ‘Good Lord babe, I love the all-black’.
Their dynamic, whilst awkward to some, quickly became revered by many TikTok users as ‘relatable’ and by one user @chamcollier ‘the biggest green flag relationship I’ve ever seen’. Although Campbell has been making content for years, it is only recently that Jett’s calling her ‘Pookie’ began. Even in videos from November 2023 to January 2024, Jett more commonly calls Campbell by her name, but a video on 23rd December where he calls her ‘Pookie’ accumulated 1.1 million views, more than previous videos which generally average around 250,000 to 500,000 views. While their dynamic does come across as genuine, this can be seen as a deliberate, strategic move to ‘rebrand’ Campbell in this way, and almost every video they have posted this year has over one million views, with a video posted on 22nd January amassing 8.4 million, after this unabating naming began.
I take no issue with the couple. Whilst their content is not what I would usually watch, I think their dynamic is sweet, if a little sickly. What is interesting about the two however, is what it illuminates about TikTok users’ viewing habits. The search function on TikTok now has a ‘You may like’ segment where mine today (5th February) makes reference to footballer Alejandro Garnacho, actor Daisy May Cooper, TikTok’s banning ‘legging legs’ trend, and, of course, ‘pookie is looking absolutely fire’. When I click on the latter, I am met with an array of videos, from Campbell’s own account, E! News, parody videos, and an ‘Others searched for’ tab including ‘pookie looks fire parody’, and ‘pookie is looking absolutely fire clip’.
The couple seem to have taken their quick amassing of popularity in their stride, but the searches ‘pookie controversy explained’, and the videos that address their recent controversy, are certainly less fire for their retaining popularity. As @hannahkosh on TikTok, whose bio references ‘All the pop culture, TikTok tea, sports & updates’, explains, older pictures have been uncovered of the two at an antebellum themed fraternity party. Associated with the fraternity Kappa Alpha, these parties were held at multiple US colleges, until most of them were stopped around 2016, whereby the ‘Old South’ and the confederacy were celebrated, in a way that can be seen as a euphemistic, or sanitised celebration of the slavery period. On the resurfacing of the photos, Campbell took to Instagram @campbellhuntpuckett, to explain:
‘I was 20. I didn’t fully understand the impact of my actions the way I do now, 12 years later. I fully apologize for the harm this may have caused for some and take full responsibility. Jett and I love sharing our lives with you […] Because we live our lives so publicly, everything is on the internet, even my mistakes.’
Responses have incredibly divided. Hannah Kosh’s explanatory video garnered comments arguing ‘You all are way too sensitive’, ‘No pookie slander LOVE her’ and ‘Trying to cancel pookie is wild’ and conversely, though fewer, comments such as ‘At 20 they didn’t understand the impact of partying on a literal plantation?’, and ‘I kinda assumed, they have that vibe LMAOOO’. It is interesting that Campbell has become almost deified by many users, with those who comment ‘LEAVE POOKIE ALONE’ and more, demonstrating a strange sense of defence towards somebody they have never met, reflecting in turn TikTok users’ often fickle obsessions over individuals and concepts.
For example, following Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s release from prison on 28th December, she has gained 9.8 million followers, and 58.7 million likes. Her video posted on New Year’s Day amassed 84.2 million views, 12.3 million likes, and 150.5 thousand comments, but a video posted on 1st February gained 7.2 million views, and 510.5 thousand likes. While these are of course still insanely high figures, videos posted to her account faced a decrease in views of approximately 88% in the space of just one month.
Trends do inevitably come and go, but TikTok seems to be the site where people become fads most often. The pervading impact of people’s different perceptions on the nature of ‘cancel culture’ certainly seems to play into this, where any criticism of an individual becomes labelled as ‘cancelling’, to which an individual’s fans rise enmasse to defend their current obsession. Perhaps Pookie’s story points to what could be a more efficient trajectory within social media, where criticism does not equate to cancellation, and individuals do not have to be relentlessly defended or attacked.