There was once a magical time in pop culture history (the 90s) when the expression of disgust could be elucidated by the simple use of a single gesture: the finger placed in mouth. From Jessie Spano and Kelly Kapowski in Saved by the Bell to Madonna in Truth or Dare, this direct movement was all one needed to do during this era in order to communicate total disgust.
Perhaps evolving from the 80s valley girl phrase, “Gag me with a spoon,” this gesture of revulsion is an overt reference to bulimia, a popular practice not just of valley girls, but of the waifish models of the 90s that so many aspired to be like. And then, you know, there’s the fact that self-induced vomiting is the purest form of expressing how much one detests a person or thing.
But, as trends are known for doing, the symbol seemed to disappear by the time the Spice Girls’ reign of the late 90s came about. Though one aspect of its fade out stemmed from overuse, there is also the retrospective consideration of how insensitive/unpolitically correct the denotation was. After all, bulimia is a serious issue, no?
And yet, one yearns to return to an epoch when such candid visual expressions of vitriol could be made. A less complicated time when one didn’t need to delve deeper into the “implications” of what something “meant” in terms of offensiveness. Now, to showcase the gag reflex symbol would be to display a predilection toward the crass, the tactless. But Jesus, how else can one convey the distinct contempt one feels for Kevin Costner when he comes to your show and calls it “neat”? In truth, to bring back the “gag me” finger would probably be a lonely crusade (as most tend to be), and, frankly, the generation of now doesn’t really deserve to be privy to it. Still, excuse me while I stick my index finger in my mouth at them.