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This Fall’s Hottest Pop Culture Trend Is ... Spitting

From ‘Ted Lasso’ to ‘Dune’ to ‘Succession,’ everyone is hocking major loogies. Why is this happening? No one knows—but at this point it’s unavoidable.

HBO/Apple TV+/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Some pop culture trends happen for logical reasons: shifts in real-world circumstances, such as the entire entertainment industry adapting to a pandemic; or changing attitudes in society, like that time in 2015 when everyone was suddenly into eating ass. Other times, these trends can seem completely coincidental, almost cosmic. How else might you explain the existence of three movies in 2019 featuring characters with a tendency to vomit when nervous? Or the fact that a spate of major shows and movies from this year were like, “You know what, we should have our characters hocking big-ass loogies on screen”?

Spitting, I regret to inform you, is in.

Fall 2021’s hottest trend kicked off on August 20, during the fifth episode of Ted Lasso’s second season, when Nate looked at himself in the mirror, leaned back, and just friggin’ drenched that thing with his saliva. Not satisfied, he does this again in the penultimate episode weeks later on October 1.

The fad picked up steam on October 22 with the release of Dune, which featured Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, and Jason Momoa’s characters all covering a conference table with their spit as part of some weird space tradition.

And the spitting movement was officially cemented Sunday, when Shiv Roy decided to leave a liquid gift in her brother Kendall’s notebook.

What does this all mean? I can’t even pretend to know. Honestly, I’m a little hesitant to think about it too hard, lest I start devising galaxy-brained theories about how all of this is a subconscious backlash to hearing about droplets for the past 20 months. But it is too odd to ignore, and three-plus loogies a trend makes, so the only appropriate course of action is to embrace the spit. To bathe myself in it like Baron Harkonnen bathes himself in whatever that black goo was. To execute a handful of rankings and other rubrics in order to cover the spits so thoroughly that I never have to think about them again.


A Ranking of the Spits, by Volume

5. Stilgar’s Spit in Dune: Kind of a weak stream from Javier Bardem here. It’s more of a “I got a hair stuck in my mouth” spit. But remember: Stilgar is a Fremen, and the Fremen treasure water above all else. So technically Stilgar is exercising moderation here, and Bardem is doing good acting.

4. Duncan Idaho’s Spit in Dune: The next four spits are really close in volume. If you wanna argue that Duncan is a higher-volume spitter than Leto Atreides, I mean, pretty weird thing to argue about—but I’d also hear you out. For these spits, what it comes down to is area:

In this extremely scientific study, the second line is just a little bit longer. Leto covers more ground, and therefore has more volume. (Duncan Spit Truthers might point to the extra dribble that belatedly falls out of Momoa’s mouth, but extra dribble is not Official Spit.)

3. Leto Atreides’s Spit in Dune: My guy talked a lot about air power and desert power, but I never once heard him talk about saliva power.

2. Shiv Roy’s Spit in Succession: She really lets one out here. Just before launch, you can see her gathering every ounce of spit she has; she loads the cannon no less than two times. Kendall’s notebook is ruined, man.

1. Nate’s Spit in Ted Lasso: Not only is Nate’s spit plentiful, but after it hits the mirror, it runs down like a high-alcohol pinot noir. According to Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, that is some heavy (and therefore voluminous) spit. The Dune dudes and Shiv obviously didn’t have the benefit of spitting onto a vertical surface, but I don’t think any of their spit trails would flee the scene like Nate’s does.

A Ranking of the Spits, by Execution

5. Duncan Idaho’s Spit: The post-spit dribble can’t be ignored.

4. Nate’s Spit: Extremely messy, and not well-thought out at all. This man Jackson Pollock’ed himself all over a mirror.

3. Stilgar’s Spit: Sure, it’s not big and showy, but you’ve gotta respect a minimalist.

2. Leto Atreides’s Spit: Oscar Isaac is the only one of these five who actually hocks before he spits. That shows real commitment to one’s craft.

1. Shiv’s Spit: It’s a fucking missile of spit; like a million tiny daggers of saliva all coming together to pierce a piece of paper that almost definitely says something like, “the metaverse is the new fucking.” There might honestly be a hole in that notebook right now.

The Winners & Losers of the Spits

Loser: Any and All Custodial Staff

Winner: Us, for Getting to Watch Attractive People Do Ugly Things

Loser: Also Us, for Liking That, I Guess?

Loser: Nate’s Reflection

Winner: The Idea of Timothée Chalamet Spitting in Dune: Part 2

Loser: Kendall, Who Now Needs a New Notebook

Loser: Stephen McKinley Henderson, Because How Come Stephen McKinley Henderson Didn’t Get to Spit?!?!

Winner: Knowing That All Five of These Actors Probably Had to Do a Lot of Takes. They Had to Do So Many Literal Spit Takes.

Winner: Saliva, Obviously. This Is Its Biggest Moment Since Pumkin Spat on New York in Season 1 of Flavor of Love.

A Ranking of the Spits, by Meaning

3. Nate’s Spit: He’s spitting at a reflection of himself—there isn’t a lot of subtlety here. Nate’s self-loathing is deep and dangerous, boiling over to the point that he’s pushing away those who love him while also leaving his DNA all over high-end suit stores. The deeper meaning here is not very enjoyable, though it is a good depiction of Nate’s sudden inability to think of anyone but himself (namely, the poor sap who had to Windex his mess).

2. Shiv’s Spit: If you’ve never had the urge to disdainfully spit on a belonging of one of your siblings, you don’t have siblings. There’s certainly nothing mature or measured about what Shiv does, but it is relatable and maybe even understandable. The guy just played “Rape Me” at her first public-facing event since being promoted to president. Maybe Kendall didn’t deserve the open letter Shiv publishes at the end of Succession’s third episode, but a little spit in a notebook is easily a commensurate act of retaliation.

1. The Dune Dudes’ Spits: “Thank you, Stilgar,” Duncan Idaho says, “for the gift of your body’s moisture. We accept it in the spirit in which it was given.” Spitting as a sign of honor is amazing—an unparalleled reason to hock a loogie. I also like that after Duncan says this, Stilgar nods like “Bet, no prob, bro”:

All around good vibes with this spit.

Final, Unanswerable Questions About All of the Spit

1. Why did Kendall even leave his notebook at the Waystar offices?

2. Who will be the first sibling to spit on Kendall?

3. When Lady Jessica says “Fear is the mind killer” in Dune, is she speaking directly to people with queunliskanphobia?

4. Did you know before just now that there’s a clinical term for the fear of saliva?

5. How will Nate get nice suits for his new job at West Ham if he’s banned from every store in London?

6. Will anyone make the very bad joke about how Shiv spits and Tom swallows?

7. Am I banned now for making that very bad joke?

8. Will the internet explode if Zendaya spits on or around Timothée Chalamet in Dune: Part 2?

9. How many Roy family employees have spit in their food over the years?

10. If Ted knew about Nate’s incident, would he have said something like, “Well, call him Michael Jackson in a rainstorm because that man in the mirror is drenched”?

11. Which character from a prestige show or movie will spit next?

12. Looking at upcoming releases, it’s definitely Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, right?

13. Lastly, and most importantly: WHY ALL OF THE SPITTING?