Things went south for the North Star Boys last week after the seven-member influencer group posted a photo of themselves posing in front of a wall with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
Immediately, the photo drew backlash for turning a serious movement that emerged in response to the surge of anti-Asian violence into what many online are calling a “thirst trap” opportunity.
The North Star Boys, who gained influencer status on TikTok, posted the photo to Instagram on Dec. 31 before comments that questioned their intent began to flood in.
“Yes but why are you guys posing like that in front of such a statement [crying emoji],” reads one top comment, while countless others remarked that posing for the photo did little to benefit the movement it highlighted.
Despite all the hate towards the group, their photo has brought more attention to the issue by becoming a meme on TikTok as users discussed the impacts — or lack thereof — of performative activism.
A recent parody video depicts a hypothetical situation in which an assailant repeatedly kicks at an Asian person only to be stopped by the presence of the North Star Boys. Another video shows a man posing in various positions in front of the same wall where the original photo was taken, with a caption that reads: “Racism is bad… single btw.”
TikToker @bebiisan also called out the group in a video, saying: “If you want to thirst trap, just thirst trap. You don’t need a reason to thirst trap. You don’t need to use ‘Stop Asian Hate’ to thirst trap.”
The group has since denied the accusations that they were posing for a “thirst trap” in videos uploaded to their TikTok and YouTube pages.
“We are not activists, nor do we try to be. And we are surely not performative activists. We are simply a group of 7 best friends who came together to achieve our goals and in hopes to inspire others to do the same,” one member announced. “To those who are mocking us with your TikToks, I want to ask you to ask yourselves, what are you doing to the movement? Because it looks like you’re making fun of us for trying.”
The North Star Boys consists of members Kane Ratan, Darren Liang, Sebastian and Oliver Moy, Regie Macalino, Ryan Nguyen, and Justin Phan, who are all between the ages of 18 and 22. The group is mostly known for their lighthearted content.