‘Easy, Medium, Hard and Asian’: The origins of the viral ’emotional damage’ TikTok meme

comedian and actor Steve He
  • In a trending meme on TikTok, the audio from a clip of an Asian man yelling “emotional damage” has been paired with a multitude of videos for comedic effect.
  • The man behind the meme is Chinese Irish comedian and actor Steven He, who has more than 2 million subscribers on YouTube, where the “emotional damage” clip originated.

In a popular TikTok meme, creators stitch together videos with a clip of Chinese Irish comedian and actor Steve He yelling “emotional damage!”

The meme’s origins were tracked down by the website “The Teal Mango,” which explained that the viral video was pulled from one of He’s YouTube videos, “When ‘Asian’ is a Difficulty Mode.” The original video has accrued almost 12 million views since it was first uploaded in September, as of this writing. The now famous sound byte occurs around the 1:07 mark. 

In the video, the comedian imagines a video game with an additional level of difficulty that surpasses Easy, Medium and Hard: “Asian.” While playing on “Asian” mode, the player character encounters a “Level 1,500,000 Boss Aunty” who asks, “Steven, when you get so fat?” The character subsequently dies from “emotional damage.” 

On TikTok, the trend has taken on a new life mostly because of the account @emotional__damage, which posts clips of people getting roasted and stitches them with He’s now famous “emotional damage” line. The account has more than 550,000 followers. 

@emotional__damageReply to @dukz26 you got what you wanted more emotional damage 💀##emotional ##damage ##emotionaldamage ##fyp ##xyzbca♬ original sound – emotional damage

@emotional__damageThank you guys for all the support on these videos I’m not gonna suffer any emotional damage ##emotional ##damage ##emotionaldamage♬ original sound – emotional damage

He previously appeared in Awkwafina’s Comedy Central show “Nora from Queens” and has been involved in movie productions as well as stage performances in the UK and China. He has more than 2 million YouTube subscribers.

Feature Image via Steven He

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