I’m terrible at “throwing shade.”
OK, maybe not terrible, but certainly not adept.
Throwing shade is for those who spend their time and intellectual capacity fixated on people and their ways.
Throwing shade is not merely a matter of insulting someone. Anyone can insult another, and for the most part, people are rather clumsy and unrefined when it comes to the art of the insult. Insults are better when they are subtle and cagey…oblique. When insults are snarky and disguised just enough that the victim barely knows what hit them.
The best “shade throwing” is that scenario where you’ve been verbally owned and everyone in the room is laughing at you before you even know why they are laughing. The sudden “ohh” look in your expression is the giveaway that you now recognize the insult. The more hidden the insult, the more unawares the target is of said insult, the more impressive the marksmanship of the shade.
So to distinguish between an “insult” and “throwing shade” is merely a measure of the insult’s clever subtlety. The more obvious and at face value the insult must be digested, the less it can be thought of as “throwing shade.”
In other words, a simple, crude insult might be, “Your mom is fat.”
Throwing shade’s version of “your mom is fat” can never be so forward as this, for the power of throwing shade is the “oh” moment, not the meat of the insult itself. In this respect, throwing shade requires a banter between 2 or more people. A dialogue which shapes and designs the template for said shade throwing to garner its twisted, sly power.
“Hey, what you guys doing for Thanksgiving?”
“We’re meeting up at my folks for dinner.”
“Is your mom cooking a turkey?”
“What’s she cooking for everyone else?”
Being the acknowledged anti-master of throwing shade, I will gladly admit this is not the a very good example, but my purpose here is to portray the essence and mechanics of throwing shade. Many people are highly skilled at this interpersonal maneuver and there are screeds about how best to accomplish it. Yet, throwing shade is the result of a temperament and practice. To be a skilled shade thrower, your entire cognitive focus must be on people and belittling them. You must allow your ego to prioritize superficiality and let it power your witticisms. It’s ironic that throwing shade requires such perceptive subtlety while also thriving on a sense of shallow expectations. You can’t be thoughtful and gracious while simultaneously engaging in throwing shade. Can’t happen. Throwing shade is the antithesis to stoicism and inner strength.
The art of throwing shade is entirely enervated by the state of passive-aggressive externalized existence: you must be completely outwardly focused in order to throw shade worth a damn. You must live outside yourself and be a student of the nuances of human behavior.
In other words, judgement amid hyper-perception of others’ weaknesses and stumbles. How many people actually take such an avid, detailed interest in other people this much? Not many other than most women and queers.
Women and queers are the prime purveyors of throwing shade. These are the demographics who most willingly subject any sense of their remaining intellect to a lazy capitulation to the discussion of people over ideas.