How TikTok Flipped a Macho Brantley Gilbert Track Into a Subversive Hit
When country music star Brantley Gilbert wrote his 2015 song “Read Me My Rights”—a Wal-Mart CD bonus track about an “ass whoopin’ in the parkin’ lot”—he almost certainly didn’t imagine the new life it would take on in 2020. “Read Me My Rights” has become a bigger hit on TikTok than it ever was on country radio, thanks to creators who have perfected a subversive flip on the track. Of the roughly 13,000 TikTok videos with the sound, most are point of view videos in which the creator struts toward the camera looking pissed-off, over a caption that reads like something a stereotypical conservative might be mad about: “POV: I’m a Republican and you just said cancer patients shouldn’t go bankrupt” (an argument about universal health care); “POV: im a republican woman and you just told me i deserve rights” (In 2017, under President Donald Trump, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s pay data rule was put on hold).
Scott Stark, a 23-year-old recent college graduate, has made several of these videos as @thejohnnycheese. He’s usually dressed in a stereotypical country outfit—plaid shirt, blue jeans with a belt buckle, and, of course, cowboy hat—as he lip-syncs to the song. “Read Me My Rights,” Stark says, “really embodies the vibe of typical angry Southern Republicans.”
Stark wasn’t the first to do the trend or even the first to use the sound, but his videos have more than 9 million likes. He says he draws on current events for captions like “POV: I’m a Republican and you just said billionaires don’t care about me,” or “POV: I’m a Republican and you just said the war on Christmas was never real.” (For that last one, he angrily removed his cowboy hat to reveal a Santa hat underneath.)
“I’ve been keeping up with politics for a long time now, so I’m kind of familiar with stereotypical Republican standpoints and the Republican party standpoints with certain issues, so I just made jokes out of that,” he says.
Gilbert, whose publicist says he is not available for comment, has never openly stated his political beliefs. But in a YouTube video, Gilbert says that the song is “everything” he wanted it to be. “I’ve always had, like, a real quick trigger when it comes to, like, a man talking down or putting his hands on a woman—that never has set well with me and I’ve put a dent in a man’s ass for that,” Gilbert says in the video, laughing.
He goes on to tell a story about a man breaking into a friend’s home. “If I got my family in the house and a man breaks into my house, pss, I don’t care if he looks like he ain’t got a gun,” Gilbert says in the video. “He’s going down. So I believe in the Second Amendment.”
Stark claims several Republicans have messaged him on Instagram to tell him his videos inspired them to abstain from voting for Trump.
“I didn’t think I would through those videos because they’re just jokes, but multiple Republicans have messaged me on Instagram telling me I have changed their views, which really surprised me,” Stark says.
Because TikTok’s algorithm shows users what they’re interested in, Stark says his videos have reached a much larger audience in a much shorter timeframe than his Instagram ever did.
“I’ve been posting political stuff on Instagram for years, with little to no interaction,” he says. “After one month of posting on TikTok, I have over 200,000 followers. There’s a big difference.”
Stark seems to have the most videos with the sound, but other creators have joined in. Lindsey Kitchens, a 23-year-old TikTokker, posted one with the caption “POV: im a republican and i just saw a gay character on tv.” (In May, TFP Student Action started a petition calling Disney+ to remove a short about two gay characters. The petition received nearly 30,000 signatures.)
“It’s funny because conservatives always look at the left like being sensitive over everything, when really, they cry over everything,” Kitchens says. “Queer people existing—they act like it’s too much and it’s putting it in everyone’s faces.”
Kitchens says she believes serious political views don’t get the same engagement on TikTok as the humorous ones.
“It kind of seems like Gen Z finds a way to put a humorous spin on literally every situation,” she says.