The world knows her as ‘Disaster Girl.’ She sold an NFT of her meme for $500,000

The world knows her as ‘Disaster Girl.’ She sold an NFT of her meme for $500,000

The world knows her as ‘Disaster Girl.’ She sold an NFT of her meme for $500,000 The world knows her as ‘Disaster Girl.’ She sold an NFT of her meme for $500,000 Roth remembers watching the flames engulf the house when her father, an amateur photographer, asked her to smile. With her hair askew and a knowing look in her eyes, Roth flashed a devilish smirk as the fire roared behind her. “Disaster Girl” was born. By: NYT | April 30, 2021 6:39:26 pm “Disaster Girl,” by Dave Roth and starring his daughter, Zoë. (Dave Roth via The New York Times)
Written by Marie Fazio
The name Zoë Roth might not ring any bells. But chances are you’ve seen her photo.
One Saturday morning in 2005, when Roth was 4 years old, her family went to look at a house on fire in their neighborhood in Mebane, North Carolina. Firefighters had intentionally set the blaze as a controlled fire, so it was a relaxed affair: Neighbors gathered and firefighters allowed children to take turns holding the hose. https://images.indianexpress.com/2020/08/1×1.png
Roth remembers watching the flames engulf the house when her father, an amateur photographer, asked her to smile. With her hair askew and a knowing look in her eyes, Roth flashed a devilish smirk as the fire roared behind her. “Disaster Girl” was born.
In the years since Dave Roth, Zoë’s father, entered it in a photo contest in 2007 and won, the image has been edited into various disasters from history, with Roth grinning impishly as a meteor wipes out the dinosaurs or the Titanic sinks in the distance. Now, after more than a decade of having her image endlessly repurposed as a vital part of meme canon, Roth has sold the original copy of her meme as a nonfungible token, or NFT, for nearly $500,000.
The meme sold for 180 Ether, a form of cryptocurrency, at an auction on April 17 to a user identified as @3FMusic. As with any currency, the value of Ether fluctuates, but as of Thursday, 180 Ether was valued at more than $495,000. The Roths retained the copyright and will receive 10% of future sales. Zoë Roth and her father, Dave, in Badlands National Park in 2019. (The Roth Family via The New York Times)
The market for ownership rights to digital art, ephemera and media known as NFTs, is exploding. All NFTs, including the “Disaster Girl” meme Roth just sold, are stamped with a unique bit of digital code that marks their authenticity, and stored on the blockchain, a distributed ledger system that underlies Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
In the meme hall of fame, “Disaster Girl” ranks alongside “Ermahgerd,” a pigtailed teenage girl posing with “Goosebumps” books; “Bad Luck Brian,” immortalized in a grimacing yearbook photo with braces; and “Success Kid,” a toddler on a beach with a clenched fist and an expression of intense determination.
In an interview, Roth said selling the meme was a way for her to take control over a situation that she has felt powerless over since she was in elementary school.
Before making the decision to sell, Roth consulted “Bad Luck Brian” himself — his real name is Kyle Craven — and Laney Griner, the mother of “Success Kid.”
“It’s the only thing that memes can do to take control,” Roth recalled Craven telling her.
“Disaster Girl” memes have spread far and wide. Once, a group from Poland asked permission to use the meme for educational material about a dying Indigenous language. Someone in Portugal sent Roth pictures of a mural with the meme.
“You just make it fit however you want to fit it,” she said. “I love seeing them because I’d never make any of them myself, but I love seeing how creative people are.”
Over the years, she’s seen hundreds of iterations of her picture. One shared last summer during racial justice protests was among her favorites, she said.

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