Given that I someday aspire to be the local ‘crazy cat lady’ and enrich the lives of felines everywhere, I spend a fair-to-moderate amount of my leisure time looking at pictures of cats doing funny and/or cute and/or silly things. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big dog lover, too. I just find them less humorous.
Today I stumbled upon the website of my favorite kitty in current Memedom – Grumpy CatTM (aka. Tardar Sauce). Following the example of such classically dissatisfied cats as Garfield and Henri, Grumpy is famous for her morose-looking face and abnormally short legs, both signs of feline dwarfism and an under bite (Wikipedia). The presence of the “TM” sign after her name indicates her quick rise from ‘ugly cat’ to ‘super cat’ in a little under a year.
Although originally just a single picture posted on the social forum Reddit by Bryan Bundesen, brother to Grumpy’s owner Tabatha Bundesen, Grumpy has since evolved into a phenomenon with a wide following, complete with t-shirts and mugs, “Grumppuccino” drinks (since Grumpy loves to eat Starbuck’s coffee cake), a published book, plush toys, and a potential movie deal (Wikipedia). Grumpy’s owner Tabatha quit her day job at Red Lobster to manage Grumpy’s schedule, which has included appearing in episodes of Friskies Youtube game show “Will Kitty Play with It?” and front-page placement on The Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine.
Now before you reach for your camera in the hopes that your cat can also reach this height of fame, think carefully about your odds. This is truly a rags-to-riches story, perpetuated and sustained by the prevalence of the internet, social media, and the careful marketing of Grumpy’s manager, Mr. Lashes (Rosman, May 31st, 2013):
“Mr. Lashes, 34 years old, is an agent for Internet cats. When an ironic photograph of a feline becomes Internet famous, Mr. Lashes contacts the pet owner and offers to help strategize ways to prolong, protect and monetize. He says he operates with this question in mind: “What would Walt Disney do if he created Mickey Mouse and it went viral on YouTube?” (Rosman, May 31st, 2013).
Internet memes are indeed a quick way to test the incredible interconnectedness of our modern society. However, the longevity of these memes are constantly threatened by shifting public opinion and the transience of their fame; it is very likely that Tardar Sauce will be forgotten by the public in several years’ time. I, for one, hope that we’ll always remember Tardar Sauce and her example of how famous one cat can become.