News Column

Grumpy Cat an Internet Smash

Jan. 18, 2013

Anna Edgerton

Grumpy Cat is the angriest cat you'll ever see. She hates everything. Especially fun.

"I had fun once. It was awful," her most famous Internet meme says.

Meet Tardar Sauce, the cat whose precious frown has made her famous as "Grumpy Cat." In an Internet world flooded with adorable or outrageous kitty-cats, "Tard" has made her mark as the grumpiest of them all.

"We didn't think it would get as big as it did, but it went way big," said Bryan Bundesen of Ohio, who took the first photo of his sister's cat when he visited her in Arizona last September. He posted the photo on Reddit, the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet," and within 48 hours it had been viewed by more than a million people, according to knowyourmeme.com. Bundesen uploaded three videos to Youtube shortly after and started a blog dedicated to Tard's dissatisfaction with the world.

"Once you get enough votes to get on the front page of Reddit," you're off and running," said Matt Silverman, features editor at social media news site Mashable, explaining how things go viral on the Internet.

"I always think about virality in concentric circles, with The Today Show being the outermost circle," Silverman said, a milestone that Grumpy Cat reached in December, 21/2 months after the first photo was posted.

"Once it gets to The Today Show, then my mom knows about Grumpy Cat," Silverman said.

Cats are the feral animals of the Internet. They're everywhere. Just a month after Grumpy Cat's debut, Mashable writer Amy-Mae Elliot wrote an investigative/opinion piece asking "why is it that the collective web is a 'cat person,' so to speak?"

One of her theories suggests cats are "the perfect canvas for human projection," a quality that makes Grumpy Cat an ideal object for the Internet's collective snark.

Grumpy Cat's determined frown has shades of anger, unquestioning hatred and supreme disappointment with the world around her. With her wide blue eyes and ears cocked back, she communicates impatience and resignation, disgust and amusement -- a malleable set of reactions for any kind of absurdity.

According to the blog's "About me" page, Grumpy Cat is of mixed breed but "looks similar to a Ragdoll or a Snowshoe." She apparently looks nothing like her mother, who is a calico, or her presumed father, who has gray and white stripes. No one knows where she got that pout.

Online creative powers have put Grumpy Cat in every kind of situation. There are memes of her telling off Paris Hilton , Rhianna, Journey, the Grim Reaper and other happier cats. She has commented on nature, burning houses and the royals having a baby.

Tard's most recent moment of fame was a comparison to Tommy Lee Jones that went viral the day after Sunday's Golden Globes broadcast. During the awards show, an unimpressed Jones frowned as he listened to Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig pretend not to know anything about the award they were presenting. Side-by-side, man and cat look like grumpy soul mates.

More than 400,000 people like Grumpy Cat's Facebook page. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world regularly like and share the photos and memes that are posted there.

On Twitter, hundreds of accounts use Grumpy Cat's most famous photo, often with the tagline "I had fun once. It was awful." The most popular account had 951,701 followers at the time of this writing. Tard's owners have no idea who runs that account.

People dressed up their children as Grumpy Cat for Halloween. Grumpy Cat memes were passably happy when the world was supposed to end in December, and then alternatively indifferent and mad at the Mayans when it didn't. Christmas was the high season for bah-humbug memes bemoaning the spirit of the holidays or suggesting creative, and mildly offensive, places to put mistletoe.

South Florida cat lovers have embraced Grumpy Cat and shared photos of their own dissatisfied pets. Neil Albert of Hallandale Beach submitted a photo of his two cats -- the playful Smokey ("the one that's the size of a moose") and Serena, the sweet little kitty who loves attention.

"I've been working with animals long enough to understand that they all have personalities the same as people," Albert said. "There are those that are bullies, playful and of course, grumpy."

Albert runs an organization, Cat Pals, that cares for feral cats in Hollywood, practicing "trap, neuter and release" rather than euthanizing them.

Grumpy Cat has an agent, Ben Lashes, who said the cat's owners are donating part of the money they earn on merchandise and licensing to "No Kill" animal shelters. Lashes said he is allowing Grumpy Cat's image to be used only for "things that are cool." Next, he imagines a Grumpy Cat animated series.

"Before I met Grumpy Cat I was like, 'What if I get there and it's smiling all the time? It would terrible to see this cat happy," Lashes said. "The minute I met Grumpy Cat I was like, 'Oh my gosh, it always looks grumpy and it's so cute at the same time.' The cat never makes a happy face...A lot has changed in the Internet cat world, but this is one of the craziest cats I've ever seen."

This report includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with The Miami Herald. Sign up by going to MiamiHerald.com/Insight.



Source: (c)2013 The Miami Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services


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