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‘Little Miss [Blank]’: How a children’s book meme became a viral comedy

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‘Little Miss [Blank]’: How a children’s book meme became a viral comedy

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What began as innocent tickling half a century ago now provides the art of darker contagious laughter.

The heartbreaking kid-lit characters from the popular Mr. Men and Little Miss franchises hit a new wave of virality this summer, thanks to their co-optation for a cheekily darker meme that leaps across platforms, brands and politics. . Where the official series has someone like “Little Miss Jealous”, the meme delivers someone like “Little Miss At My [Expletive] Breaking point.”

Some creators and social media watchers call it the comedy of our time.

Giorgio Angelini, the filmmaker who followed the comic meme arc Pepe the Frog in the ‘Feels Good Man’ documentary, sees a similar initial dynamic at play with the Little Miss meme: “She’s not just grumpy anymore. She is reeling from anxiety and depression because the world is heating up, democracies are collapsing, and those in power seem to be more Mr. Greedy than Mr. Actionably Concerned.

British author and illustrator Roger Hargreaves launched his Mr. Men series in 1971 after, according to the book series’ website, his eldest son Adam, 8, asked, “What does a tickle look like?” The resulting creation, “Mr. Tickle,” was the first of a cast of simple, brightly colored Mr. Men characters that the site says sold a million copies in three years.

The Heartwarming Books – in which readers see how a main character’s personality trait affects their lives – spawned BBC comics, songs and adaptations over the decade. Hargreaves then began publishing her Little Miss spin-off books, creating a growing stable of characters who “identify with a multi-generational audience through self-expression, color, simplicity and humor,” the website says. Adam Hargreaves has overseen the series since his father’s death in 1988, most recently adding characters such as “Mr. Calm”, as well as celebrity inspiration such as “Little Miss Spice Girls”.

Fast forward to this month, when a single Instagram account – “LittleMissNotesApp” – garnered nearly 2 million followers by posting the Hargreaves characters under captions such as “Little Miss Lexapro”, “Mr. Vape Cloud” and “Little Miss Aggressive Drunk.” The account credits user “Juulpuppy,” who last spring began posting art updates such as “Little Miss Weed Psychosis.”

Back in April, “A lot of the memes I was doing were pretty dark and I wanted to create a relatable meme that didn’t take itself too seriously,” “Juulpuppy” said via email, speaking on condition of anonymity. for the sake of his privacy. Books for young readers have inspired some of his previous “remix” articles, including “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and Diary of a Wimpy Child.

“Visual comedy takes advantage of unexpected associations and I love building on that with all the memes I do,” continues “Juulpuppy,” who says she’s a 21-year-old woman from Brooklyn. “This trend is so contagious because couples are so ridiculous and concern so many people. Any caption can be applied to an image of Little Miss, so no one has to feel left out of this trend. “

“We see pretty imagined versions of ourselves and laugh together about the messy nature of our flawed personalities, which I think is very genuine and sweet.”

Nicole Gagliardi, a 22-year-old student based in San Francisco who is linked to the “LittleMissNotesApp” account, says via email, “I think people resonate with this meme for the same reason that they like to know their personality type. or their zodiac sign: They like to see something they can relate to, and there’s something for everyone. Gagliardi also credits TikTok user @starbucksslayqueen with some of the content in his account.

The ‘Little Miss’ hashtag has over 140 million views on TikTok, with some creators setting their posts to Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Cash In Cash Out’.

When the meme recently resurfaced, Max Knoblauch’s wife told him so reminded him of something he had done.

Sure enough, Knoblauch — a Queens-based writer, illustrator, and comedian — paired the Hargreaves characters with contemporary-toned captions in 2014, for an article on Mashable created with editor Annie Colbert.

“The top word was while the galleries were doing just fine,” Knoblauch recalls, so he drew “Mr. Men Children’s Books Reimagined for Millennials,” featuring characters such as “Mr. Student Loan Debt.” and “Little Miss Underemployed”.

Knoblauch says his article grew out of a comedic psyche of the time: “We would recognize things like student debt and these larger issues, but we would recognize it in a way that it exists and is insoluble. I think now the comedy reflects [the view]: ‘Maybe there is a solution and we just won’t. ”

Knoblauch, himself a millennial, says he loves current memes, which he sees as darker, more absurd and more nihilistic. “The ones I did were like, ‘Wow, this is the peak of 2014 here’ – there were just bad things going on but they could be fun. Now, well, they’re bad and they don’t are not improving.

Still, he sees the Hargreaves characters as still meme-friendly, “He’s a blob with a smile and it was so positive.”

“The original Hargreaves books were created to explain very specific traits that were referential enough for many children to access,” says Jamie Cohen, assistant professor at CUNY Queens College, specializing in media and cultural studies. digital. “Like memes, Hargreaves’ books are reductionist and shareable.”

The appeal of the meme, he says, is that it allows people to share a hyper-specific personal description. “I think it’s good that people use it to introduce really specific traits like neuroses, traumas or divergent characteristics – something that I think is good because it helps people hear new vocabulary and unknown characteristics in a way that is both fun and serious.”

Cohen likens Little Miss parodies to recent viral trends such as the American Doll meme – in which childhood nostalgia is combined with current comedic sensibility.

Although what triggered the recent rise of the Hargreaves meme is uncertain, the Twitter account “dreamgirltathelped popularize the trend when she shared a character captioned “Little Miss Smokes Too Much Weed” on April 17. The tweet received more than 36,000 likes.

This image appeared earlier on the Tumblr account of “NotYourGayBestie”, which is linked to New Jersey restaurant worker Mike Di Carlo. He tells The Post via email that the recent Twitter trend has “shocked” him: “I absolutely loved how it completely took over all the platforms. Nothing but absolute love and admiration for the Hargreaves/Little Miss characters.

Naturally, companies follow the trend. Organizations such as LinkedIn, M&M’S and the Philadelphia 76ers took over the meme, as well as PBSThe Kelly Clarkson Show“and the production account”Wretched.”

“I think the corporate trajectory of this meme takes away from its initial purity,” says Cohen. “I’ve seen so many ads using this format, and many companies and organizations that have caused so much harm to humanity are trying to follow the trend. It’s definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the whole trend.

Cohen says, “It’s a double-edged sword, creating something that can be shaped to fit any identity.