The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: What’s the Deal With Smurf Cat?Reading Time: 4 minutes
Where did this cat-smurf mash-up come from, and why has it taken over the entire internet?
Things are getting surreal in popular culture this week. There’s a weird blue smurf/cat chimera that suddenly appeared everywhere all at once, a hugely popular TikToker who’s whole thing is making sure faucets work correctly, and a newly discovered universal trait among men: thinking about the Roman Empire.
The undisputed CEO of the Zoomer internet this week is Smurf Cat. The image you see above has captured the popular imagination of very-online people all over the world to the point that its gone from non-existent to literally everywhere in a couple weeks.
Smurf Cat is kind of cute I guess, with its mushroom hat and snail-on-a-stick, but it’s hard to understand why it’s sticky enough to inspire a TikTok hashtag with over 800 million views, three unfunny ‘response memes’ (Strawberry Elephant, Pineapple Owl, and Blueberry Cat) and a sort of sub-meme where the joke is ‘I see that damn Smurf Cat everywhere.’
I can’t explain it, so I’ll just give you the facts: the Smurf Cat image was created in 2014 by artist Nate Hallinan. It sat on his website for nearly a decade, until the end of August when internet denizens began remixing and sharing the image and making TikToks about it, usually featuring part of the song ‘The Spectre’ by Alan Walker. Smurf Cat is also known as Шайлушай, Blue Mushroom Cat, and Shailushai, although its creator named the original image ‘Smurf Sighting.’ Now you figure it out.
Speaking of inexplicable-but-adorable internet celebrities, TikTok is crazy about Travis Stock, aka Spooky Sivart. Stock is known for his short videos where he checks to see if public faucets work. If they do, he proclaims, ‘yeah dog! This one works!’ and sings a little song. He has 1.2 million followers and his videos have earned more than 37.6 million likes. Over 20 million people have watched this one. Like everyone, I love faucet guy because he’s funny and sincere, and I wish I could be as excited about anything as he is about faucets.
On a more meta level, it’s fascinating that there are armies of intelligent media professionals, marketing managers, and content specialists diligently toiling every day to figure out what people want to watch and share on the internet, but it turns out what they want to see is a guy getting excited because a faucet works.
Last month, Gaius Flavius, a Roman reenactor from Sweden, posted an Instagram video exhorting women to ask their boyfriends or husbands how often they think about the Roman Empire. Some women took them up on the offer, and it turns out men think about the Roman Empire every day. Check out this Twitter thread for confirmation. More proof: I had literally just been thinking about the Roman Empire. Right before I ran across this meme, I was listening to Songs for Pierre Chuvin, an entire album about the Roman Empire by The Mountain Goats, who think about the Roman Empire so much they wrote an entire concept album about their oppression of the Pagans. Conclusion: All men think about The Roman Empire all the time. I mean, the aqueducts! Those straight roads! Chariot Races! There’s just a lot to think about, man.
Unlike the faucet guy, Smurf Cat, and thinking about the Roman Empire, the ‘Love Surge’ meme going viral makes perfect sense. According to Lilianna Wilde, the woman who coined the phrase on TikTok, a love surge is when you have ‘so much love in your limbs that you can’t contain it, and you feel like you’re going to explode.’
In the video that made her TikTok famous, Wilde shows off her partner Sean ‘shaking with the electricity of love,’ until Wilde catches it too, and they both start shaking until they ‘explode with the electricity of love!’
Wilde’s viewers come to feel that weird, embarrassed-for-someone-else feeling that you only get from 100%, uncut internet cringe, probably from remembering your own secret love-inspired lapses in decorum. As her commenters put it, ‘this video made me consider breaking up with my bf just to make sure I never risk experiencing a love surge’ and ‘I need a love surge protector’ and ‘It’s ok to have secrets…’
To be fair to Wilde, she does begin her video by saying a love surge is ‘the most cringy, couple-y thing ever,’ so there’s a content warning at least. Good-natured jokes are one thing, but she doesn’t deserve the hate she’s getting at all.
This week’s MTV Video Music Awards made it clear that women are in charge of music in 2023. If Taylor Swift winning nine awards—including video of the year, artist of the year, and song of the year—doesn’t convince you, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s live performance of ‘Bongos’ should remove all doubt. Another highlight from the show, especially for older cats: a medley from hip hop legends Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, Nicki Minaj, LL Cool J, Lil Wayne & Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop. I mean, LL singing ‘Mama Said Knock You Out?’ Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh’s ‘The Show?’ Come on! Some of these artists might be eligible for social security, but they can still rock a crowd, even if you’ll worry about them breaking a hip.
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