Some social media creators and watchers are calling it comedy for our times.
Giorgio Angelini, the filmmaker who traced the comic meme Pepe the Frog in the documentary Feels Good Man, sees a similar initial Dynamics in playing the Little Miss meme: “She’s not just grumpy anymore. She sways with anxiety and depression as the world warms, democracies are crumbling and those in power seem to be Mr. Greedy rather than Mr. Actionably Concerned.”
British author and illustrator Roger Hargreaves started his Mr. Men series in 1971 after, according to the book series’ website, eldest son Adam, 8, asked, “What does a tickle look like?” Tickle was the first in a cast of simple, colorful Mr. Men characters, which the website says has sold a million copies in three years.
The Warm Hearted Books – where readers see how a title character’s personality trait affects their lives — spawned comics, songs and BBC adaptations over the decade. Hargreaves then began publishing his spinoff Little Miss books and built a growing stable of characters who “through self-expression, color, simplicity and humor identify with a multi-generational audience,” according to the website. Adam Hargreaves has more recently directed the series since the death of his father in 1988 Adding characters like “Mr. Calm” and celebrity inspiration like “Little Miss Spice Girls”.
Fast forward to this month in which one Instagram account alone – “LittleMissNotesApp” – has attracted almost 2 million followers by featuring the characters of the Hargreaves under captions like “Little Miss Lexapro”, “Mr. Vape Cloud” and “Little Miss Aggressive Drunk”. The account pays tribute to user “Juulpuppy,” who began posting art updates like Little Miss Weed Psychosis last spring.
In April: “A lot of the memes I made were pretty dark, and I wanted to make a meme that was relatable and didn’t take itself too seriously,” says Juulpuppy via email on condition of anonymity out of concern for their privacy. Books for young readers have inspired some of her previous “Remix” posts, including “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
“Visual comedy uses unexpected pairings and I love getting into that with all the memes I make,” continues “Juulpuppy,” who says she’s a 21-year-old woman from Brooklyn. “This trend is so contagious because the pairings are so ridiculous and relate to so many people. Any caption can be applied to a Little Miss image, so no one needs to feel like an outsider to this trend.”
“We see cute imaginary versions of ourselves and laugh together at the messy nature of our flawed personalities, which I think is very real and cute.”
Nicole Gagliardi, a 22-year-old San Francisco student linked to the LittleMissNotesApp account, says via email, “I think people like this meme for the same reason they like their personality type or theirs Know Zodiac Signs: They like to see something to relate to and there is something for everyone.” Gagliardi also credits TikTok user @starbucksslayqueen for some of the content of her account.
The hashtag “Little Miss” has more than 140 million views on TikTok, with some creators citing their posts to the song “Cash In Cash Out” by Pharrell Williams.
When the meme went up again recently, Max Knoblauch’s wife told him about it reminded her of something he had done.
In fact, Knoblauch — a Queens-based writer, illustrator, and comedian — had paired the Hargreaves characters with contemporary captions for a 2014 article about Mashable created with editor Annie Colbert.
“Back then, from the very top, galleries were doing very well,” Knoblauch recalls, so he drew “Mr. Men Children’s Books Reimagined for Millennials” featuring characters like “Mr. Student Loan Debt” and “Little Miss Underemployed”.
Knoblauch says his article was born out of a comedic psyche of the time: “We would acknowledge things like student debt and these bigger problems, but we would acknowledge it in a way that it exists and it’s unsolvable. I think now the comedy is reflected [the view]: ‘Maybe There is a solution and we just won’t do it.’ ”
Garlic, a millennial himself, says he enjoys current memes, which he sees as darker, more absurd, and nihilistic. “The ones I did were like, ‘Wow, this is the pinnacle of 2014’ – bad things were just happening, but they could be fun. Well, they’re bad and they’re not getting better.”
Still, he sees the Hargreaves characters as forever meme-friendly: “It’s a dab with a smile and it was so positive.”
“The original Hargreaves books were created to explain very specific features that were referential enough for many children,” says Jamie Cohen, an assistant professor at CUNY Queens College, specializing in media studies and digital culture. “Like memes, the Hargreaves books are reductionist and divisible.”
The appeal of the meme, he says, is that it allows people online to share a hyperspecific personal description. “I love that people are using it to introduce really specific traits like neurosis, trauma, or divergent traits – something I think is good as it helps people understand new vocabulary and unfamiliar traits in both a fun and serious way way to hear.”
Cohen compares the Little Miss parodies to current viral trends like the American Doll meme – which pairs childhood nostalgia with contemporary comic book sensibilities.
Although it’s uncertain what sparked the recent rise of the Hargreaves meme, the Twitter account “dream girl tathelped popularize the trend when she shared a character titled “Little Miss Smokes Too Much Weed” on April 17. The tweet received more than 36,000 likes.
This image previously appeared on the Tumblr account of NotYourGayBestie, which is linked to New Jersey foodservice worker Mike Di Carlo. He tells The Post via email that he’s been “shocked” by the recent Twitter trend: “I absolutely loved the way he’s completely taken over every platform. Nothing but absolute love and admiration for the characters of Hargreaves/Little Miss.”
Of course, companies are riding the trend. Such organizations as LinkedIn, M&M’s and the Philadelphia 76ers have picked up the meme as well PBS“The Kelly Clarkson Show” and the account for the production “Les Miserables.”
“I think the entrepreneurial evolution of this meme has deviated from its original 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 jump on the trend. That definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the whole trend.”
Cohen says, “It’s a double-edged sword to create something that can be molded to fit any identity.”