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Grumpy Cat grumpily absconds with Vagrant meme

Robot 6 reports controversy surrounding a Grumpy Cat T-shirt. Being a person of the Generation X persuasion, everything about it astounds and confuses me, but apparently Kate Beaton was involved. In summary:

Among the most popular shirts, Gawker points out, is one that combines a photo of Grumpy Cat with the caption “I HAD FUN ONCE/IT WAS AWFUL,” which, after a stop off at Reddit, where it became attached to the feline, actually originated with cartoonist Kate Beaton’s popular webcomic Hark! A Vagrant! Gawker, which concluded that the best way to get rich from memes is to “steal other memes,” contacted Beaton for her take.

Things I find baffling:

1.) That people are willing wearing an internet meme on a gray shirt
2.) That Kate Beaton apparently had a Gawker?
3.) That there’s even such a thing as Gawker?
4.) That the entire quote I posted above would baffle and confuse English teachers from 20 years ago.

For the record, Ms. Beaton seems to be cool with it:

“No, I never authorized anything. And some people will argue that I never wrote the joke, that it’s ‘been around forever,’ she tells the website. “But I made a comic, and one panel became a meme, and that’s fine. The nature of a joke is to take on a life of its own. At some point, the meme was applied to Grumpy Cat, where it fit well. It is only how Grumpy Cat is aggressive about protecting their brand with that joke as part of it that has ever rubbed me the wrong way.”

Also, apparently the people behind Grumpy Cat said something like, “We’ve got a saying over here in team meme: ‘Respect the cat,'” and it makes me weep for our generation.

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on September 30, 2013, in webcomics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I absolutely don’t get how people can sell merchandising on memes with a straight face. And I’m probably borderline Generation Y(born in 1989, have no idea how these generations work, even).

    I don’t know if I should find weird that “memes” are actually becoming “a thing” out of the inner internet circles. It’s not a sense oh hipster entitlement. It’s a sense of “this will stop being funny so quick, you guys”.

  2. Yeah, I understand stuff like Game Grumps t-shirts with dumb lines on them because those are the kind of memes they themselves created but its kinda spineless IMO to go to some /b or a similar site, pick up the currently biggest meme in there and then try and “own” it after the fact it was already made by someone else. Or trying to cash in with that stuff despite never really being part of the community where the meme originated in the first place.

  3. El Santo, as a fellow Generation X-er, I’ll just tell you that the less acquainted you are with Gawker, the better.

  4. Reepicheep-chan

    What kills me if that the original joke by Beaton is just sooo much funnier in its complete context. The Grumpy cat version feels like the hollow zombie shell of decent joke by comparison.

  5. I’m a part of the new, cool, hip generation, and I’m still out of touch with all this freaky meme business. Plus, I agree: what’s Gawker? /Who’s/ Gawker? Slightly glad that this won’t evolve into a complicated, lengthy legal battle, though.

  6. Based on my reading of the Robot 9 article it doesn’t sound like the Grumpy Cat people are doing anything wrong. I don’t think you can accuse them of stealing the joke, because it’s perfectly reasonable that they might have come up with it independently. And I don’t think its unfair of them to aggressively protect their brand as long as they’re just protecting the use of Tardar Sauce’s image and not every joke associated with him. and based on the Robot 9 article that sounds like that’s all they’re doing . Even the “Respect the cat” comment, if I’m reading this correctly, had nothing to do with Beaton and was made in an unrelated interview with NY Times.

    In fact, I don’t see a story here at all. It sounds like Gawker tried to manufacture a controversy by prodding Beaton for a statement, then taking her sort-of critical comments out of proportion. Are the Grumpy Cat people suing Beaton? Is she suing them? If not, then where’s the story?

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