First, there were lolcats, portraits of cats with linguistically mangled slogans like, “I can haz cheeseburger?” They appeared on internet image boards in 2005 and paved the way to fame for Tardar Sauce, better known as Grumpy Cat, who reached out to the world through a Reddit post in 2012. Her timing couldn’t have been better. The world was still tossing in the wake of the Wall Street crisis, the Occupy movement was on, even the Olympics had become controversial because Dow Chemical was a sponsor, and the Mayan Long Count Calendar predicted that the world would end on December 12. An irritable world instantly connected with the picture of Grumpy Cat posted by her family, looking down witheringly on human stupidity.
Grumpy Cat inspired a starburst of memes, including one talking down to the maker of the other pop culture phenomenon of 2012, Gangnam Style: “Congrats, Psy, but you still don’t have nine lives.” In the years since, she collected millions of fans on social media, starred in the film Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, and became the only cat ever to find a place in Madame Tussaud’s. On the internet, which is infested with cat images and videos, she was the top cat. When she died before her time in her Arizona home, aged seven, the world mourned.
Grumpy Cat’s family have always insisted that she was quite sweet-tempered. An underbite and feline dwarfism accounted for her forbidding aspect. But it made her a satirical symbol of a time when the world frowned upon the capitalist world order, which had narrowly escaped collapse. Now, she has gone to the great cat’s cradle in the sky, leaving us to ponder one of her most enduring memes: “If I have said or done anything to hurt you, I don’t care.”