Meme Anthropologist: The Origins of Lil Meow Meow

Seeing people recently kind of… gank “lil meow meow” for their fandom sexyman – almost always a white man with a background including somewhat horrific violence – has been wild. It’s a meme format that has recently picked up steam across the past few weeks on Tumblr and Twitter and has been used to “jokingly” refer to how people basically woobify a certain class of villains the way we do our cats.

The thing is? It actually has its roots in my primary fandom, BTS.

But you wouldn’t know that from all the people that insist on applying the meme to various Tumblr Sexymen like Loki and Kylo.

And then if you’re not a BTS fan, you wouldn’t know any portion of the meme’s origins… including the fact that not only was it a callback to rapper SUGA, but that it also has its roots in a fandom conflict from June 2020.

The “lil meow meow” nickname has been used for BTS’ SUGA for a hot minute (2018 in this Quora post but I know it’s even older) and he’s apparently even aware of it according to this video from 2019.

Initially, the “lil meow meow” nickname refers to how SUGA is associated with cats thanks to things like his expressions, his (public) persona that’s standoffish and yet cuddly, and his facial features. He’s also associated with the cat emoji when translator accounts and even official BTS content editors talk about him.

So where did the current usage of the “lil meow meow” meme as a funny “my villain is a baby and murder is why he’s extra sweet and soft” thing come from?

If you remember my D-2 review and my comments about SUGA using audio of cult leader Jim Jones in the track “What Do You Think/어떻게 생각해?” well… he definitely did that. He also apologized for it through the agencies in a press release put out shortly after the controversy blew up in both Korea and the United States to the point where it was in different news stories, Korean netizens were expressing upset and annoyance, and DKDK TV covered it in one of their videos.

The meme was born out of that issue and how (largely) English language ARMY – BTS’ fandom – couldn’t quite figure out the best way to handle criticism of one of our favorites alongside the anxieties and tensions in the fandom over the potential silence over their support of Black Lives Matter and an unfortunately historical trend of antiblackness in all idol fandoms despite the history of blackness as a cultural touchstone in Korean pop and hip hop.

What does that mean?

For that, we look towards my friend C who is another idol fan and longterm friend who has been in shared fandoms with me for several years and watched the wild fandom responses to both Black fans and SUGA himself.

C confirmed that the “lil meow meow” meme was of course about SUGA from the jump.

The thing is that in this more recent occurrence, it specifically was a meme, “that started as people making fun of this one weirdo’s ‘my poor little meow meow… i tried to protect you…i really tried” tweet they made because they were mad yoongi “was forced to” remove the jim jones sample from “what do you think?””

C went on to say that, “the specific context of it is someone woobifying a guy who used a racist mass murderer’s words, and ALSO denying his own agency in removing it, so in a way it’s just perfect that fucking kylo stans are using it unironically now”.

And it doesn’t help that the user then went on to harass the holy hell out of people over this situation and his apology when the simplest thing to do would’ve been to say ‘he didn’t have a bad intention here, I’m glad he updated the file so we can enjoy his music peacefully”…

It’s a meme that initially existed to mock someone whose love of an idol who dropped the ball on a sample check then led them to be embarrassing and violent on main. So yes, it absolutely does fit that Kylo stans – and the general class of fan that thinks they’re oppressed for liking white male villains and who hurt people as a response – would pick up this meme that was built off of mocking a truly embarrassing tweet woobifying a real guy who took responsibility for his actions.

Fandom is all about divorcing itself from different contexts and that’s fine, I guess, but it’s also wild to see people – many of whom who publicly and performatively hate RPF and Korean pop – rewrite an ongoing fandom thing from us to be about their white dude villains… or cats, like this absolutely incorrect tweet about both cats and the meme.

 

But it makes sense because this sort of thing is actually definitely what fandom does and meme history tracing… not as popular as just… making shit up and being wrong in fandom!

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

The “lil meow meow” meme talking about fandom’s faves… is actually born out of people mocking an overreaction from a BTS fan with a history of violently harassing other people and who was absolutely using it to remove SUGA from his context, from responsibility, and… from his apology.

The fact that (largely) white fandom is reframing the partial copy pasta and turning into a meme they can use for their white villains – who that they also harass people over for them not loving their object of fandom enough or unconditionally – makes perfect sense.

About Stitch

Stitch writes about what needs to be written.
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