LOLcats: the later years

The route down which all LOLcats go. So very sad.

(Trigger warning for sexual exploitation — commenters have been triggered, so seriously, this is a real trigger warning. The sexual exploitation, specifically taking pictures of this LOLcat without its consent, with multiple tiers of sexual reference at every stage, in this video. It is graphic and really fucked up.)

Via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Theater.

What’s interesting about this short film is, it treats the average LOLcat as a person who might actually have issues with the kind of problematic exploitation that a real person might undergo, facing ridiculous health care costs. The humour comes in reflecting real human experience, laughing at our own misery where we’re destroyed by systematic murder-by-spreadsheet.

This is the kind of gallows humour that takes a certain sort of person to laugh about. If you’re not one of those sorts of people, apologies.

Update: So it seems many commenters think I never should have posted this, because they were triggered. I had a trigger warning, but it was apparently insufficient. I had wanted to have a conversation about murder by spreadsheet, because that’s ultimately what sent this LOLcat into a suicidal spiral, but the exploitation was apparently far too visceral for many commenters for this to happen. I am apparently also worthy of criticism, denunciation, approbation and shaming, for calling this “humour” at all. Watch and read at your own risk.

Update 2: It has also been pointed out to me that there are some very explicit and direct references to humiliation porn, which makes the video all about sexual exploitation and means no conversation could conceivably be had about the murder-by-spreadsheet thing now. We’ll have to have that conversation another day. I am also presently very suspicious of the motives of the SMBC crew who, while they’ve historically been pretty funny, have really screwed this one up with enough tells that this was all about humiliation porn instead of satirizing the dehumanizing effects of murder-by-spreadsheet.

LOLcats: the later years

66 thoughts on “LOLcats: the later years

  1. 51

    Josh has excellent arguments pretty close to all of the time, if you can keep the anger from making you tune him out. I admittedly have a hard time of that myself. Especially where the arguments are about things that other people imagined that I said.

  2. 52

    No one can possibly anticipate everyone’s triggers, and there are good debates to be had about where to draw the line between a legitimate complaint of triggering and being so sensitive that no reasonable person could anticipate the harm. It’s also important to remember that a trigger warning does not mean the subject doesn’t get posted, it’s a minimal warning to some who may be upset by it (that’s important because some folks—no one here–act as though it shuts down conversation).

    But the issues videos like these bring up aren’t just about trigger warnings, and they can’t be totally adjudicated through that perspective. For example, whether anyone finds the video triggering or not, a lot of people including me see it as radically less benign and sympathetic. I can only speak for myself, but I think commenters found it disturbing because the really vile aspects of it seemed so obvious to us and it was distressing that they weren’t obvious to others. This is more than mere differences of taste or tolerance for subversive humor.

    To expand on what I found wrong with it:

    1. It has all the markings of callous dood-bro humor. We are invited to laugh at the plight of the LolCat when some skeevy guy answers the door in a bathrobe and says “anything I want for X amount of money”. The tone is “Hehe. . .bad 70s porno trope. . hehe.” In fact, that kind of exploitation happens to women every day, and it’s not funny at all.

    This was made worse by the shots of the LolCat having money thrown at it on a bed on all fours, clearly distressed. Well, this too happens to women all the time and in many cases it’s indistinguishable from rape-for-pay (note: I am not anti-all-porn. I’m anti-abuse). I got a little bit of the feeling watching that that I do with a rape scene in a drama.

    2. The “hemmorhoid pillow” commercial with the cat putting its face in the hole is just too damned close to a genre of porn where women get toilet seats put around their necks and told to “smile like a good bitch.” Having seen some of those they look very much not like free and informed consent, but savage exploitation. I could be wrong, but I think the makers of this video were making a “funny” out of that.

    There’s more, but that’s illustrative. It’s hard to quantify things like this; tone and the baggage you bring affects interpretation. But it seemed really, really obvious to me that the mid-20s doodbros who made this were at best callous and at worst making the exploited the butt of the joke. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have recognized this either, but it’s impossible not to see now.

    And yes, I know to some this is all going to seem super-silly because we’re talking about a LolCat. But we’re not, really, and we all know it. It’s not abstracted from the real world.

    That’s my best attempt to be explicit about it, Jason. It isn’t necessary to keep lashing back and saying things like “I am apparently also worthy of criticism, denunciation, approbation.” That is, frankly, petulant, and it undercuts the empathy you showed just before that when you recognized how people reacted to the exploitation. Folks here have tried really hard—-in very clear terms—to tell you they’re not calling your very moral character through and through into question. Yet that doesn’t seem to assuage you. I don’t know how else to say “Dude, it’s fucked up and here’s why, and I’ve done the same kind of thing and had to learn too.”

  3. 53


    I am apparently also worthy of criticism, denunciation, approbation opprobrium and shaming, for calling this “humour” at all.


    PS Why do I imagine it was no typo? Because of this [my emphasis]:

    Since I’m not doing any of this for “the cookie” of being called a good ally by assholes, I’ll live with the approbation you’ll inevitably call down on me.

  4. 54

    Folks have tried, yes. Not the specific ones I took issue with, especially since this ain’t my first dealing with them. Call that pattern recognition. Tell me I’m wrong all you want, prove it when possible, but don’t tell me what I think about things or what my intent was (regardless of intent not being magic). Nobody here can read minds. And getting your mind-reading attempt very wrong is very likely to set me off.

    The “hemmorhoid pillow” commercial with the cat putting its face in the hole is just too damned close to a genre of porn where women get toilet seats put around their necks and told to “smile like a good bitch.”

    Holy fuck that’s a thing!? Now my read on it is *entirely* about the LOLcat being analogous to an exploited sex worker. An exploited sex worker who just learned they’re about to be murdered by spreadsheet. Regardless of their intent, this was tone-deaf at the very most charitable.

    John Morales: huh. I’ve evidently been using that word wrong for a long time.

  5. 55

    Holy fuck that’s a thing!? Now my read on it is *entirely* about the LOLcat being analogous to an exploited sex worker. An exploited sex worker who just learned they’re about to be murdered by spreadsheet. Regardless of their intent, this was tone-deaf at the very most charitable.

    Sadly, yes. And that’s exactly what lurched out at me the first time I saw it at PZ’s. This is why people reacted so badly too it (that and the other dumb trope jokes). It’s a “well, now you know something you didn’t want to” sort of thing.

  6. 56

    Hi Jason,

    I saw the reaction to the same video over at PZ’s when there were like, about three comments there: the very first comment in that thread called it out as offensive and triggering, and so considering the fact that I don’t tend to watch linked videos for the mere sake that one of you bloggers links it (a positive recommendation always helps) I subsequently ignored the two threads (i.e. Pharyngula and here).

    The current trigger warning you’ve posted at the top seems to have been added rather late in the day: I’m pretty sure I would have noticed the bold red-lettering before now, when scanning the default Lousy Canuck page. Not having that there in the first place and the degree of unwillingness to cop to the problem others have noted (e.g. the comments picked out by Giliell), sort of look like you had to be convinced that the video wasn’t really worthy of your blog, before you did the right thing (in my opinion). In short, it’s human to make a mistake, it’s divine (in the good way) to admit it and fix the problem as best you can.

  7. 57

    Xanthe, alas.

    As the warning goes, it now feeds search engines with “The sexual exploitation, specifically taking pictures of this LOLcat without its consent, in this video is pretty graphic”.

    (Boy, are naive seekers of graphic sexual exploitation gonna be disappointed when they find their way here!)

  8. 58

    Jason: Your interpretation @ 49 is, um, really really opaque, and I say that as someone with a couple degrees in English literature. At worst, it could be construed as really reaching.

    From what Josh said (that prompted “Holy fuck, that’s a thing?!” from both of us), it sounds like the guys who made this video are entirely too familiar with the sort of porn that makes horny introverted women like me really sympathetic to extreme anti-porn arguments. (I thought I’d stumbled on a lot of really nasty misogynist porn, but damn. I mean, I should like porn qua porn, but so much of it is so very very nasty.)

    That familiarity right there disturbs me, and, if everyone here has more sense than a bowl of cornflakes, it’ll disturb them, too. Huh. I always did get an off-kilter, skeevy vibe from SMBC. Now I guess I know why.

    So there you go — context may not be everything, but it’s quite a lot, and I think you should cut the people who are reading the video in an entirely different context some slack for not finding it funny.

  9. 59

    I do cut those who interpreted this video more darkly than I originally did all sorts of slack. I deemed two people who have historically acted as uncharitable trolls and who explicitly imputed motivations onto me that I did not actually have, then proceeded to react to those imputations as though they were anything but imagination, as being trolls. When someone came along to tell me WHY this video was a bad thing, and someone else explained what parts of the video I wasn’t getting, I got it. All I ask is that I be treated like a human being with emotions and a very real motivation to try to do right by all of you, and I’ll be convinced by whatever you’ve got to bring me, and I’ll damn well correct the action.

    Xanthe is right though. I should have taken the historically-trollish people at face value about the mean-spiritedness of the video itself, regardless of whether they thought it meant that I was somehow endorsing that mean-spiritedness that I simply didn’t get originally. This is, again, a case of my hot-headedness getting the better of me. As a privilege-owning person, I don’t get the benefit of the doubt, and that’s fair. But I won’t brook people inventing things about me from whole cloth, I don’t care whether you’re a member of the underclass or overclass or trollitariat or an evolved energy-being from Alpha Centauri.

  10. 61

    interrobang @58: I can’t help you with the opacity of my realtime reactions to the video. Sorry. I tried. But the “holy fuck that’s a thing” moment surely killed any charity I had.

    I have amended the post again. The trigger warning is even more explicit, and a second update has been added. Hopefully that’ll warn people away from this toxic waste dump.

  11. 62

    Jason, I saw the updated warning and my eyes immediately got that flushed hot feeling that’s not quite tears. I was that grateful. It’s pathetic that one simple example of being heard/taken seriously can have that effect but there you go. It does. Thank you.

  12. 65


    I think blogging adds another dimension to people’s perspective; some surmount the challenges thereby imposed better than others.

    (Natural selection is naturally ineluctable)

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