Frivolous Friday: Meta-Merch

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

One of my favorite super-nerdy pop-culture phenonema is meta-merch: T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other swag that advertise, not the show or the characters in the show, but products or shows or games that are featured in the show.

Examples: Ingrid has a Crying Breakfast Friends T-shirt from Steven Universe:

crying breakfast friends shirt

And I might get a Cookie Cat shirt at some point:

Cookie Cat shirt

Or possibly a Big Donut shirt:

Big Donut shirt

Of course, there’s the Fruity Oaty Bar from Serenity, whose ads may or may not turn you into an uncontrollable killing machine:

fruity oaty bar

One of my very favorites is Sick Sad World from Daria — a TV show I would totally watch if it existed:

sick sad world shirt

Itchy and Scratchy is a classic:


Or if you wanted to get really meta, you could get a Poochie T-shirt. An unpopular failed character from a fictional TV show, one that fictional characters almost universally hated!


I like how meta-merch takes you out of your own world for a moment, and into the fictional world. When I see meta-merch, especially when it’s somewhat obscure, I often have a moment of pleasant confusion: it’s familiar, but I can’t quite place it. And then I realize: Oh, right. It’s advertising a product that doesn’t exist. It’s advertising a product that’s enjoyed by fictional characters. In the case of meta-merch for TV shows, it’s advertising a show I’ve never actually seen, a show I’ve only seen snippets of.

And meta-merch is a way for fans to spot each other. Lots of people recognize Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems, the characters are all over social media and are becoming iconic — but only someone who watches the show is going to recognize Cookie Cat or Crying Breakfast Friends.

What’s some of your favorite meta-merch?

Frivolous Friday: Meta-Merch
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5 thoughts on “Frivolous Friday: Meta-Merch

  1. 3

    I am SO with you on this.

    I want a band t-shirt for “The Band With Rocks In” now. But I may have to settle for an Unseen University shirt, which is still meta merch but less obscure and therefore would probably amuse me a little less.

  2. 4

    I’ve been meaning to find (or have made) a Greendale flag for a while.
    Shirts *with* the greendale flag are everywhere, I just want an actual flag 🙁

  3. 5

    Oh wow. I have to get that Cookie Cat t-shirt now.

    Also, hmm. Centered images that aren’t quite wide enough to span the whole width should be actually centered, but they don’t appear to be here. Thanks for doing this post — I have a new bug to fix! 🙂

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