How a series of children’s books inspired a new trend
If you’ve been online in the past week, chances are you’ve seen them: small multicolored flecks with smiling faces making some kind of gesture, with the text “Little Miss” or “Little Mr.” prominently above them.
But what are these illustrations, and why are they suddenly all over the internet?
The art is from the “Mr. Men” and “Little Miss” series of children’s books, created in 1971 and 1981 respectively by British author Roger Hargreaves. Decades later, the Hargreaves characters are widely posted by people online as memes.
In meme form, the art has become quite personal – with many online using the characters as a way to confess or share details about themselves that might be considered too private for the internet. Like, “Little Miss Repressed Childhood Trauma”, “Mr. Untoned Bleached Hair”, and “Little Miss Bipolar Disorder”, to name a few.
The meme originated on Tumblr in 2021, according to the online database Know Your Meme. It depicts a character from the series “Mr. Men” or “Little Miss” with intimate detail to describe them, including medical conditions, insecurities and personal facts.
It wasn’t until April this year that memes went viral on Instagram. Videos using the memes started racking up millions of views on TikTok this month, prompting even more people (and brands) to follow the trend across various social media platforms.
@juulpuppy, the Instagram creator credited with making the meme go viral, said she’s always looking for things she can create memes from.
“I made memes for ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,’ ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,’ and all these different children’s books,” juulpuppy, who wanted to be referred to by her username out of concern for her privacy, NBC News told NBC News. “So I was trying to think of a meme that was sort of lighthearted and fun.”
The books were inspired by the illustrator’s son
The “Mr. Men” book series was inspired by Hargreaves’ eldest son, Adam, who at age 8 asked his father what a tickle felt like, according to the book’s website. .
Hargreaves was initially amused by the question, but was inspired to write a children’s book about a character named Mr. Tickle, which sold a million copies in three years, the website said.
A number of books in the series using other characters have been made into a TV show, and comic strips have been published in newspapers like The Mirror and The Daily Mail. The series also had its own songs.
The first “Little Miss” books, which included “Little Miss Bossy”, “Little Miss Naughty”, and “Little Miss Sunshine”, were published in 1981.
I love being able to see people having so much fun with such a beloved series having such a strong resurgence,
– Meme creator, instagram user @juulpuppy
Adam Hargreaves took over the business after his father’s death in 1988. New characters were created for the show, which turned 50 last year.
Adam Hargreaves did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the popular illustrations’ recent viral fame.
Meme creator juulpuppy said she hopes memes will benefit the series in the long run.
“I love being able to see people having so much fun with such a beloved series having such a strong resurgence,” she said. “Hopefully some of that will go back to benefit the original creator’s estate and they can enjoy this viral moment.”
Little Miss/Mr. popular online
The original “Little Miss” meme was posted in June 2021 on the Tumblr blog notyourgaybestie, which was later reposted to Twitter by the user @dreamgirltat in April 2022.
Three days later, juulpuppy posted 30 original memes in the same format which she split into three carousel posts. The post, which has since garnered over 45,000 likes, has inspired others to use the same template.
The largest Instagram account dedicated to “Little Miss” memes is called @littlemissnotesapp, which has attracted 1.2 million followers since its first post on July 10. The creator attributes the model to juulpuppy.
On TikTok, many users have also increasingly made videos featuring the memes, often using Pharrell Williams’ song “Cash In Cash Out” in the background.
Many people have recognized how intimate memes have become, make jokes about it online. juulpuppy said she loves seeing people get so passionate.
“Being able to build community is something that’s really important to me, so I think that’s the most fun thing,” she said. “All these people and having fun with it.”
She said she thought memes resonated because “a lot of comedies right now are about trauma, which I think is like a relatively recent trend.”
“If you watch comedy from a while ago, it really wasn’t referring to your personal affairs or your struggles,” she said. “I think it’s great that the speech is so open now.”