This is the Namaqua Rain Frog, otherwise known as the Desert Rain Frog, also known as The World’s Cutest Frog.
Yes, it is true, when one considers the frog, one does not jump straight to descriptions such as: cute, adorable, huggable, precious and so on. However, wildlife lover, Dean Boshoff, heard a strange squeaking noise while on a walk over a South African sand dune and what he found was beyond his imagination. There in front of him was a small adorable and kind of gross and awkward Desert Rain Frog, squeaking. Obviously, his first thought was to document the strange frog. And so he filmed the squeaking culprit in the act and posted it to YouTube.
He dubbed his new squeaking friend, “The World’s Cutest Frog.” Well Dean Boshoff, you were spot on and the world has agreed with you all week long. This ugly and strange Desert Rain Frog has generated a massive amount of chatter online and the international as well as the interanimal consensus is officially in, the Desert Rain Frog is The World’s Cutest Frog.
I have trouble thinking about frogs as cute, even if some let out a cute squeak when frightened. However, there seems to be a grain of truth in the statement that this is cute and its cuteness resonates across borders and cultures. Why? Simply put, the Desert Rain Frog’s strange defensive and troubled squeak is reminiscent of a dog chew toy – you know, the chew toys that squeak and drive pet owners and animals around the world excited and mad. As one could expect, this harmless and ugly, but apparently cute, Desert Rain Frog has become an internet sensation and overnight meme, generating over 3 million views on youtube and growing as well as a spectrum of modifications from lolfrogz to documentations of Sammy the dog’s reaction and other animal reactions to the cute little guy with sand in his eye. But really why? Since when did so many people take an interest in frogs and what’s more, consider them cute? Why does something so strange capture the imagination of the masses?
Memes always leave me wondering what exactly gives something lasting power over the next. What deep down and very human quality is captured by them? Why do we all love cats? Why do we all think double rainbows are hysterical when presented in the context it was? Why are buckets full of baby sloths so adorable? Why are, so-called, cute and relatable things viewed as such internationally? The power of the Desert Rain Frog must go past the surface of sounding like a dog chew toy.
In the grand scheme of things, The World’s Cutest Frog does not seem to matter much. It is just a sand covered frog squeaking like a dog chew toy in the desert. And after all, it is easy to write off internet memes like ”The World’s Cutest Frog” that resonate broadly as simply internet pop-phenomena. However, maybe memes require a deeper socio-anthropological examination.
The truth is that internet memes often span across socio-political, economic, and cultural borders. Think ofHarlem Shakes, Big Bird, Dayummm, babies laughing, cats, symphonies of science and hundred more like them. These internet videos, writings, spontaneous happenings, and pictures often tell stories that transcend cultural borderlines that politics and the like struggle to break through. If you think about it, there are not many topics that people, internationally, can relate to, agree upon, chat about, modify, and laugh over together. So when thought about in this context, maybe considering the meme is a means for re-considering our world and our relationships to one another.
Memes play an interesting socio-cultural role online in that they are a form of cultural mediation and can function in numerous ways autonomously or all at once.
Memes can fulfill the role of humor; they can fulfill the role of weapon; they can fulfill the role of comfort; they can fulfill the role of provocateur; and the can fulfill all four roles simultaneously. Many memes are often hysterical and simple but then overtime through public modification and customization become something completely different and might be used for activism in politics, satire, cultural criticism, musical inspiration, social commentary and so on. Memes transcend and evolve by their very nature in the same way that a common virus might.
Think of online meme participants as the hosts of viruses. Each online participant has his or her own idea to build off of the initial meme in the same way that a virus may interact with its individual host and evolve to the host’s unique genes accordingly. The world’s cutest frog demonstrates the customization phenomena perfectly! First the frog video was sent into the interwebs where it quickly gained overnight fame. The next thing you know, people have identified the sound produced by the Desert Rain Frog as sounding similar to that of an animal squeak toy.
And squeaky toys are played with by dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are cute. Now people are filming their animals responding to the squeak sound of The World’s Cutest Frog. Who knows what will be next? That’s the internet for you and that is why the internet is a beautiful thing. Personalization and relating to a given memes’ subject matter is critical for the broad spread and appeal of meme phenomena. I think some memes are just funny but there is always a more deeply seeded reason that something becomes humorous. The customization and personalization process that occurs among meme participants often crosses country lines and less-tangible cultural boundaries and norms. International relationships, Ideas, and commentary are commonly shared through a modified YouTube video, in the comments section, through a tweet, through a pin, or through a Tumblr. It seems that maybe online memes are the 21st century’s version of Greek theater as well as an evolution of posters, comics, and sayings that have gone viral historically that also outwardly expose human experience, even if in a very simple way. Simplicity often has power.
Maybe memes are one of the primary platforms for online social discourse and understanding for the internet generation, and fulfill that very human need for experience and understanding that Greek theater so effectively did. It seems that memes might be a sort of online international language that help us to understand ourselves, our experience, and ourselves online. This point might seem a bit tough to swallow given that many memes are seemingly harmless and light-hearted. But maybe memes are indicative of a way of thinking that has an international appeal, a 21st century way of telling the human story. Are the qualities of a baby laughing qualities that most humans can relate to? I want to consider and learn why you readers think that babies laughing, cats being cats, frog’s squeaking and so-on touch you. Why do certain, seemingly arbitrary, things capture the human imagination and encourage massive online discourse?
All of this cute frog and meme talk leads me to a simple but crazy question: if Memes, like Greek theater, are the humor and understanding of the internet and memes have proven their value in social discourse, are memes a medium for changing the world? Can we together deconstruct why a simple squeaking Desert Tree Frog discovered in South Africa, by a man who loves animals, captures an essence of human experience and resonate with millions of people? If by doing so, can we take our learning’s from The World’s Cutest Frog and instill new communication models for social good, international behavioral change, and wider agreement? While I don’t have the full answer, I think it might by yes, at least to some degree! Maybe we can strive to understand the seemingly universal themes that emerge in memes to better understand our shared human experience, universal human themes. Nearly universal stories are the ones that are often the most impactful! Memes are often international and understanding how they work and why the are successful, what the ingredients are, may open the gates to a new paradigm of cross cultural relationship building that may have a power to overcome political, social, and economic boundaries issues. Memes might illuminate a new means for communication in a world that fragments and morphs daily. Understanding the language of memes might help us to understand the language of a globalized world.
I believe The World’s Cutest Frog captures a universally relatable story through a single squeak. On the surface, the squeak reminds us of dog and cat chew toys that squeak. Of course much of the world loves dogs and cats. But maybe that single squeak is more profound. I think the squeak sound resonates beyond the idea of the toy or the cute dog to an unconscious human place, tapping into an innate element of human nature. Maybe the sound resonates so deeply because it sounds similar to a whine or a sound that comes from a child or puppy, a vulnerable life-form. The squeak or whine is a sound that many humans instinctually respond to and feel compelled to address.
Possibly the squeak induces a desire to nurture or explore and understand why the innocent sound is coming from its source. Maybe the squeaking Desert Rain Frog taps into a deeper human instinctual response and desire to comfort, take care of, and moreover, to protect children or those in trouble. I believe we anthropomorphize this Desert Rain Frog in such a way and as such it becomes The World’s Cutest Frog. The Desert Rain Frog squeaking taps into a parental condition that many humans experience and as such becomes phenomenal fodder to become an internet meme sensation that transcends the barriers of our world. It turns out that The World’s Cutest Frog matters a lot!
I think it is fitting to pay tribute to the The World’s Cutest Frog meme by harnessing the smarts of poet William Carlos Williams:
so much depends
a Desert Rain
sprinkled with sand
beside the yellow
This blog was originally posted on The Urban Times.