April 7, 2011

An Interview with “Little Hipster Mermaid”

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What is the issue?

The Little Hipster Mermaid is sort of like White Girl Problems, only with flaming red hair, a Disney lineage, and fins instead of feet. She writes on Twitter about everything from class warfare (“I want to be where the bourgeoisie aren’t.”) to real-estate (“I’m a pretty big fan of Mid-Century sand castles.”); celeb feuds (“Sometimes I think Lindsay Lohan dies her hair blonde just so she won’t have to compete with me.”) to capitalism (“She sells seashells by the seashore. Ugh. Shell sellout.”)

Thought Catalog was granted the exclusive first interview with the creator and voice of Little Hipster Mermaid, Braden Graeber.

Thought Catalog: So, Little Hipster Mermaid, how did this come about?

Braden Graeber: When I came across the movie still on Tumblr, I knew I had to make it my own. I have red hair and Ray-Ban glasses and can often be found making faces like [that]. Like any good twenty something with an understanding of Adobe Creative Suite, I knew what I had to do. After 3 minutes of tense Photoshop action, I posted it as my Facebook profile picture, then later to my Tumblr. I made a few variations, with text poking fun at some of the hipster aspects of the Little Mermaid. People must have thought it was funny: in just a few days, it was reblogged over 10,000 times.

Credit: Harrison Freeman and Braden Graeber

Since the meme went viral, I’ve been using this hand drawn version on everything, because I obviously don’t own the rights to the Disney still (and come on, what’s more hipster and more rad than something hand drawn in monochromatic pastel?)

TC: What makes the Little Mermaid such a hipster?

BG: When Roger Ebert reviewed the Little Mermaid he described Ariel as, “a fully realized female character who thinks and acts independently, even rebelliously, instead of hanging around passively while the fates decide her destiny.”

The little mermaid was basically the first post-modern animated feature produced by Disney. I think that in capturing a certain late 80s rebellious zeitgeist, they’ve given us some good material to poke fun at today. Ariel was born into royalty but rejects her status; I think this speaks to the whole idea of affected suburban ‘hipsters’ who pursue a ‘fantasy urban lifestyle’ that is more or less defined by their local Urban Outfitters.

TC: Where you credited from day one for this mermaid meme?

BG: Yes then no then yes again. It had originally linked back to my blog when it was first posted, but once it made the big meme generator websites, I considered it lost — thankfully when Buzzfeed ran the article that sent it viral, I got an email asking if I’d like to receive credit. I sent them links to the HipsterMermaid Twitter and the Facebook fanpage, but not to my own — as much as I’d like to be known as ‘the guy who put glasses on a mermaid’…

TC: If LHM were reading this interview, what would she likely have to say?

BG: She’d roll her eyes with disgust for getting so much attention, then retreat to her room to write an angsty blog post. I think she’s more bothered by the recent explosion on Tumblr of other Disney characters getting Ray-Bans than she is by anything else.

TC: Before LHM, what were you doing? And what are you doing now?

BG: I’m an Environmental Design student at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Before LHM I had a lot of work to get done. Now I have a lot of work to get done and the pressure to say something funny on Twitter a few times a day. I’m holding out for someone to hire me for something that combines my design interests with self-perceived sense of humor. Either that, or to have Tina Fey or Lorne Michaels decide they want to adopt a 6’1″ redheaded son.

TC: … a redheaded son with a thing for Disney princesses.

BG: Disney was a huge part of my childhood. I was raised by Disney on VHS, and growing up in Southern California, spent a lot of time going to Disneyland — this probably explains my fundamental inability to grasp reality.  My first job, ironically enough, was at the park. I worked there for a few years as a river guide on the canoes and as a butler in the Haunted Mansion. Walt Disney is a hero.

TC: What would LHM think of Williamsburg, Brooklyn?

BG: She’d probably think it’s OK… It’s her scene. And it’s close to the water. She likes that.

TC: You were in TIME magazine, that’s awesome.

BG: Thank you, you’re too kind. I can only hope that, one day, something that I put some legitimate thought and effort into will be as successful. TC mark

Hand drawn Little Hipster Mermaid graphic created by Harrison Freeman and Braden Graeber.
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