In 2013, 30 million Google searches just used the word ‘cats’. Grumpy Cat’s income rivals Gwyneth Paltrow’s (and here’s betting her website out-performs GOOP). Such is the power of cats over cyberspace that (inadvertent) restrictions on cat videos have been linked to a revolution in Tunisia.
Why are cats so damn popular? Their cuteness is key: academics have concluded that their resemblance to human babies (big eyes, small noses, dome-shaped heads) trigger our evolutionary nurturing instincts. And of course, cat-love is its own language, spanning cultures and uniting strangers over a love of furry faces. Unlike dogs – and much like fellow cuddly clickbait Ryan Gosling – they’re inscrutable, making them perfect for us to project ideas and feelings onto.
Join host Mel Campbell, along with Simon Crerar, Radha O'Meara and others, as our feline-loving panel investigates the appeal of cats – and the lure of cuteness in general – in popular culture, as epitomised by the democratic playground of the internet. Is cuteness as currency (and cultural diplomacy) tied to gender? And if we as a society are more obsessed with it than ever, does that mean we’re dumbing down … or is there another explanation?
Simon Crerar is BuzzFeed's Australia Editor and leads an editorial team dedicated to growing the social news and entertainment company's Australian audience with viral content by and for Australians.
Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and critic who co-hosts the fortnightly literature and culture podcast The Rereaders. She is a columnist on writing at Overland magazine, and a university lecturer and writer-for-hire on film, TV and media. Her first book was the nonfiction investigation Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit (2013), and she’s currently co-writing a second romantic comedy novel with Anthony Morris; their first was The Hot Guy (2017).
Dr Radha O'Meara is a lecturer in screenwriting in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. She has studied in Australia, the USA and Germany and taught at universities in Australia and New Zealand.
Radha has created fiction and non-fiction for film, video, television and new media. Her critical research concentrates on serial narrative form in contemporary film and television. She has published on soap operas, superheroes and cat videos.
Jason Potts is a Professor of Economics at RMIT University. He specialises in the economics of new social network technologies and the institutions that facilitate them. He has a cat, called Dog.