Do you remember Tweety Bird before the mid-90s? It was a small yellow bird with a speech impediment and a seemingly low IQ. His signature line, “I tawt I taw a puddy cat! I did! I DID taw a puddy cat” was inane, but also the 1940s precursor to the “I can has cheezburger” meme. Those were gentler times.
Somewhere around 1996, Tweety became the face for all of our mid-90s sass and snark. He began wearing “urban” fashions on children’s t-shirts. Like any self-respecting inner-city child, I had a giant teal sweatshirt emblazoned with Tweety wearing a pair of overalls – with, I think, one strap jauntily unfastened. Many of these shirts were Tweety making a stank face, wearing something like an oversized plaid hoodie, under the word “Whatever” in graffiti type.
He’s just throwing up his hands in confusion next to a 90s Sass Vocab List. Again, this is a baby canary who, until this point, was known for announcing that maybe he possibly saw a cat.
Oh, thanks Tweety. Nobody.
If a grown-ass woman was having a bad day, she didn’t put up a vague Facebook message saying “Ugh…” and wait for friends to flood into the comments asking what was wrong. She couldn’t. It was 1997. She warned everyone with this fantastic t-shirt instead:When a long-suffering 90s mother – as in, an adult woman who is old enough to reproduce – was sick of her kids whining, she let the t-shirt do the parenting for her:
Let me again emphasize, T-Shirt Tweety bore very little resemblance to the cartoon character from Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes:
What began as a very stupid child bird who couldn’t talk right became an avatar for sass.
As T-Shirt Tweety waned in popularity, other characters filled his place. In my rural college town, sometimes we would go to the local Wal-Mart, where you could buy any number of shirts featuring Betty Boop next to a sentence like “My Boyfriend’s Out Of Town!” We always discussed buying these shirts in XXL, along with some leggings, and wearing them out to frat parties after we had reached the point of not caring. [I went to college during that window of time when leggings had fallen from fashion and hadn’t bounced back yet. Today’s equivalent would probably be wearing light wash, super-mega-low rise bootcuts like Paris Hilton in her heyday.]
It sure don’t, Betty. It sure don’t.
It’s almost like a certain kind of person needs to express that they have a sassy personality – bordering on angry, to be honest – but they don’t want to do it themselves. Enter the avatars of sass: Tweety, Betty Boop, and now, in the social media age, the Minion Meme.
It didn’t take long for the minions to become the stars of the Despicable Me franchise. They’re a bunch of innocent yet mischievous creatures who speak a nonsense language. Ask any 4-year-old.
But ask any 44-year-old what minions say, and they’ll probably spout off a sassy slogan about their “ex” or an inspirational quote about friendship.
In 2015, I guess more of us express ourselves on the internet than on our t-shirts. Yet, some people still need an avatar to express feelings of indignance, defiance, or …. nostalgia??
Again, minions are tiny creatures who wear overalls and say things like “bee-do.” Except on the internet, where they are the adorable yellow face of your feelings about “the Mondays”:
Or your ex:
Or… um… depression?
Now that I think about it, the minions are just part of a great legacy of sass. Children who wore t-shirts with Tweety making the “loser” sign became young adults wearing Betty Boop calling herself a “shopaholic.” Then, full-fledged adults posting minions next to some Nicki Minaj lyrics. For whatever reason, some people just like to express themselves with Sass Avatars.