What makes an Internet trend these days? The answer vacillates somewhere in the territory between outrageous behavior from public figures — statements, feuds, Instagrams, actions, fashion choices, hot takes, stepping outs, the breaking of silences, etc. — and outrageous behavior from regular old non-famous individuals who just happen to have iPhones.
And then there’s a third school of viral fascination that arises for non-human trends which exist in a nebulous ether of non-definition, less explicable in their popularity than any grouchy cat or dog-encountering-baby video. We know them by but a phrase: The dress with two colors. The llamas who escaped. The shark on the left. Rachel Dolezal.
Today, the Internet has made famous another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad meme: Pizza Rat.
Ostensibly first made famous by whomsoever decides these things, the video features a rat (of phylum Chordata) carrying a piece of pizza (of genus So Bad For Me But Ugh I Love It) down the steep stairs of a New York City subway platform. “Live your best life,” the videographer whispers, sending his wish to the ears of a rodent who perhaps has already vowed to do so.
But the rat doesn’t get the pizza. And the Internet gets — nay, is forced to accept — Pizza Rat.
The headlines of this little mammal’s media pick-up are already all over the place. USA Today goes literal, almost scientific: “Watch a rat carry a slice of pizza into the subway.” Mashable opines for a better world: “Rat carrying pizza slice will teach you what it means to have a dream.” And New York Magazine waxes J. Jonah Jameson with a hot takedown: “Pizza Rat Is No Hero.”
Why do we allow this repulsive combination of words to ruin our Monday, already the most emotionally precarious of weekdays? In its URLs and hashtags, Pizza Rat is disgusting. The name alone is just cause for vomit. There is no mystery when you join the words “pizza” and “rat,” which separately are perfectly acceptable early-level Rosetta Stone concepts but together create at least six-to-eight vile connotations.
Rats are small, plentiful, and carry a blood lust. Pizza is warm, gooey, and comes in a variety of flavors.
The two should remain separate, save for the Ninja Turtles and maybe one scene in Ratatouille. But we of the Internet, with our sick whims of fancy and sadistic overuse of exclamation points, refuse to abide by our fathers’ rules, and we’ve thusly created a monster that has ruined pizza, rats, and the American dream that you can achieve something greater than your circumstances. The rat does not get the pizza! Do we circulate his plight out of sympathy, or is Pizza Rat the Internet’s next great experiment in schadenfreude? You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself seeing the video of Pizza Rat.