It’s best to approach the world of social media influencers with a healthy amount of skepticism, lest you find yourself falling prey to its many traps. The world of pet influencers is a bit less soul-sucking, though, and according to a new report from the New York Times, it’s also egalitarian, because now animals found in the trash—skunks, opossums, raccoons and the like—can find fame on Instagram, too. Introducing... the verminfluencers.
Apparently there’s an entire subsect of these celebrity vermin that can draw real crowds across the country. People uninterested in senior pups or keyboard cats love to see underdog animals get their shine. Victoria Armour, a 25-year-old fan of a well-known opossum named Starfish, explained to the Times that there’s an element of relatability in fawning over a “trash animal” instead of a domesticated one:
“It’s a social movement. We can all relate to an animal who’s just focused on eating and rummaging through trash. We’re no longer liking the fluffy animals. We want the weirdos. We want the jaded ones. We want the ones who were kicked out of society.”
As much as I recoil at the “I’m trash” internet rhetoric inherent in her ironic observation, or that it sounds remarkably similar to Jughead’s “I’m a weirdo” speech from the first season of Riverdale, she’s got a point. They’re cute as heck!
The critter-rebrand has been a long and arduous one—and because the majority of these animals aren’t domesticated, they aren’t protected by the same laws—but a fondness for vermin actually has a long history. As Linda Kalof, a professor of sociology and animal studies scholar at Michigan State University told the Times, “[Vermin] were considered much more beautiful than common cats, which were still considered pests,” and that includes rats. “[Jack] Black [an 18th century London rat catcher] began keeping unusually colored rats, which he decorated with ribbons and sold to women as pets.”
Verminfluencing may just be a fad, but I’d love to see some freaky folks walking their de-scented skunk on a lovely spring day.