clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is The Grinch the new Once-ler, Tumblr’s autosexual Lorax idol?

If nothing in this sentence makes sense to you, strap in, because you’re in for a wild ride

the animated grinch shrieking Universal Pictures

A new Grinch movie in theaters means that children everywhere will get their generation’s version of the beloved Dr. Seuss tale, just in time for the holiday rush.

It also means that a specific subsection of the internet is now recoiling in fear, because of what happened last time there was an animated Dr. Seuss tale featuring a lanky antihero figure out in theaters.

Namely, they’re freaking out that the Grinch will become the new Once-ler.

Even before the new Grinch movie came out (back when its projected release date was 2017), people knew that the formula of Dr. Seuss antihero plus the deep frenzy of the internet would spell disaster.

If you know what this seemingly ridiculous conglomeration of words alludes to, then I am very sorry. If you don’t, you’re probably wondering what, exactly there is to fear from the Grinch movie turning into a “Once-ler” situation. In that case, we will kindly inform you right now that this is your opportunity to turn back and live in blissful ignorance before continuing on.

[Ed. note: We warned you.]

Making things that most don’t consider inherently sexual into very sexual things is something that the internet has always done and always will. A month and a half ago, they did it to Bowser. Before that, it was Venom. And in 2012, it was the Once-ler.

Voiced by Ed Helms, the Once-ler was Illumination Entertainment’s version of the regretful villain from The Lorax, who chops down all the trees and becomes an environmentalist’s worst nightmare and a corporate industrialist’s golden boy. While in the original animated Lorax special, released in 1972, the Once-ler was just depicted with a set of green sleeves poking out of a window, the directors of the 2012 version decided to put a charming face and actor Ed Helms’ voice to the character driving most of the movie’s plot.

There was something about Once-ler’s lanky design, his mop of dark hair, and his arc from wide-eyed optimist to edgy bad boy that really spoke to a section of people on Tumblr. He quickly became a fan favorite, spawning massive amounts of fan art and devoted blogs. Essentially, when it comes to popular internet fandoms, it’s not just about having a hot character to fawn over but having a hot character to put into romantic (and yes, usually sexual) relationships with other hot characters. Because the Once-ler was one of the only grown male character in the whole movie, people were at a loss. There was no one to ship with the Once-ler.

So they started shipping him with himself.

It started off with fans pairing the pre-successful, naive Once-ler with his older, more corrupt self (usually referred to as Greed-ler). It was dubbed “Oncest.”

But that wasn’t enough. It’s popular Tumblr practice to create “askblogs,” where users will lightly roleplay as their favorite characters as others send in messages with prompts and what not. But everyone wanted to be the Onceler, so everyone started clamoring to create a different version of the Once-ler. There was Swag Once-ler, Greed Pimp Once-ler, Gentleman Once-ler ... basically any-adjective-you-could-think-of Once-ler.

There was a Once-ler based on the 1972 version of the movie. There were gender-swapped Once-lers. There were Once-lers with two heads. There was every possible variation of Once-ler imaginable and more.

All these different variations of the same character ended up colliding, with people writing fan fictions of these fan fictions, and making fan art of these fan fictions of fan fictions. It eventually got to the point where they were just so separate from the original imagining of the Once-ler that associating these characters and universes with the Once-ler and The Lorax was more of a nod than anything else.

The Once-ler fandom was so loud and spread across Tumblr that, even if you had no idea what the hell Once-ler was from, your dashboard was plastered with people reblogging and posting Oncest that you eventually found out one way or another. It wasn’t so much that the Once-ler fandom existed; it was the fact that even if you didn’t want to see it, you would see it just because it was everywhere.

Hell, even Once-ler’s voice, Ed Helms, found out at one point, which prompted a bunch of Tumblr users urging people to just stop it, because it creeped him out.

It died down eventually, as most frenzied fandoms do. But for those who were on Tumblr in 2012, the whispers of the Once-ler fandom still linger, and all it takes is but a strong breath of wind to nudge them to the forefront of the mind.

For instance, someone mentioning how hot the Grinch is.

Those who remember those days steel themselves for what could possibly become a full-blown Once-ler redux. Those who don’t remember have begun to stumble across this smooth, smirking Grinch and contemplate if he really is sexy — and if this means they should do something about it. Even those who do know about the Once-ler situation and find the Grinch sexy say that they’re not going to fall into the traps of just how weird Once-ler got.

The internet holds its breath; only time will tell if masses of Grinch fans will rise up to their keyboards and tablets and flood their blogs with Grinch-cest. Till then, we can only wait.

The Grinch is out in theaters now!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon