Children’s entertainment superstar Peppa Pig released her first album, aptly titled My First Album, on July 19. The impact of a true artiste like Peppa was immediate — no other female pop icon could ever dream of reaching the heights Peppa did with the nuance achieved in lead single, “It’s Peppa Pig.” This ... is piggy pop. The music landscape was forever changed.
Or so Peppa’s “stans” on Twitter would have you believe.
Leading up to and following the release of My First Album, Twitter gays and the pop music-focused have been ironically hyping up Peppa to the extent that it feels genuine. The reaction is quintessential shitposting. The album is for actual kids, with sweet songs about things like going to the zoo, but has been inflated to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion.
How did Peppa leap from performing the innocuous “Bing Bong Zoo” to “Peppa Pig announced that she will be be taking over Stark Industries following Tony’s death”? Why is Peppa occupying the stan Twitter spotlight right now?
Peppa the Pig has meme pedigree, and her moment in the spotlight is a prime example of how online stan and gay Twitter culture elevates female pop stars to icon status, whether they’re real or not.
who invented the music industry ?— avery-stream traffic (@peppaslullaby) July 22, 2019
rt for peppa pig
like for beyonce pic.twitter.com/RoEjqSFxq1
Peppa Pig: a meme origin story
Let’s backtrack: Peppa Pig is the titular star of Peppa Pig, a massively popular British children’s cartoon that began airing in the U.K. in 2006. The series has successfully crossed the pond and found its footing in the U.S. to the extent that American parents have reported their kids picking up British accents after watching too much Peppa Pig.
Has your kid suddenly developed a British accent like this cute girl from the Charlotte-area?— NBC Charlotte (@wcnc) February 13, 2019
Well, it might be due to the "Peppa-pig syndrome" https://t.co/X2UCz6WSVo (Video: Brandi Nichole Hall) pic.twitter.com/Fba7pwiFvu
Peppa’s internet fame didn’t stop there. The show, like most children’s entertainment, is hilariously deadpan and surreal (although Peppa Pig typically skews more wholesome than cursed). One clip in which Peppa shares her favorite music with a group of other kids has been particularly dragged through the meme wringer. While the original episode containing the scene in question aired in 2010, edits that superimposed songs like DJ Assault’s “Ass-N-Titties” began popping up in 2014. The format is simple: in the clip, a group of older kids share their favorite music, declare that they don’t like kids’ music — “no, no, no!” — then listen to Peppa’s music, which she prefaces by describing as “very grown-up.” It’s an evergreen meme format easily adaptable to hit songs like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” so long as the music fits the grown-up criteria:
Peppa got her second bout of virality in March 2018 thanks to a 5-year-old clip in which she suddenly hangs up on one of her friends, Suzy Sheep. After lamenting to her mother that she can’t figure out to whistle, Peppa rings her friend Suzy to determine whether or not she’s alone in her plight. Suzy can’t whistle, but quickly manages to produce a sound after Peppa explains it to her. Peppa immediately, and brutally, hangs up the phone. The image captures the full spectrum of emotion in one deadpan look.
“Congratulations American Express card holder! You just won a free crui-“— Anthony Edward Stark (@staynsee_) March 17, 2018
Peppa’s place as a background meme icon is solid. She’s famous enough to have almost milkshake-ducked after a 2009 clip of her not correcting her narrator for saying “firemen” instead of “firefighters” resurfaced on social media. Leading up to the album release, a tweet declaring her to be over 7 feet tall made the rounds. At this point, Peppa humor is funny because it just is.
Peppa Pig as a gay icon meme
The official Peppa Pig account announced My First Album on Twitter on July 15, several days before it’s release, but Peppa got a push into the shitposting stream by rapper Iggy Azalea. Azalea also released her third album In My Defense on July 19, and joked on Twitter that Peppa’s release was going to overshadow her own. To be fair ... I haven’t seen anyone talking about In My Defense on my feed.
Treating Peppa like serious competition became the focus of the joke, which was further popularized by other celebrities like Lil Nas X, who alluded to an “Old Town Road” remix featuring Peppa on July 22. Given the rapper’s chart-topping remix strategy and propensity to memes, I would be exactly zero percent surprised if he released a remix sampling Peppa’s “Expert Daddy Pig.”
Aside from basic jokes about the album selling out, the true focus of the meme influx has been to elevate Peppa to full-on idol status. The phenomena is particularly tied to K-pop fandom: Numerous accounts continue to pop up and pretend to be Peppa Pig — or written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet, 페파피그 — fansites (a K-pop specific term that signifies an individual or group of individuals that takes and distributes photos of idols) and stans.
By jokingly placing Peppa on the female pop star pedestal, the cartoon pig ultimately qualified as a gay icon, following in the footsteps of Jepsen, Kim Petras, and other women who, regardless of whether they’re queer themselves, have massive fan bases of gay men who claim them as icons. The phenomenon has existed throughout a good chunk of the 20th century, tracing back to the likes of Judy Garland and Bette Midler. Broadly, a gay icon makes a direct impact on the gay community through their work, their advocacy, or some combination of the two. In the modern age, gay icons predominately are figures who provide cultural capital to the gay community; female pop stars frequently forge relationships with their gay fan bases in a way that makes them feel seen.
With music fandom being by nature obsessive and dedicated, supporting an artist in the digital age means streaming their music. With all of the hype Peppa was getting on Twitter, people were bound to actually give her album a listen. The phenomenon went from joke to tangible when people started to notice that Peppa’s related artists on Spotify were comprised of artists like Slayyyter, Rina Sawayama, and Loona (stan Loona) — all gay icons in their own right.
YALL PLEASE I CANNOT THE RELATED ARTISTS OOGRMOGMEA pic.twitter.com/3QtOrwsvPY— Snorp (@Sn0rp) July 23, 2019
The effect carries over to Spotify’s auto-generated radio playlist, “Peppa Pig Radio,” which is determined via algorithm and appears to be somewhat tailored to individual users. However, screenshots posted on Twitter reveal a stupidly funny list of commonalities between the artists Spotify recommends to fans of Peppa Pig.
Frankly, the list slaps. I’ve been listening to it for six hours straight. If anything, this proves that gay Twitter is more than willing to overcommit to the bit (and that Spotify’s suggestions are surprisingly malleable).
every gay person is listening to peppa pig and as a result ... peppa pig radio on spotify is the best playlist of all time .... pic.twitter.com/bRmG7KuIgX— nicole boyce (@nicolewboyce) July 23, 2019
The leap from meme sweetheart to gay icon wouldn’t have been possible without Peppa’s already solid standing on social media. Ultimately, the contents of her album itself aren’t really important. The fact that it signifies her debut as a musician is what matters — it qualifies her for parody pop stardom. And even putting aside the music, contemporary queer culture has a habit of adapting nonsensical figures like the Babadook or Mothman as gay icons — why not Peppa, too?