How did a film, well over a decade old, raise over $1million for charity? The Ratatousical tells us everything we need to know about contemporary internet culture – dominated by the ‘extremely online’ generation, deeply ironic yet far more open to silliness than their predecessors, this is TikTok, and social media, at its finest.
Ratatouille, like Bee Movie before it, became an internet in-joke for no other reason than its inherent goofiness. Much like a honey bee romancing a human woman, Remy the Rat and his journey to celebrated chef has the right mix of feel-good factor and absurdity to qualify for recognised ‘wholesome meme’.
And, wholesomely enough, the Ratatousical began with a primary school teacher, absentmindedly dreaming up songs as she tidied her apartment. Having uploaded ‘Remy the Ratatouille, the rat of all my dreams’ for the benefit of her small group of friends, the song rapidly went viral, with creators both high and low profile providing their own contributions. Ultimately, the burgeoning Ratatousical subculture caught the eye of an actual Broadway producer, and from there, a fully-fledged musical was born.
Ahead of its one night only debut, the musical sold over 160,000 tickets in just two days. It has launched careers which might otherwise have languished, and given the arts a much needed shot in the arm.
So, what is the relevance of the Ratatousical? What can we learn from Remy? First of all, TikTok doesn’t need theatrics (at least to begin with) – by tapping into the culture at its core, you can go viral with a song you made up while scrubbing the sink. Secondly, with social media levelling the playing field, anything is possible. You can access big brands, stars and opportunities by capitalising on what happens to be trending this week, month, or year.
As we (please punt me into outer space) continue to weather the new normal, the Ratatousical is an example of what content, not only on social, but beyond, could look like moving forward. It’s collaboration and crowdsourcing, it’s culture which marries high and low brow, it’s making a musical out of a cartoon rat, it’s the future.