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Vice
Vice

Juliette Eisner, co-director of Lil Bub & Friendz

Vice
Vice

When Juliette Eisner, a communications associate at Vice, heard about the Internet Cat Video Film Festival taking place at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota last year, she immediately knew she wanted to cover it. Her piece grew from a short film into the documentary Lil Bub and Friendz, which premieres today at the Tribeca Film Festival (you can also watch the film yourself after it premieres; more information on that here). Eisner co-directed the doc with Vice's senior producer, Andy Capper, and got to spend lots of time with Bub—one of the most popular cats on the Internet—in the process. Thankfully, Bub's fame doesn't seem to have gone to her head. "She’s not a diva at all," Eisner says. "She’s the best-behaved celebrity I’ve ever met." We spoke with Eisner about meeting Bub, how she found her experts, and why she thinks the internet loves cats.

mental_floss: I’m curious about the development process. I know Vice does a lot of this kind of thing, but how did this documentary in particular come about?

Juliette Eisner: Vice covers a lot of culture and other types of stories. We do a lot of stuff about the internet and today's pop culture icons, and this just seemed pretty interesting to us, right off the bat. I definitely think that these celebrity cats are our new pop culture icons—replacing the Hello Kittys and the Garfields of the world.

I heard about the internet cat video festival, which was last summer at the Walker Arts Center. I was really taken aback when I first read about it, because the Walker Arts Center is such an awesome, renowned establishment, and I thought it was really funny that they were going to do a whole festival [about] internet cat videos. I pitched the idea to the team, and Andy Capper, who’s the senior producer of Vice [and co-director of this documentary], loved it. And we just picked up and went to this weird, weird cat video festival. I had reached out to [Bub and her owner, Mike Bridavsky] when I found out that we were going to go, and I invited them to be our cat celebrity friends. They came, and from the moment that we met Bub, we knew that she was super special and that her story was really, really interesting. So we decided to continue filming.

I think a lot of that was also because the festival itself was incredibly packed. It was like 10,000 people who had traveled from all over to see these cat videos being played for an hour on a little screen. So we realized that we’d tapped into something bigger than just an internet phase. It definitely is something that’s relevant, today, on the internet, in the internet culture.

mental_floss: Everyone who hasn't had a chance to meet Bub is probably wondering—what’s she like?

JE: Oh, my God. In the film, when I meet her—that’s totally the first time I actually meet her, I’m not pretending or anything—it literally is like a punch in the stomach. You’re like, “Am I looking at a cartoon? Is this an alien? I’m not sure.” She really does have that effect on people. She definitely is a weird-looking creature; she’s not a normal-looking cat. But on top of being just interesting-looking, she has this very calm demeanor to her—Mike is always like, “She’s an other-worldly cat; she’s kind of the Buddha of all cats.” But it’s true. 

Tribeca Film Festival

mental_floss: You traveled all over the place to make this documentary. How long did it take?

JE: It started at the end of August, for the festival, and then we went to Bloomington, which is where Mike and Bub live, to visit her in her hometown. And then she also came to New York for some press event that she was doing and we filmed her there. And then in the middle, we spent our time getting to know more about this internet phenomenon. We were talking to the I Can Haz Cheezburger CEOs of the world, and all these people who study and are very knowing about how social [and] internet trends have changed. It was maybe a five-month filming process, but it was all kind of side-project-y style, late night shoots on the side, and then somehow it became this really awesome feature-length film.

mental_floss: You talked to a lot of people; how did you find them? 

JE: The majority of the pet owners we spoke to were from Minneapolis who were at the festival, and then the other internet people—Ben Lashes [who manages Internet meme celebrities], he’s based out of LA, and Grumpy Cat lives in Arizona—we just started realizing what a big community it was, and reached out to these people [including a professor]. And everyone was really on board to talk to us. It was not that hard to find [people], which is also interesting. This is something that people do spend a lot of time researching and looking into.

mental_floss: Lil Bub & Friendz is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. Was the plan always to submit it to a festival?

JE: Not at all. Our original plan was to do a short, fun piece for Vice about the [cat video] festival. But I think that, at the festival, we realized that not only could we make a fun story about Bub, but [that we could look at] how the internet has changed the way that you can have a career. People can be famous by putting their image online. And you can make money from merchandising yourself by just being a famous character that people know about. And it was really interesting to us.

mental_floss: Why do you think people on the internet are so crazy about cats? Do you have any insight into that now, having made this film?

JE: I’ve been thinking a lot about this—why certain viral videos do better than others. I think that cats definitely cater to the kind of people who are looking for something that’s going to make them smile or laugh, like cute animals, to begin with. But I also think that cats, specifically, as opposed to other animals—they are probably the more mysterious house pet. That’s kind of the stigma around cats: that they do their own thing, they’re the independent ones, they don’t care, and dogs are the opposite. I think people like to see images of cats doing weird things because it’s a way to see into the mystery of the creature, and get to know them a little bit better or see them doing things you wouldn’t normally see them do. But it still kind of is this big question mark.

In the doc, Amy Kellner, who created the Cute Show for Vice, who now works for the New York Times, said that for her, it was all about feeling better. These cats make her feel better about her day. She’ll put [a kittycam] on her screen while she’s working because it calms her. Bub gets fanmail daily, and a large majority of it is like, “I’m going through such a hard time, but Bub’s picture makes me happy.” People really look to these pictures and animals to find comfort.

mental_floss: In the process of making this, did you learn anything that really surprised you? 

JE: I was super surprised going to the event; that was the big shocking moment for me for sure, realizing how big of a thing this cat phenomenon is. And then realizing that it’s become something that you can really have a career from. Ben Lashes was also a really funny character for me, because he’s essentially a manager of a band, but his band is a famous internet celebrity meme. He does the same things that any band manager would. And the fact that there are people like that out there—I don’t think most people realize or understand that. That’s his job and he is doing a really good job at it.

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Smart Shopping
25 Dapper Outfit Choices for Fashionable Pets
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Lavishing your furry friends with adorable attire is a benefit of pet ownership that they don't mention on the adoption forms. Whether you prefer practical clothing like sweaters and jackets or statement pieces like bow ties and tutus, these dapper duds are perfect for a howl-iday or "gotcha day" gift, or simply for saying, "Who's the cutest little pupper in pajamas? You are!"

1. CASHMERE DOG SWEATER; FROM $165

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Canine Styles

This classic cable-knit cashmere sweater is a sophisticated look for Fido or Finn. Get it from Canine Styles, a luxury dog emporium in New York City that has plenty of posh and preppy outfits.

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2. TOGGLE DOG COAT; $85

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Canine Styles

This toggle coat (available in orange, navy, and tan) is as fashionable as it is warm. Made of Melton wool, it has Velcro closures to make getting dressed easy. It's great for long walks in the country.

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3. DOG TUXEDO; FROM $90

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This satin tuxedo is perfect for the canine members of your wedding party, though it will brighten up any other occasion as well. The custom, handmade outfit comes complete with a snappy bow tie.

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4. DOG BELLE DRESS; FROM $45

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The queen of your castle can feel like a Disney princess in her very own version of Belle's iconic yellow dress from Beauty and the Beast. This ball gown is made from yellow crepe satin with chiffon overlay on the bodice and features hand-painted gold detailing on the skirt. Enchanted rose not included.

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5. POODLE SKIRT OUTFIT FOR DOGS; $26

Rubies Pink Fifties Girl Pet Costume
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What if you could buy a 1950s poodle skirt for your poodle? This retro dress is comprised of a pink poodle skirt, striped bodice, and sequined belt, and comes with a bow headband.

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6. RIBBED CROCHET BUNNY SWEATER; $25

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Your snuggle-bunny will look like a little fancy-pants in this ribbed crochet sweater. Choose from seven colors, including this dashing deep red.

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7. BESPOKE MONOGRAM DOG SWEATER; FROM $155

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Bespoke clothing isn't just for humans: British luxury dog clothing brand Ruby Rufus will make your pooch a custom monogram sweater made with 100 percent Italian cashmere. You can even order it in your dog's favorite color.

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8. HOT PINK DOG TUTU; $17

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Etsy

Tutus look absolutely adorable on tiny humans and animals alike. If your pooch wants to get in touch with its inner ballerina, then grab this hot pink number from Etsy. Rave reviews are a sure thing.

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9. PINK DOG POLO SHIRT; $35

Dog Pink Polo Shirt
Canine Styles

This pink polo shirt is perfect for your preppy fur baby. It features not one but a veritable multitude of crocodiles. They'll be the most dapper dog at the country club.

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10. DOG BARN COAT WITH BROWN CORDUROY COLLAR; $85

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When it's time for a walk, your dog will look effortlessly chic in this fancy barn coat. It comes in navy, cranberry, orange, hot pink, and loden and features convenient pockets for anyone with opposable thumbs.

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11. WHITE PET NECK RUFF; $26

Pet Neck Ruff
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Your canine or kitty will look like their painting belongs in London's National Portrait Gallery with this Elizabethan neck ruff.

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12. CHICKEN SWEATER; $25

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Chickens can get cold when they're strutting around outside. A sweater (well, more like sweater vest) for your bird can also help prevent feather picking during molting season. Or, it can simply keep them warm while they stare pensively across a snowy landscape.

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13. PET CIRCLE SCARF; $15

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An infinity scarf is a perfect burst of color on a dreary early morning walk. The proprietor of Mitten Made on Etsy originally designed this wool snood for her miniature Dachshund to help keep her warm during the long, cold winters in Michigan.

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14. FAB DOG TRAVEL RAINCOAT; FROM $18

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This timeless yellow rain slicker will look great on any puppy when it's raining cats and dogs. It's made of 100 percent waterproof nylon shell that keeps fur dry. Bonus: It's perfect for an It Halloween costume.

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15. LACE CAT OR DOG COLLAR; FROM $10

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This handmade, white lace collar is a must-have for fancy felines. It's also embellished with a large rhinestone.

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16. FITWARM PENGUIN PAJAMAS FOR DOGS; FROM $10

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Keep your pupper warm on cold winter nights with these penguin PJs. They're great for doggie sleepovers or lazy weekends on the couch watching Netflix.

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17. PLAID CASHMERE DOG COAT; FROM $225

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Your dog will look like a proper gentleman in this smart plaid peacoat. This fine garment is made of cashmere with a faux fur lining and leather buttons, and is a perfect shield against chill and fog.

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18. SATIN PET BOW TIE; FROM $8

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This satin doggie bow tie is perfect for any occasion. It comes in several colors and features a Velcro fastener that makes it easy to attach to a collar. Plus, 10 percent of every sale goes to charity: specifically to SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Feeding Pets of the Homeless.

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19. RED DOG DRESS; FROM $34

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Your good boy or girl will look red carpet-ready in this elegant gown. The voluminous tulle skirt is to die for, and each bow is embellished with beads. Custom orders are also available.

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20. DOG TIE; FROM $13

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Your pooch will be ready to stun at any black tie event. This tie is designed like a collar, making it easy to dress your four-legged friend. This Etsy store gives back: 10 perfect of all sales are donated to an animal protection association.

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21. NAUTICAL DOG DRESS WITH MATCHING LEASH; $20

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BaxterBoo

Perfect for a day on the town or setting sail in a schooner, this is the sailor outfit you never knew your best furry friend needed. This vintage throwback also comes with a matching leash.

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22. TARTAN FLANNEL PET BOW TIE; $5.50

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Your dog or cat will turn heads in this flannel tartan bow tie. It has a convenient elastic loop that slides over your pup's collar.

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23. PUCCI DOG SHIRT; $23

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Only the fanciest dogs wear, err, Pucci. Grab this punny "designer" t-shirt for your pup. This high-quality cotton statement piece is perfect for small breeds.

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24. PINK POLKA DOT AND LACE DOG HARNESS DRESS; $20

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This feminine pink polka dot dress is simply adorable. It features a convenient built-in harness and comes with a matching leash.

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25. PET SWEATER VEST; $6

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Your dog or cat will look like an erudite Oxford professor in this sweater vest. Note that the button on the pocket is shaped like a bone.

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Animals
Switzerland Just Made It Illegal to Boil Live Lobsters
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No, lobsters don’t scream when you toss them into a pot of boiling water, but as far as the Swiss government is concerned, they can still feel pain. The path most lobsters take to the dinner plate is supposedly so inhumane that Switzerland has banned boiling lobsters alive unless they are stunned first, The Guardian reports.

The new law is based on assertions from animal rights advocates and some scientists that crustaceans like lobsters have complex nervous systems, making death by boiling incredibly painful. If chefs want to include lobster on their menus, they’re now required to knock them out before preparing them. Acceptable stunning methods under Swiss law include electric shock and the “mechanical destruction” of the lobster’s brain (i.e. stabbing it in the head).

The government has also outlawed the transportation of live lobsters on ice or in icy water. The animals should instead be kept in containers that are as close to their natural environment as possible until they’re ready for the pot.

Proponents of animal rights are happy with the decision, but others, including some scientists, are skeptical. The data still isn’t clear as to whether or not lobsters feel pain, at least in the way people think of it. Bob Bayer, head of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, told Mental Floss in 2014 that lobsters “sense their environment, but don’t have the intellectual hardware to process pain.”

If you live in a place where boiling lobsters is legal, but still have ethical concerns over eating them, try tossing your lobster in the freezer before giving it a hot water bath. Chilling it puts it to sleep and is less messy than butchering it while it’s still alive.

[h/t The Guardian]

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