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I Feel Like I Can Be Vulnerable Around You: The Strange Positivity of ‘Hi Stranger’

Kirsten Lepore/YouTube
Kirsten Lepore/YouTube

This year has been rough on the lot of us, and carrying our own emotional and physical burdens while also trying to stay supportive of our friends and loved ones has taken a toll.

There’s only so much each of us can do when it feels like we’re all dragging the weight of the world on our shoulders. Though it’s only spring, and there’s a lot of 2017 left to survive, there have been glimmers of hope and strange optimism. Perhaps none so eccentric as Kirsten Lepore‘s naked friend, romantic, life coach, and star of the latest memetic video hit, “Hi Stranger.”

Originally created as a part of a short film anthology for the Late Night Work Club, Lepore’s “Hi Stranger” was just one of a handful of pieces that dealt with the topic of strangers in varying ways. Though many of the shorts aren’t quite as optimistic as Lepore’s, the whole anthology only clocks in at around 43 minutes and is worth watching — just don’t be surprised if a number of them hit you right in the heart with emotions.

At least “Hi Stranger” will be there to remind you that you’re beautiful, even if the genderless creature calming you also happens to be tremendously creepy. But also comforting? It’s weird.

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Perhaps that’s just one of the reasons “Hi Stranger” has resonated with meme culture so strongly this year. Even though the short debuted back in November, “Hi Stranger” has really only become part of the public consciousness in the past month or so. Kirsten Lepore is no stranger to being a darling of the internet, given her history of shorts and her work on Cartoon Network darling, Adventure Time. As writer and director of “Bad Jubies,” a seventh season episode of Adventure Time, Lepore attracted a large audience that was keen to her stop-motion work. That many of those same people would latch onto “Hi Stranger” as an inspirational meme for the dumpster fire that has been 2017 isn’t all that surprising.

It has been a joy to behold however, watching the world at large come to grips with this little shape of a person calming and soothing viewers with its supportive dialogue.

Not to be confused with the “Hey, Stranger…” meme, which is all about attempts at random ancient hook-ups, “Hi Stranger” is more life-affirming, positive, and about letting you know that even in the darkest timeline, someone out there is thinking of you. Though more than a few memes have taken to having the little nude creature crudely dolled up in the fashion of recognizable characters giving you permission to look at their butts, some of the best have just been compiling reactions to the video itself.

Don’t worry. That’s how we felt at first, too. Then the little humanoid’s words started to resonate. Even though it didn’t know us, it felt like it’d been by our side this whole time. How could it know so much about us when we know so little about it? It’s not clear where Lepore’s character lives or comes from, but it’s not a world like ours. Still, it manages to understand human emotion and character in spite those elements. I mean, it can summon fantastical trees it created from beneath the ground, but also knows grade school memes like fortune tellers. Does that mean this thing has context for what cooties are in addition to having the skills to soothe moods like an ASMR pro?

Even Reddit has been trying to figure this dang thing out and keeps getting distracted by the aspirational siren song. Just because Lepore’s creation is trying to keep things positive doesn’t mean people haven’t been able to find the fun in being cherished by an adorable alien.

Hey there

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Tagging a friend on Instagram and saying nothing has been a long-running gag on the social photography app, but the awkwardness of “Hi Stranger” has elevated the concept to all new levels of creeptasticness. Especially when Instagrammers start putting themselves in the stranger’s place.

Lepore’s creation has also spawned itself into new ways of thinking about old internet problems. Sliding into someone’s DMs has always been a bit of a shady practice, and seeing the slightly encouraging spin on it is a little off-putting. Though perhaps it would be equally as bizarre for the person giving you unwanted attention, and they’d back off. Then again, this is the internet and if someone is comfortable sliding into your DMs already, there’s probably little you can do to wave them away.

The stranger isn’t above mixing it up with older memes either, as clever people have found a way to team their newest darling with aging favorites to make them both vital again. Evil Kermit isn’t exactly old, but the veracity with which it’s been used certainly made it feel like the welcome had long worn out. It also lends to the idea that maybe Evil Kermit wasn’t quite so evil after all.

Please, no more Netflix and Chills. Don’t ruin my precious gelatinous baby with such trite efforts.

Oh, wait. I’m forgetting the clear advice from the stranger itself. It’s wonderful and worthy of being loved. It really is. I just have to let myself believe it.

Next: 'Cash Me Outside' Meme Explained

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