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Dead Squirrel Girl’s mom fires up YouTube career

Remember Dead Squirrel Girl? Now add a bikini, a flaming hula hoop, and puppets, and you’ve got a recipe for viral-video quirkiness.


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Internet Culture

Remember Dead Squirrel Girl?

Now add a bikini, a flaming hula hoop, and puppets, and you’ve got a recipe for viral-video quirkiness.

That video of three-year-old Thea Malik clad only in her underwear dancing with a dead squirrel has now been viewed 3 million times — and turning her mom into yet another YouTube fame-seeker.

In the weeks that followed after the video went viral, Sean Leonard and Jenny Malik found themselves actively engaging in a digital world they’d once sworn to forgo.

When I talked to Leonard and Malik a couple weeks ago, they told me they have a media-free household, with no Internet access at home. But after the video of their daughter, filmed three years ago,  went viral last month, Malik and Leonard, both artists, felt compelled to respond. They’ve done this by posting videos of their thoughts and experiences — what some called “vlogging,” short for “videoblogging,” as hoopeverlasting on YouTube.

“It’s kind of exciting, we feel like we’re engaged in this whole community… and it’s become a much bigger conversation,” says Leonard. “The world is pounding on our door asking us, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ and if they ask, I will respond, but in an artistic and respectable manner.”

Leonard expressed anger over the “rude and crude remarks” about his daughter and wife, and being called “trailer trash” on Tosh.0, the Comedy Central TV show about viral videos which also helped launch Rebecca Black’s infamous “Friday” song.

Not one to be negative, Leonard has turned the experience into a positive: “Having the whole world staring down at us has really stirred my fire,” he says, regarding his art and life’s work.  

New Internet citizens Malik and Leonard’s first topic: the anonymously malicious comments so commonly found online.  

Their first video was a five-minute chat by Malik, where she responds to the haters — and, in the process, drawing yet more. Malik’s most memorable line, as she pointed out how easy it is to spew hate and encouraged others to take chances: “I’m going to do as this squirrel did: He went out on a limb.”

One commenter called it a “rambling, wishywashy, incoherent response video.”  

Malik’s latest video apologized for the “droning” nature of her first response video — “I’m just trying to be myself” — and also for uploading multiple videos sideways. The apology video was aptly titled “Boobies,” a wry reference to lessons Malik is learning about Internet sex appeal. (In the original video, Leonard accidentally zoomed in on his wife’s chest, to the amusement of many viewers.)

Leonard participates in one video subtitled “Parenting Basics 101,” in which Malik pretends to be Thea and Leonard acts out the “correct” way to deal with a child that picks up a dead squirrel—with yelling and the use of bleach. (In the original video, Leonard spoke gently to Thea and gave her a bath off-camera afterwards; he drew criticism for not appearing more concerned about the possibility of germs.)

The raw awkwardness may be here to stay. Malik has yet to learn to edit her videos, and suggested she doesn’t intend to. But she just might have what it takes to become a minor YouTube star.

She’s appeared in a bathing suit dancing and doing tricks with a hula hoop—sometimes the hula hoop is on fire!—and in one of the video responses to all the hate she let it be known that she’s a personal chef.

Fire, bikinis, cooking? Malik’s obvious next step to viral-video fame: a Dead Squirrel cooking series.


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