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Why is Smokey the Bear such a buzzkill?

He will kill your fires and your memes.


Selena Larson

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 5, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 4:09 pm CDT

For a mascot that helps prevent forest fires, Smokey Bear has no chill.

The beloved bear that has warned us of smoldering fires and hot grills since 1944 is now living his best life on the Internet, and from memes to fake national holidays, Smokey is taking everything entirely too seriously. Because forest fires are no joke.

In Los Angeles county, the Calabasas fire continues to grow since igniting on Saturday, forcing 5,000 people from their homes in the area. Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blaze that’s burned over 500 acres. 

Not one to miss a moment to throw smoke, Smokey Bear was quick to remind us even celebrities in L.A. are responsible for helping to prevent wildfires. (No mention, however, of Drake in this Calabasas tweet.)

It might be fun imagining Kim Kardashian and North putting out a burnt marshmallow in the dirt before tossing it in a trash bin so no errant sparks cause a sugar-infused forest fire. But somehow I doubt many celebrities go up to the mountains and tell ghost stories around smoldering flames. 

Smokey’s celeb shade is just the latest from the feed that often reads like the Nihilist Arby’s of the U.S. Forest Service. On National Donut Day (which my colleague Gabe Bergado ceremoniously boycotted this year because donuts shouldn’t be relegated to just one day), Smokey couldn’t even let us eat our bear claws and cream-filled eclairs in peace without reminding us of the ever-present fire danger from forests to city parks. 

This doesn’t just stop with donuts. Virtual reality is making its way to the hands of consumers, and Smokey is excited. Because in VR, you will finally be able to burn yourself alive in a gigantic blaze of flames from a simulated forest fire. 

To know what it’s like. For fire prevention.

Perhaps the U.S. Forest Service will take a page out of the Army’s playbook; already the U.S. military uses VR to train soldiers for combat.

Even the Internet’s most beloved mom can’t escape Smokey’s claws as he tries to usurp her cheery virality with a request to put his own face in the place of the Chewbacca mask. We know what Chewy, a fellow man dressed up in an animal costume, would say about that. 

Smokey frequently visits community centers and schools, educating children about fire prevention. In the quintessential “fellow kids,” way, he even embraces the style of today’s youth. That fashion faux pas culminated in a terrifying photoshop demonstrating what the giant bear would look like in skinny jeans. Come on, bear friend, you of all creatures should know that skinny jeans are terrible for outdoorsy adventures. 

And, just in case you’re not scared enough about the bear’s all-seeing knowledge of fire-starting criminals and miscreants and drunken college students who forget to put out fires with their flat beers before falling asleep next to them, his Instagram will remind you.

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*First Published: Jun 5, 2016, 3:39 pm CDT