Abbie Heppe, Creator of the Pepper-Spray Baby Jesus Sweater, on Her Viral Sensation (There's a T-Shirt Now!)
Just yesterday, to her great surprise, Community Manager for Respawn Entertainment Abbie Heppe's ugly Christmas sweater pretty much blew up, spreading holiday cheer all over the Internet. Ugly Christmas sweaters and the Internet are a great pairing in general; this time it was extra-special: Heppe's sweater features the meme of the moment, the "casually pepper spraying cop," targeting the ultimate Christian "meme," Baby Jesus in a manger. We got in touch with Abbie to find out how she was taking all the responses to her handiwork, and, somewhat selfishly, to find out if she had any tips for our own ugly Christmas sweaters.
So, how did all this happen? It's sort of a yearly tradition, a few friends and I get together and sit around and make the sweaters. We use memes...but this time, it got on Reddit, and all of a sudden it was everywhere.
Were there other sweaters? Any discarded ideas we could use? There was one that was a cutout of Santa's face with a bunch of mirrors, and you looked in and you were the ugly sweater. We did them LOLcat-themed like four years ago....
How did you come up with the idea for the pepper-spray Jesus sweater? This was just, really, everyone sitting around. I didn't have the idea until we were making them. We kick around a few ideas...it was no more than an hour's work of effort.
What did you make it out of? Did you knit the sweater itself? Oh, no! It's just a sweatshirt from Kmart, with puffy paint and felt and glitter. We pooled supplies -- it was probably about $6 for the sweatshirt, my friend brought the felt, and I had plenty of puffy paint.
How do you feel about the Occupy movement? I've actually been pepper sprayed, protesting the presidential debates at U Mass. It's the worst experience ever. You can't see, you're blind, and there's a chaos around you. I feel the pain of people trying to get a message out there and feeling that it's ignored -- my heart goes out to them.
Do you have any entrepreneurial dreams of manufacturing and selling these sweaters? Someone contacted me to ask if they could make T-shirts and sell them, a company called Midwest Merch -- they are going to. [Ed: Midwest Merch writes, "Abbie was kind enough to give us permission to rip her off as long as we donate $5 from each shirt to a local charity. That being said, all that cash will be going to the Greater Chicago Food Depository in Abbie's name. Ho Ho (cough) Ho!" (Shirts are $16.)]
I don't really need or expect people to ask me for the rights, but I ask if they do something like that to give the money to charity. I'm not worried about losing the credit, it's all over the Internet at this point!
How does that feel? I work in social media and it's just weird going to sites that you go to anyway, and you're on them. I didn't expect my statement to be brought to the attention of the public, but it was nice to see people thought it was funny and awesome. I'm really glad to see the Occupy movement get attention.
Will you wear it again? What will you do with it? I don't really have anywhere else to wear it. If I wear it to family gatherings it would take me forever to explain it. It's sitting in my apartment. I'll hold onto it...it would feel sad to toss it out.
Next year, you're on the hook for something amazing! There's too much pressure...I'm gonna have to come up with something now!
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