What happens when you mix the rainbow-hued, nostalgia-laden illustrations beloved by every ’90s kid with the stark musings of nihilist philosophers beloved by every angsty college freshman? You get Nihilisa Frank, 2015’s favorite Tumblr account. Not long after the creator began mixing Nietzsche with kittens, publications like The A.V. Club, Hello Giggles, and Mashable took note, lavishing the deliciously ironic memes with praise like, “Nihilisa Frank is a colorful reminder of lurking death,” and “life is really just a slow march towards death, even if you have a unicorn.”
Functioning simultaneously as a throwback and an answer to the internet’s many eye roll-inducing inspirational quotes, Nihilisa Frank spoke to our inner cynic with a sense of humor. So when we noticed the Tumblr hadn’t been updated since 2016, we reached out to the creator, who remains anonymous, to find out what was up. While we were at it, we also got their take on philosophy, psychedelia, and politics.
When and why did you start making the Nihilisa Frank memes?
I was pretty bored and depressed in a very boring job, so I started making memes to cope and entertain myself. I never thought anyone would see them or care, but apparently, I found a niche that seemed to resonate with a lot of people.
When was the last time you posted one/why did you stop?
Well, sometimes I just get too listless to make anything at all. I also tend to over-intellectualize everything I do to the point of paralyzation. I have bipolar disorder, so when I’m manic I get a ton of ideas and will create a bunch of memes at once, then schedule them to post on a weekly basis. But then the mania subsides and I slip back into depression, which usually lasts much longer than the mania. I still post on occasion but it’s tough because I have to be in the right mindset.
They feel especially relevant to me right now, given that it feels like our government, our country, our environment, and basically everything around us is going to shit. What are your thoughts on that?
Heh… well sometimes I think we’re fucked and sometimes I think maybe this is the best thing to have ever happened to our country so that progressives don’t get complacent. During Obama’s tenure, I think a lot of people went on auto pilot since things felt somewhat safer – or at least that was my own naive perception. Since then, I’m impressed at how much the country has organized and mobilized to fight against the current administration.
Were you a Lisa Frank fan as a kid?
Hell yes, I’m still a fan.
If so, how has that fandom influenced you today (aside from Nihilisa Frank, of course)?
The slick, commercial quality of Lisa Frank’s work has been a huge influence on me. I remember staring at my Lisa Frank notebook as a kid, tracing all the contours of the melty space ice cream and trying to figure out how to create something even remotely similar.
I have a (completely unproven) theory that kids who looked at a lot of Lisa Frank/other similarly psychedelic stuff are more likely to experiment with mind-altering drugs as adults. Would you agree?
I can’t speak to others’ experiences, but my whole life I’ve upheld a certain asceticism – possibly due to my religious upbringing or perhaps some deep-seated fear of losing control. Maybe I’ve embraced psychedelic imagery as a substitute for mind-altering experiences.
Are you a nihilist IRL?
Sort of. There are so many different branches of Nihilism and I find a lot of them to be self-indulgent or too self-pitying. My memes began as a way of both wallowing in and laughing at my own self-pity. I tend to take a more Taoist approach to Nihilism by finding peace in humor amidst inevitable chaos.
Do you have any other creative endeavors you’re working on that we should know about?
Given the recent events in Charlottesville, I’ve decided to launch a fundraiser to donate proceeds from my online shop (nihilisafrank.storenvy.com) to the organization Life After Hate. I’m not capitalizing at all on this current event, every cent of proceeds will go to charity to help rehabilitate former members of violent right-wing extremist groups. The Trump Administration also just rescinded a $400k grant that this organization was supposed to receive, which is pretty fucked up. I recall one of my followers commenting something to the effect of, “you know things are bad when the Nihilists start giving a shit.” I couldn’t agree more.