Viral Frog Costume Unleashes Your Inner Child

A viral frog costume has appeared in China, bringing joy and challenging norms around work-life balance

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8:14 AM HKT, Tue May 23, 2023 2 mins read

A frog costume has gone viral in China, filling city streets with frog-based silliness. The uniform is taking off with street vendors, and unexpectedly liberating its wearers from the shackles of societal expectation.

Clips of frogs doing military salutes, having dance battles, and skateboarding have caught on via social media platform Weibo, blossoming into a wide spread of memes and stirring conversations around work culture and the notion of joy in daily life.

forg dance

A typical frog GIF. Image via WeChat

On popular ecommerce site Taobao, searches for the term ‘frog’ yield plenty of variations of the costume, with one top-selling vendor recording over 2000 sales in the past month alone.

But where does this costume come from, and why has it suddenly gone viral?

A ‘Ribbiting’ Origin Story

In an interview with Chinese state-run newspaper the Yangtze Evening Post, the creator of the costume Ms. Tong revealed that she had designed the character out of frustration with the job-hunting process.

Ms. Tong interview

Ms. Tong wearing her frog suit while being interviewed. Image via Yangtze Evening Post

A mother of twins, Ms. Tong faced difficulties when she tried to return to the workforce. Finally she decided to put her Nanjing Art Institute degree to use – drawing up a design for the costume and taking it to the streets to market her character.

A video of her dancing to attract customers blew up — since then, she’s inspired many imitators.

Ms. Tong says it was never about the money, and that she doesn’t mind the lack of copyright royalties.

“I just want to create happiness for everyone. I am very happy that it has also generated some income for people online,” said Tong.

Ms. Tong’s wish seems to be coming true: people are loving the frogs both online and in-person.

Frog posing for a photo

A street vendor poses for a picture with a customer. Image via Xiaohongshu

Searching for Toad-al Freedom

The appeal of the frog costumes, both for wearers and observers, is in their silliness. The anonymity of the costume allows its wearer to act in ways that are outside the norm — especially in major Chinese cities where young people face mounting social expectation.

One user on Weibo summed it up: “Some people may seem to have put on frog costumes, but in reality, they have taken off the shackles of life.”

Frog dancing gif

A frog joins a group of plaza dancers. Image via Weibo

The streetgoing frog gig also provides more freedom compared to the typical 996 work culture that has permeated China in recent years. Ms. Tong mentioned that she herself has received plenty of messages from individuals who felt dissatisfied with work, and dreamed of embarking on their own frog journeys.

Even outside of viral frog trends, street vending and gig work have been on the rise in China, especially among young people seeking alternatives to a crushing office life.

Street Vendor Costumes Face Froggy Legality

Sometimes though, being a happy frog on the street isn’t as easy as it looks. As we approach summer, social media users are empathizing with the hardworking vendors inside those sweaty frog suits.

In one recent incident, a frog-clad vendor was apprehended by Shanghai officials and told to remove his costume for operating outside the designated selling area. A photo of the dejected-looking vendor went viral, and the internet was not happy about it.

Street vendor after being asked to remove their costume

Many netizens sided with the vendor who was reprimanded by officials. Image via Weibo

“People are just selling a toy frog…it doesn't bother anyone. Are they bullying someone who is just an honest person?” reads one Weibo comment.

In spite of these challenges, it doesn’t seem like the frog will be leaving anytime soon — and for that we are thankful.

Cover image via Weibo

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