The Sad Backstory of the ‘Woman Yelling at a Cat’ Meme
On October 26 2019, a Facebook user shared a PSA involving the popular meme often called “woman yelling at a cat,” stating that the image’s ubiquity led them to research the origins of the image:
After seeing this image on many different memes, I decided to research it. I had hoped there was some humor or ridiculousness behind it. Instead there is nothing but very serious tragedy. This is a woman named Taylor Armstrong from the show Beverly Hills Housewives defending herself against her “friends” about coming forward on the physical abuse she endured from her husband Russell. Her friends were claiming she lied. This transition happened soon after he committed suicide and while she was having a nervous breakdown. Until recently her hospital records were kept private, including the reconstructive surgery she had to have on her eye from an injury she sustained by him. Her friends attacked her honesty because he said he didn’t do it.
Don’t they all.
So an abused woman and a dead abuser, … and a child left fatherless.
Sometimes we should be more careful of what we’re laughing at.
According to KnowYourMeme, the image of the two women and the image of the cat came together to form one meme around May 2019. Prior to that, the image of the woman yelling circulated as a meme in its own right, as seen in a March 2016 Instagram post:
That same year — 2016 — the image of the women appeared in an USMagazine.com ranking of fights on various Real Housewives shows, identifying the image’s origin as an episode in the second season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The magazine identified the blonde woman in the image as Taylor Armstrong:
In season 2 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the ladies conducted an intervention for [Taylor] Armstrong over her allegedly abusive late husband, Russell. After the meeting didn’t go over so well, things got even worse at a Malibu bash, where Armstrong completely lost it.
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills season two episode “Malibu Beach Party from Hell” originally aired in December 2011. Vulture recapped the episode, focusing more on the behavior of an ancillary character during the argument seen in all the memes. On YouTube, footage of the entire segment as it originally aired was uploaded in August 2019.
Vulture‘s recap included Armstrong’s explanation for her dispute with castmate Camille Grammer, from the episode’s subsequent Watch What Happened Live. The clip was filmed after Armstrong disclosed her pending divorce from husband Russell Armstrong, and the argument in question was over Grammer’s risky gossiping about the events leading up to the filing for divorce.
Before the argument and prior to Armstrong’s arrival, Grammer admitted her unease at facing Armstrong under those circumstances. That recap coupled the events of the show with the additional background provided by cast members:
Camille … expressed her concerns about seeing Taylor, who had been dodging her calls since Camille said out loud to a group of their peers that her husband was beating her. And since Taylor has appeared on WWHL to clarify and spin the events accordingly, we now know that her official statement is that what she was angry at Camille about had more to do with Camille saying that Russell had abused her on-camera than anything else. And being as the women are not allowed to allude to the fact that they are being filmed throughout the course of the series, it’s a fair point of Taylor’s to have made. [Taylor] claimed, when talking to Andy Cohen, that when Camille said what she had about Russell she put Taylor in danger, because Taylor feared that her husband would see the footage and beat her up or kill her. And those claims are so terrifying and believable, despite what you may think of Taylor’s pathologies, that her meshugganah antics on last night’s episode actually seemed less despicable and more justifiable than her prior lashings-out.
Immediately after “Malibu Beach House from Hell” aired, Taylor Armstrong confirmed to Watch What Happened Live‘s Andy Cohen that Grammer’s gossiping led her to fear that her husband “would see the footage and beat her up or kill her.” And once again, the episode aired on December 5 2011.
On August 16 2011, E! News published a “timeline” of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills happenings after news that Russell Armstrong had died by suicide the day before:
May 11, 2011: Taylor’s rep denies reports that she and Russell have split up, saying they are “both really committed to making their marriage work.”
July 15, 2011: Taylor announces that she has filed for divorce, calling it a “difficult decision,” but one that’s in her family’s best interests. In her petition, she cites their date of separation as July 1, requests primary physical custody and joint legal custody of their 5-year-old daughter, Kennedy, and asks that her maiden name be restored.
Aug. 15, 2011: Bravo sends out a RHOBH press release noting that one of Taylor’s plot points this season will be her continuing struggles with “a loveless marriage.” Taylor had told E! News that the coming season would include, for her, “a lot more tears and a lot more pain.”
Aug. 15, 2011: Russell Armstrong commits suicide by hanging. He is survived by his wife, their daughter and two sons from previous relationships. An autopsy is expected to take place[.]
In a December 2011 People item on the episode, Taylor Armstrong was quoted reiterating her fears that the decisions of others to disclose the abuse endangered both Armstrong and her young daughter, Kennedy:
Taylor explained that she was upset that her abusive relationship, which she had divulged to her costars off camera, had become a plotline on the show.
“Admitting that I was being abused on national television was a step that I never though any of my friends would take,” she said. “I was so stunned and I felt so betrayed that I couldn’t get past it. And I was scared.”
A November 2011 People item that only available in archived form quoted Grammer’s commentary from previous episodes in the season, specifically portions about Armstrong’s injuries:
When Taylor returned [to a scene], she found her costars talking once again about her marriage to Russell. She suggested they should all start being completely honest and stop talking about each other behind their backs.
“We don’t say that he hit you,” Camille said, as a mortified Kyle hid her face in her hands. “We don’t say that he broke your jaw, or that he beat you up, and he hit you.”
In March 2019, Taylor Armstrong told BravoTV’s Daily Dish that the decision to file for divorce from her husband came after he fractured bones in her face to such an extent that she needed reconstructive surgery:
The RHOBH alum said that she finally decided to file for divorce from Russell after he fractured her orbital floor and she had to undergo reconstructive surgery on her right eye. Kennedy was 5 years old at the time.
It was on one of the days when Taylor was supposed to meet with Russell to discuss the custody of their child that she discovered his body after he died by suicide. “I went to go meet him one day, and his office was dark and he wasn’t there and he was a workaholic, so it was completely unusual for that to be the case. And I just had this sinking feeling that something terrible had happened,” she said. “And it had never crossed my mind in the past. He was very narcissistic and not someone you would ever think would take their life. But ultimately, I had found him hanging in the house that he had moved into.”
Dedra Whitt, the redhead seen in the argument scene, told a different blog in 2012 that the events as they happened juxtaposed with the filming and airing schedule made re-watching the scene difficult:
I really liked Taylor, and I really felt for Taylor. I could feel that she was in pain. I didn’t know to what extent. I didn’t know how truthful a lot of it was, because when someone tells you something that’s going on, you can’t even believe it. I was completely shocked. Completely shocked when Russell killed himself. I didn’t know him, I’d met him a couple of times. It definitely came as a shock to me. I knew they were separated, and I knew she was doing okay with the separation. I think it was probably a good thing for her to separate from him and to try and get her life together. I didn’t know anything that was going on with their financial situation. I just knew that she was having a hard time, and she got a separation from her husband. I thought that was a really good thing. And then when I found out that he killed himself, it floored me, and any feeling that I had negative about her at that moment completely went away. I felt really, really bad for her. You just don’t want anybody to have to go through that. That’s horrible. Just because she was separated doesn’t mean she didn’t love him. She obviously loved him. He was her husband, and she has a young child with him … Unfortunately, the problem with a reality show is now you’ve got to go back and watch all this crap you filmed six months ago. We’re all in a different place now. Every single person on that show is in a different place. But you have to go back and re-live it. It’s agony. I don’t feel that way now.
Taylor Armstrong remarried in 2014. On October 27 2019 (right after the Facebook post was published), a Twitter user asked Armstrong if seeing the meme was upsetting to her:
Genuinely curious if that photo is hard to see circulate so much? I remember how upset you were during that scene.
— MarioKiki (@mariokiki) October 27, 2019
Armstrong replied, telling social media users it was “ok to laugh” at the meme:
Thank you – that is my past and I have moved on and am in a really healthy, happy marriage. It doesn’t seem like my life any longer. I work w domestic violence shelters and support victims. It’s ok to laugh at the images that have been created. https://t.co/Zup8szsDNb
— Taylor Armstrong (@TaylorArmstrong) October 27, 2019
A Facebook post shared in October 2019 focused on the “woman yelling at a cat” meme, which was a mashup of two previously unrelated memes, one of which featured a crying former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Taylor Armstrong. The post was broadly accurate, explaining that Armstrong was confronting her friends (namely Camille Grammer) over their handling of abuse she suffered at the hands of her then-estranged husband Russell Armstrong. At some point not long after the party (before the show aired), Russell Armstrong died by suicide.
After the post appeared, Armstrong said on Twitter that it was “ok to laugh” at the meme, but acknowledged that it depicted a very painful part of her life.
- Woman Yelling at a Cat
- [Woman yelling meme]
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