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Men are being compared to rodents across the internet. But how do they feel about it?

By Leah Dolan, CNN

(CNN) — In the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the year of the dragon. To the internet, it is the year of the rat.

It began, seemingly, with a few innocuous social media posts comparing Mike Faist, co-star of the titillating tennis throuple film “Challengers,” to a dormouse. Soon, the complexity of the analogy snowballed to odd levels of specificity: He’s a field mouse. No, he’s a cartoon mouse. No, he’s Despereaux (the dumbo-eared mouse from the 2008 animated film “The Tale of Despereaux”). No, he’s Stuart Little, if Stuart Little was hot. He was “like if a sleepy cartoon mouse came to life and then got really into cross fit,” wrote journalist Lucy Ford on X.

And it wasn’t long until fans on social media began examining the facial features of other male celebrities for similar signs of rodent likeness — Faist’s “Challengers” co-star Josh O’Connor, for example. Barry Keoghan. Timothée Chalamet. Jeremy Allen White. Glen Powell. This list goes on. From chinchillas to capybaras, the rodent comparisons sped across social media like a runaway wheel of cheese, warping the image (and perhaps the confidence) of many popular, young white male celebrities in its path.

On June 2, a Daily Mail article introduced this internet in-joke to the masses. “How ‘hot rodent’ men became Hollywood’s sexiest heartthrobs: Gen Z fans are going wild for actors with unusual features including Barry Keoghan, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Allen White,” read the headline. The trend has since been covered by the New York Times, the Guardian, the London Times, NBC and the Today Show, among others.

How do these men — heartthrobs of the moment, even — feel about being categorized as “hot rodents”? Powell, who was first likened to a rodent back in 2023, has gamely praised the ingenuity of the chronically online. “This is why the internet’s a great place,” he told Jimmy Fallon last December. “I really kind of own the capybara thing now. I am the capybara.”

Despite outreach, CNN did not receive a response from O’Connor, Chalamet, Keoghan or White. (Faist’s agent, meanwhile, confirmed that the actor does not use social media. A small mercy). But more broadly, the informal sampling of average Joes — or should that be average Jerrys? — CNN reached for comment largely didn’t mind being dubbed ratty.

Surveyed in a Whatsapp friend group, one 20-something admitted hearing the term would “hurt,” while another said he would be happy to embrace “hot rat summer.” A third man polled shared that despite an initial knee jerk reaction, he understood that “rodent men are very hot right now” and so would probably be “flattered.”

For some, the question goes beyond the hypothetical. One had already been called a “rat boy” by his current girlfriend. “She’s still with me,” he wrote. “So I’ve taken it well.”

Similarly, Gustav, a 22-year-old X user, has also been compared to a mouse. (Stuart Little, to be precise — just like Faist.) “I’d say I mostly found the comment amusing,” he told CNN via X. “It was clearly not meant as an insult and even though some people would take it as an insult, I mostly felt it was a way of saying that I was cute.”

While by no means exhaustive, these responses suggest men feel mostly fine with the “hot rodent” trend. But if any male celebrity is struggling with the break-neck transition from traditional dreamboat to furry pin-up, perhaps the Chinese zodiac — which believes rats to be among the most intelligent, popular and charming animals of the 12-year cycle — can be some comfort, after all.

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