The Brief: Here's a list of the most memorable memes of the past year.
From evil Kermit to Knickers, the really big cow, memes are an increasingly popular comedic device, tool of self-expression, and even medium for political discourse. Here are some of the most important, funniest, most absurd, and most viral memes of 2018.
A hoax or a dangerous epidemic? The so-called #TidePodChallenge blurred the lines between jokes and reality as what started as a joke turned into a somewhat real phenomenon of people eating detergent pods, and then back into a joke. Either way, this meme flooded almost every corner of the internet in early 2018.
Almost as fleeting as “they did surgery on a grape,” 13-year-old Ryan McKenna became known as “selfie kid” after he took a selfie with Justin Timberlake at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show. He now has an Instagram with over 200,000 followers where he posts selfies with all kinds of celebrities.
Conservative rabble-rouser Steven Crowder’s sign that read “Male privilege is a myth. Change my mind” has been widely edited to host other controversial statements, opinions, and jokes.
Gru from Despicable Me’s reaction to a sudden mishap in his presentation about stealing the moon made for a relatable series of images depicting the moment when someone notices a major flaw in their plan.
This image is from an Eric Andre sketch about the hypocrisy involved in climate change. It has since been memed to point out other hypocrisies and attempts at blaming someone else for something you clearly did.
An image of Lisa Simpson giving a presentation is a more straightforward version of the Gru’s plan meme and a way to make an announcement or share a hot take.
The supervillain in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos is a somewhat controversial figure online. His iconic quotes and desire to destroy half of all life in the universe in order to conserve resources have inspired many memes. A subreddit called Thanos Did Nothing Wrong even purged half of his subscribers as a tribute to his master plan.
This meme edits a screenshot from an Anime show in which a robot posing as human points to a butterfly and asks “is this a pigeon?” Variations of this meme portray other misunderstandings, in which someone may mistake one thing for another.
The epic handshake between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers in Predator, along with stock images of people interlocking hands are used to show when groups or individuals come together around a common interest or behavior.
This meme takes the form of a phrase, repeated with commentary about the ups and downs of having a job – the daily grind. For a while, kids were texting their parents the phrase and then posting their confused responses online.
This autumn, people were drawn to this meme almost as much as moths are drawn to lamps. At its core, this is a simple joke about how moths seem to love electric light sources so much that they’ll burn up just to stay close to a bulb. The concept went viral, inspiring various iterations, using every other meme format imaginable.
The Penguins of Madagascar have been around for a while, but for whatever reason, this year they really took off in the world of memes. Kowalski is the “smart” penguin that his friends frequently look to for “analysis.” The meme pairs something confusing with the phrase “Kowalski, analysis!” usually to suggest that it is too strange for even Kowalski to understand.
He may be the official mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers, but he’s the unofficial mascot of 2018. Gritty, a crazy-eyed orange monstrosity of a being inspired shock, awe, and, of course, memes. He’s also been claimed by Antifa as a symbol of their movement.
A picture of a surprised-looking Pikachu became a favorite reaction image used in many image macro memes. His face conveys a relatably taken-aback expression.
“I’m already Tracer!” Yes, Vine is dead, but TikTok seems to be bringing back the short video meme format. In this case, however, the videos that go viral are largely funny by accident – because they are so cringey.
This year probably wouldn’t have been the same –at least online – without Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson lollipop, thank u, next, wide neck guy, ladies if he…, dancing Theresa May, Miley Cyrus’s eyes, chonky, Lil Xan and Noah Cyrus, wrong turn, A Star Is Born, rapper’s full names, and Johnny Johnny Yes Papa memes.
It’s difficult to predict what will last and what will fade in this ever-changing world of memes. These memes, although they are some of the most viral from this past year, may soon fade and be replaced by more contemporary internet memes.