The Fault in our Memes

By Caleb Curtis

Memes. We’ve all seen them. We’ve all laughed at a meme or two. Some, like myself, have so many memes on their phone that they don’t have any storage left. People make money from memes. People, again like myself, get in trouble for memes. I recently questioned one of my favorite pass times. What is so special about memes?

Memes have been known to spread like wildfire. Memes have also been known to fade away and die in the blink of an eye. What makes certain memes special? Some memes, like Harambe, lasted 10 months before it faded away. The mocking Spongebob meme barely even lasted a three-month span. It’s time that someone did a breakdown of why some of our favorite memes live on or die quickly. Here’s a breakdown of some key memes in our recent history.

The Harambe Memes. May 2016-March 2017

Harambe was a gorilla that was killed in the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure. Petitions and protests broke out just days after for the justice of Harambe. In just a few days, a petition got 338,000 signatures to hold the parents of the child who fell into the enclosure responsible for Harambe’s death. In the July following the death, a popular war chant began to rise in the name of the gorilla. The chant words cannot be written on this article because the County Current is a family-friendly site.

The Harambe phenomena reached its peak in late August of 2016 after the Cincinnati Zoo released a statement that asked for people to stop making memes, petitions, and signs of Harambe. This only fueled the meme fire that was already blazing. Harambe then ended up receiving more than 11,000 votes in the 2016 presidential election in November. The meme ended up fading away in about March of 2017, just one month after a man purchased a Cheeto that was shaped like Harambe for $99,900. The reason for the success of the meme heavily relied upon the Cincinnati Zoo’s statement after his death. Everybody found it hilarious to troll the zoo and make Harambe larger than anybody ever thought he could get. The meme simply died due to time. One thing is for sure about this super successful meme, the name Harambe will not be forgotten.

One of many memes that were made about Harambe.

The Mocking Spongebob Meme. May 2017-August 2017

The Mocking Spongebob meme was a snapshot of when Spongebob was doing an impression of a chicken. There would then be text with the snapshot that would mock what someone would say. Why this meme rose up so fast? I have no idea. I feel it was a desperate time, as the meme economy was at a low point. There were no new memes of any quality, and people desperately attached themselves to this meme.  How it died so quickly? I completely understand. I honestly never once laughed at one of these memes. These memes had no thought or creativity behind them. This meme will soon be lost in the vast universe of dead memes.

One of the most popular “Mocking Spongebob” Memes.


The What in Tarnation Memes. January 2017-May 2017

Oh what a meme she was. The What in Tarnation meme, also known as “Wot n ternation,” first got known as a dog with a straw hat on that would say, “What in tarnation,” after something is said that people from the south would not like. The meme then escalated out of control for a few weeks, as people would switch out the word ‘tarnation’ for any other word that rhymes with it. They would then poorly Photoshop straw hats on to those things that rhymed. Examples are seen below. This meme became popular simply due to the fact that it was making fun of a large group of people (people from the south). That large group of people then accepted the meme and were not offended by it. That’s when people switched the word tarnation for things like hydration, castration, annexation without representation. This meme died out because there are only so many words that rhyme with ‘tarnation,’ and once the meme quit offending people, it lost its touch.



The original”What in Tarnation” Meme.
A later version of the “What in Tarnation” Meme.









The Deep Fried Memes. 2012-∞

Deep fried memes are perhaps the most unique types of memes. They are what were once simple, basic memes. But then those memes were run through dozens of filters to the point where they are poorly colored, have a blurry look, and are just hard to understand sometimes. Some examples are the Shaq Woke meme, the Deep Fried Emoji memes, and much more. The Shaq Woke memes are simply a picture of Shaquille O’Neal sleeping, then he is awakened because something crazy has awoken him (The picture of him waking up is heavily deep fried). The Deep Fried Emoji memes are pictures of people with emojis replacing their faces, and emojis also replacing letters of the captions.  Examples of both are below. Why these memes continue to live? The world may never know. I’ve never known why, but these deep fried memes have caused me many hours of laughter. I do believe this meme will never die. It is a timeless meme that has stood the test of time. These memes simply become more popular with time for no particular reason. They are not to be forgotten, for this form of meme is the meme of evolution. These are the memes that our kids will come to enjoy.

An example of the “Shaq Woke” Meme. The bottom right Shaq is an example of deep frying a meme.

Memes as a whole will never die out. However, individual memes will be overthrown from their thrones by the new. All we can do is laugh and wonder what is next.



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