Could we avoid the ranking of the top 10 anime meme of all time? Sure, but it’s too late now. Some simple rules before starting.
We are not talking about individual memes but memetic frames. This is not a gallery of hilarious images, but a reflection on the most influential templates of the last year.
Not all the following memes were born in 2019, some appeared the previous year (a few special cases even several years earlier) but have reached their maximum diffusion over the past twelve months.
It sounds superfluous to remember. This is only my opinion, argued to the best of my ability, and other similar lists could be drawn up and have as much legitimacy.
The true catchphrase of the past summer, Me and the boys stand out for simplicity and sweetness. In its basic version, it tells us about small moments of camaraderie, thanks to the badly drawn faces of Spiderman’s super villains, in a frame of the famous television adaptation of the 60s that already gave so much material to the memetics of the past.
Me and the boy also tell of the tender relationship that members have towards the pop culture of the past, especially the bad one. The rough design recalls the aesthetics of memes made today with paint, which are deliberately approximate and seek the naive aesthetics of children’s art: the world not only seen by a child but drawn by a child.
Other versions of the meme transform the design, so we have the Me and the boyz who are anime women, the Me and the boys in another dimension and my favorite: Me and the boys on the iconic Slint cover.
2019 was the year of the clown and not just for the release of Todd Phillips’ Oscar-nominated film. The apotheosis of the clown to the divine emperor of the members was not a sudden process but had decades of roots. In fact, for some time, the previous Joker played by Heath Ledger had become a favorite of members in two ways. At first, with a sincere attitude, in all those very mainstream memes, “normie” would say in the community, who used his rebellious aura as a simulacrum to criticize society.
Interchangeable with V for revenge, the Joker took on the task of launching usual denunciation messages beginning with “We live in a society that …” and down with reflections as simple as radical. A form of expression so coarse did not last ten minutes in the ironic machine of the members who immediately began to parody it by transforming the “We live in a society” into a sarcastic catchphrase. The climax of this complaint of the complaint to the company is the Gang Weed page that I invite you to follow on Instagram.
But the Joker, the clown, the Fool is not an archetype that lets himself be trapped in binary visions, for or against, sincerity or satire and so, at the end of 2018, simultaneously with the release of the first Joker trailers, a new meme to flirt with his figure: Pepe the clown, also known as Honkler.
Born in Alt-Right environments but then spread among all political positions. The Pepe Clown reacts to the madness of the contemporary world by affirming that becoming mad is the only sensible answer, a statement that resonates, implicit or explicit. In all the incarnations of the Joker. No more naive adherence, nor parody, but double and projective affirmation: “you are a clown, so I am also a clown.”
Finally, the great success of the last film Joker has inflamed the internet with memes and then overflows into reality. We get images of the riots in Chile, Bolivia, Lebanon in France, in Hong Kong with protesters dressed as Joaquin Phoenix who jump over obstacles with skate and the only thing we can say is that we live in a society.
On 10 August, the American entrepreneur Jeffrey Epstein died in New York prison, with multiple charges against him for a large round of child prostitution he managed. Initially described as suicide, Epstein’s death occurred in suspicious circumstances, to say the least, with “Suicide Watch” procedures suddenly suspended and even two cameras put out of order. Federal investigations into the prison guards present that night are still ongoing.
The news tickled the imagination of the rest of us conspiracy theorists because Epstein had many high-ranking friendships in politics, both in the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party, involving Donald Trump and the Clinton family in his murky biography.
Members don’t wait for processes and “Epstein didn’t kill himself” quickly became the best “bait and switch” of 2019, with a simple and effective operation.
You think you are watching an innocent comparison between Pokemon of the first generation and instead, the last image gives you a lapidary truth.
Wired expressed concern about the ease with which conspiracy theories spread through memes and Wikipedia attests to the presence of the meme across the political spectrum.
We like the meme for its extreme adaptability to contexts and above all because Epstein did not commit suicide.
Joker was not the first meme to spill over into reality and will not be the last. Sometimes, the most innocuous jokes take the most unpredictable paths.
On 27 June, an American named Matty Roberts opened a Facebook group called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us”, that is: We invade Area 51, they cannot all stop us.
Admittedly by the same author, the group was born as a joke, the staging of the preparations for an invasion of Area 51, scheduled for the following 20 September to free the aliens held captive in the famous Nevada military base.
Now you expect me to say that the joke has finally been taken seriously. Well, yes and no. The vast majority of users who animated the event bulletin board, posting memes and guerrilla strategies, were not conspiracy theorists. They were people who pretended to believe in the joke, that is, that they were playing. But a game that has become real … always for fun.
The messages of the group soon reached one million subscribers and infected the internet with its mythology. It was mostly memes about the aliens freed and the particular infiltration techniques to be adopted, one above all the “naruto run”: that the unusual type of race that the Naruto ninja do. With their torso bent and their arms back, particularly suitable for dodging bullets, said the invaders of area 51.
Everything precipitates very quickly during the summer: the American military authorities and the FBI publicly discourage naruto runners, but in the meantime, two music festivals have been organized in Nevada by the end of September. The small town Rachel, Nevada, the inhabited center closest to the military base, is preparing for tourism of unusual dimensions.
On 20 September, the media travel to the desert to cover the event and a flesh-and-blood meme snap behind the journalist. In a movie that has already entered history.
Pets have dominated the internet since the dawn of time and every year a kitten or a puppy earns the top 10 of the meme parade. 2019 is the year of a feline known as Smudge The Cat or Confused Cat at the Table. In Italy, simply Gatto SchifoMadò.
The photo shows a white kitten sitting at the table like a human in front of a plate of vegetables. The expression captured by the photographer is a mixture of confusion, disgust and perplexity, depending on how you want to read it.
The image gains popularity as an isolated reaction but is soon joined by a second: the screenshot of an old American reality show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. In which a blonde points her finger at someone out of her anger. The storytelling of the new meme is easy to understand: someone gets pissed at someone else for reasons completely unknown to the latter.
When he came out at the beginning of the summer, GattoSchifoMadò was a little nice to everyone, but he was not yet called that way, not even in Italy. The new nickname was born in a certain part of the internet, that galaxy of leading pages of Italian memetics, characterized by a very generalist audience and fairly simple humor: Pastorizia Never Dies, Alpha Woman, Chiamarsi Bomber and so on.
Although the unquestionable sympathy of the cat had conquered all of them at the beginning, either for the intrinsic repetitiveness of the format or for the lack of creativity of those who inflated it, the newly baptized Gatto SchifoMadò has become synonymous with meme normie at the memetic subculture.
The kiss of death gave him none other than Matteo Salvini in a campaign called “Gattini con Salvini” on the official Lega – Salvini Premier profile.
Among the various kittens posted on the page, all intent on eating “sardines,” he was the Cat SchifoMadò, called by his normal one name.
After the normal one meme, it’s the turn of the meta meme par excellence. Not many memetic templates are structurally meta ironic, but this is the case with Peter Griffin explains the joke.
Born in late 2018, Peter Griffin grew up in 2019 and his job is to explain the memes, settling at the end of them. The lesson can be declined in various ways depending on the material to be commented: Peter can explain a normal one meme, already understandable on his own, too understandable. In order to tease a humor mechanism so elementary or he can launch into the deconstruction of a very articulated meme, adding an additional level of complexity.
Why Peter Griffin? You ask too much. Meme characters have their autonomy and emerge from the collective unconscious by taking what belongs to them, without too many courtesies.
However, there are variations. In the Roman meme scene, it is common to find the comedian Maurizio Battista plays the same role.
It is emerging from the Red Pill / Alt-Right circles, the same that had produced the now canonized Virgin Vs. Chad, Yes, Chad has exceeded the culture of origin, following the succession of interpretations of Nietzsche’s superman. In the first versions, Chad was truly a Chad, that is the stereotype of the Alpha man, strong, beautiful and assertive produced by the Incel culture.
The joke revolved around the pleasing physical appearance of an alleged challenger. The features of the characters were to be understood as real: the ugly feminist provokes the handsome gamer, the beta-evil provokes the well-groomed red pill to and so on. In the same way in which certain interpretations of the Nico superman (which in truth have their philological coherence) spoke of a man physically superior to others.
During its life cycle, the meme has emancipated itself from conflicts based on physical appearance. The relationship that binds the two interlocutors has become spiritual: the ugliness of the first character is a plastic manifestation of his moral abyss, as well as the nobility of the second it’s all ethical. Chad is unable to answer “yes” because it is beautiful, but it becomes beautiful when it answers “yes.”
The person who starts the conversation does not make a real judgment: he believes that it is enough to define someone in a certain way to cover him with embarrassment. It is an emissary of the Lacanian Great Other: he tries to manipulate his neighbor by evoking a social super-ego that he is perhaps only pretending to believe. “But how, aren’t you ashamed? Do you agree to be like this?” And the other pronounces the proverbial “yes to life,” which needs no further justification.
Perhaps the most famous meme on this list, having become a sort of political psychodrama. If many know the latest vicissitudes of “Ok, Boomer,” few know the backstory of such a short yet layered phrase. The boomer appeared as a meme character almost a year before its mainstream rise in the form of an impolite response. It was part of a series of generational Wojaks that described the typical behaviors of the various generations.
Although the boomer, short form of “Baby Boomer,” for sociology is a person born between 1945 and 1965, in the accelerated reality of members it has become a nickname to be given to the oldest among millennials, those who founded the first internet cultures and feel outdated by the younger ones, the zoomers.
This first appearance of the boomers did not have the political and aggressive nature that we will see later: they were teasing veined by nostalgia and complicity, usually designed by “thirty-year-old boomers.”
At some point, on the impetus of Friday For Future and the age of Greta Thunberg, the generational question returns to the agenda and a strange movement spreads on the internet. It is going up the waters and imposing itself on the mainstream: Ok, Boomer.
The New York Times defines it as the beginning of the generational war, carried out by Generation Z, starting from the environmental question. It is a New Zealand parliamentarian response in the classroom to an older colleague and what was an innocent meme catalyzes a series of sociological debates that show no sign of ending.
Curiosity: even the form of the sentence itself is a filiation of an older meme, the notorious “Ok, Cuck” that the Alt-right used to cut short in discussions with leftists.
Very questionable position both because we are not talking about a single meme but about an innumerable family of clones and hybridizations, and because the eccentric Wojak clan has been around for almost ten years.
But we are at the end of the year as at the end of the decade and discussions on the ten-year meme are already animating the national and international atmosphere. The last two positions are dedicated to two “larger than life” memes that dominated the ten years and, yes, have reached a peak in popularity in the last twelve months.
Wojak was born in 2010 but continues to evolve, disguising itself continuously to tell all kinds of stories, situations and concepts. Nothing better than this image explains the historical importance of Wojak, together with his expressive richness.
The parallel with the Rage Comics, the family of puppets that dominated the end of the zero years and then fell into disuse at the beginning of the decade, after having touched unmatched mainstream peaks, with Forever Alone’s shirts next to those, is very significant. Of Che Guevara at the feast of unity. Not on all occasions, the pairing is perfect and seems to follow a mixed criterion. For example, the screaming Soy Boy and the Crying Face perform the same function, but the latter is not ideologically connoted as the soy boy; conversely, Coomer and Me Gusta both relate to sexuality, but their uses differ significantly.
The winner is none other than the Doge and the sudden rebirth that interested him. In reality, as I said before, on the internet, they are preparing to elect the meme of the decade and not a few to believe that Doge should wear the crown. The Doge has been around precisely since 2010, the year in which the iconic photo was taken of a Shiba named Kabosu.
The expression is as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa, perhaps because posture also reminds her: a sly little face, sweet and provocative at the same time. The photo became very popular in the first ten years. It was the basis for a meme typology that simulated the dog’s inner speech with a series of colored Comic Sans writings, randomly distributed over the image. The phenomenon peaked around 2014.
When at the end of 2017, my book came out with a Doge on the cover and the title written in Impact, various hard and pure members accused me of having exhumed two dead memes. A dog that has long since passed its golden age and the infamous written Macro Images, a symbol of normal one memes for years. The graphic designer Simone Ferrini had worked thinking about the historical importance of the two elements in the evolution of internet aesthetics and the cover of a book must not be an innovative meme but the recognizable photograph of a certain culture.
Yet Simone Ferrini nor I could have foreseen that these two corpses would have risen shortly and they would have done it together.
During 2018, a new type of Doge meme began to appear that exploited the same as the Shiba but with written in Impact, in the style of the old Macros. Unlike the Macros, these were not captions divided into the premise and conclusion “when you … then he” but a sort of direct speech of the dog, this time much less … wholesome. The Doge is back with another personality who needs the Impact imperative tone to express himself.
He is a more obscure Doge, a Doge who breaks through the fourth wall and threatens the reader, or a Doge who is tragically unaware of having traveled through time and of being at the exact place and time of a disaster. A Doge sometimes grotesquely deformed in the features, a Doge who in his haste makes grammatical errors and repeats the words twice and not because he is the tender little dog of the beginning of the decade. He is in a hurry to complete the meme and intimate the splendid girl who he is reading to take off his shoes.
The Doge has two distinct pages on Know Your Memes, one dedicated to his innocent personality and one to the ironic one, the singular case for two similar series of memes.
To date, the Doge is a sort of genius loci of the internet: a minor divinity crossed by a thousand personalities capable of resonating with the psychic environment that surrounds him and influencing him in turn. Joker, the invasion of Area 51, the cat at the bottom of the table and many others are the top 10 anime meme of all time.