Let’s get real — 2021 didn’t exactly meet anyone’s expectations. But for all the insurrections and lockdowns, we’ve had one continual shining light, guiding us through to better days: memes.
If you look back on the year using memes alone, it’s suddenly not so bad. Without further ado (I know you’re busting to scroll down and are merely being polite by reading this sentence), here are our favourite memes from 2021, month by month (excluding December, because who knows what awaits).
January – Bernie Sanders with his ‘lil mittens
While one-time Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wasn’t sworn into the Oval Office this January, he took centre-stage at the Inauguration thanks to his fit. While everyone else was in their finest, Bernie braved the cold in a military-green jacket, slacks and some slightly oversized mittens.
He exuded ‘cranky grandad energy’, which people immediately gravitated towards to express their own frustrations about meetings that should have been emails and parties that they didn’t want to be at. Bernie also ended up being photoshopped into pretty much every image imaginable.
Out on the town having the time of my life with a bunch of friends pic.twitter.com/Qu7UpVTKgQ
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) January 20, 2021
When your grandson’s violin recital is running long pic.twitter.com/dTBuCw8EGT
— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 20, 2021
— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) January 21, 2021
— Rusty Halberd (@alexqarbuckle) January 20, 2021
FYI, the mittens themselves were a gift from a Vermont schoolteacher, who made them from recycled wool, and now sells replicas with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, with some of the proceeds going to Make-a-Wish Vermont. Doesn’t that make you feel snug?
February – Literally just all of Drag Race UK S2
Between Ginny Lemon’s iconic exit and RuPaul’s hissy fit at Joe Black wearing H&M, February belonged to S2 of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. And that’s not all, even! In the first ep, Tia Kofi paid tribute to gay mathematician Alan Turing with a non-sensical runway that immediately became a meme.
What I imagine working in IT looks like pic.twitter.com/vqfmB4r1rr
— loveofhuns x (@loveofhuns) January 19, 2021
the last hour before you go on annual leave pic.twitter.com/W8R9FYUEz0
— C. (@cstsher) January 19, 2021
Then Ginny Lemon decided she was off it and sent herself home by walking off-stage during a lip-sync: important representation for those of us who could not be arsed this year.
— the saturdays megamix (@cvrts) February 4, 2021
— Adam 🤠 (@adam_milligan__) February 4, 2021
Ru’s ridiculous rant at returning contestant Joe Black for wearing H&M on the runway became instantly iconic, as we were soon all screaming about “not wanting to see any FUCKING H&M” at any opportunity.
— Attitude Magazine (@AttitudeMag) February 11, 2021
BREAKING: High street fashion giant H&M to enter administration pic.twitter.com/2am6Za9dVf
— harry x (@harryjonesxx) February 11, 2021
— Harry Boyss (@HarryBoyss) February 11, 2021
But it was girl group challenge song ‘UK Hun?’ that really caught on, a completely irresistible track that ended up getting triple j plays, thanks to Mornings host Lucy Smith’s obsession with it. We simply must clap for the bing bang bong.
Her: I bet he’s thinking about other girls
Bing, bang, bong
Sing, sang, song
Ding, dang, dong
UK, hun? pic.twitter.com/TpsnkPIdiC
— A Big Ham (@Ham_Hardie) February 14, 2021
The impact of UK Hun? (United Kingdolls Version) vs the impact of the entire works of Mozart pic.twitter.com/9U8jwsHVa4
— Will Kellogg (@Will_Kellogg) February 12, 2021
Me: *about to sleep*
My brain: waaaait pic.twitter.com/7b8xhtb2NS
— Thursday Daddams (@SailorMoobs) February 13, 2021
— Andy ✌🏻 (@andydrww) February 12, 2021
March – The Ever Given blocks the Suez Canal
For six days, a container ship was stuck in the Suez Canal, disrupting the world’s deliveries and economy, approximately costing the world $400 million for every hour it was stuck. Isn’t that funny? It’s 2021, and yet a boat accidentally getting stuck can still completely screw up millions of people’s lives.
Naturally, we were all obsessed with the Ever Given — which we all originally called the Ever Green, because that’s what it says on the side. I’m sorry, but SIX DAYS is so long: every day, we’d wake up and laugh because the boat was still stuck. We refreshed live blogs documenting the process, we laughed about the futile attempts to dig it out of the shore, we suggested our own ways to free the boat. We argued whether the boat should be freed, or stay there forever. We found love in a hopeless place.
me just trying my best pic.twitter.com/s1ESpPs0KY
— Kim Bhasin (@KimBhasin) March 25, 2021
Folks, I’m not feeling optimistic about the Suez situation. pic.twitter.com/lOEDMwMMpm
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) March 25, 2021
“And I couldn’t help but wonder…was the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal or was the Suez Canal blocking the Ever Given?” pic.twitter.com/vorn2FpRk7
— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) March 27, 2021
My ambitious plan to free the boat is to push a huge cotton swab up the canal pic.twitter.com/ZnY4ehu8fx
— Karl Sharro (@KarlreMarks) March 25, 2021
— Tanushree Rao (@tanushrao) March 25, 2021
April – History revisited
In April, we all decided to rewrite history, just a little. This photo of Harry Styles on set of Dunkirk? Okay, that’s actually my pop pop.
The ‘look at all those chickens’ Vine star? No, that’s my great-grandma in the old country raising chickens for her family. Sure, it’s basically an update of the classic meme ‘gonna tell my kids this was…’, but it’s too good to not include.
my theater kid uncle meeting a counter-insurgent anti-communist cia agent during the cold war (1947) pic.twitter.com/ORAzCIMKxt
— josh! (@queersocialism) April 7, 2021
May – That means NOTHING
Sorry to include Drag Race twice, but drag queens really do rule culture. Besides, this one’s a home-grown moment, as Melbourne queen Art Simone’s shocking elimination in E2 of Drag Race Down Under created an instantly legendary moment.
Distraught at going home so early given she was among the cast’s most well-known queens, Art is seen back-stage sobbing when a producer, off-camera, tries to comfort her by saying she should be proud of making it on the show. “That means NOTHING”, she says through tears, more dramatic than Rachel Berry and Joan Crawford combined.
Employers when I tell them I have a bachelor of fine arts pic.twitter.com/mh5aOpIhow
— Inkubus (@SatansFaveWhore) May 8, 2021
when someone tells me their star sign pic.twitter.com/d38n6RQdr3
— Laura Vanderbooben (@TAIKORA) May 9, 2021
June – For the better, right?
This meme is perfect because it barely relates to its origins, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones. In the film, Padma (Natalie Portman) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) are having a big old chat about government ideologies, and Padma is shocked to find him arguing for a dictatorship. In the meme, Padma’s double-take reaction becomes a substitute for when something isn’t quite right. It’s the prequel trilogy’s biggest impact on pop culture.
— paige (@BonerWizard) June 13, 2021
This one hit a little too close to home. pic.twitter.com/32OxHnVXT6
— Matt Riebe (@matt_riebe) June 8, 2021
— zach silberberg supports the WGA (@zachsilberberg) June 12, 2021
July – The beach that makes you Old (2021)
What if we kissed at the beach that makes you old? Director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest horror flick Old became an instantaneous meme when it was released as people ran with its ridiculous premise, where a family try to escape a beach where you mysteriously age a year each half-hour.
Me on the old beach pic.twitter.com/P97KkXDElc
— AJ (@ajdeluxe_) July 25, 2021
someBODY once told me
the beach was gonna old me
— Rebecca Alter (@ralter) July 25, 2021
m night shyamalan: pic.twitter.com/UpeuNF2QvM
— zach silberberg supports the WGA (@zachsilberberg) July 25, 2021
August – Milk Crate Challenge
As far as I know, this is the only meme on the list that caused bodily harm to hundreds of people. Thanks to TikTok, millions of people this August suddenly collected as many milk crates as they could find and stacked them into a staircase formation: the challenge was to walk up and down without falling. Funny? Incredibly. Dangerous? Also incredibly, with doctors across the globe imploring people to not try it themselves. Naturally, the fact that people were injuring themselves from a TikTok challenge itself became a meme.
milk crate challenge (colorized circa. 2021) pic.twitter.com/VS8BNQwYhV
— emergency medical emo (@hydrated_thembo) August 23, 2021
September – AOC’s Met Gala dress
The Met Gala always commands attention, and this year, it was congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s look that caused the most commotion — impressive, considering Frank Ocean had a robotic green alien baby and Camila Cabello was giving Cher. AOC wore a simple custom Brother Vellies ivory wool jacket dress with a message in red on the back: “Tax The Rich”. While some argued over the medium and the message, others quickly photoshopped other important messages onto the dress, including ‘Vote For Pedro’ and Nicki Minaj’s anti-vaccine rant.
Honestly I was more concerned with the costume change look… pic.twitter.com/t2Lzpt4Ni9
— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) September 14, 2021
October – Squid Game’s Red Light, Green Light
2021’s biggest show creates one of 2021’s biggest memes: who would’ve thought? There’s a lot to play within Netflix’s Squid Game, but the jaw-dropping, deadly game of ‘Red Light, Green Light’ at ep one’s end almost instantly became iconic. Whether you’d make it to the end, instantly be eliminated or relate more to the gigantic murderous doll overlooking the game, there’s a meme for you.
if i’m playing red light green light in squid game and they play the cha cha slide tell my family i love them
— RAINA⚡️ (@rainzzap) October 10, 2021
Me on Zoom looking at myself rather than the person speaking pic.twitter.com/wQoDTFmLsi
— phil (@philipjonathn) October 6, 2021
November – Two guys on a bus
Two men sit on opposite sides of a bus: one miserable overlooking a dark cliff wall, the other happy, taking in a sunny mountainous view. The cartoon was drawn by Brazilian illustrator Genildo Ronchi back in 2013, but found new life this November to show the small, big and silly things that bring joy.
— لا حولَ (@ibs_indistress) November 22, 2021
— b (@doyalikebaileys) November 24, 2021