We’re coming to the end of the decade, and that means one thing: remembering and laughing at our younger, dumber selves.
Sure, we could reflect on the high points of the decade (TV getting like, really good), or the social, technological, political shifts so huge we’re still coming to grips with it (pretty much everything else), but I’m here to reflect on the most meaningless, banal shit possible. That’s right: it’s time to roast some memes.
Memes, as defined by their creator Richard Dawkins, are something that gets passed from brain to brain, like an accent or a tune. I can only assume this means that in the early 2010s, all of our brains were riddled with worms. Remember when we all mistook saying “I can haz cheeseburger” as a personality stand-in? And how we continued to do it for years?
I argue this simple point: memes today (and in the latter half of the decade) are good.
They’re inventive, absurd, relatable, but mostly: they’re funny. Some formats hang around without becoming massively stale (e.g. Distracted Boyfriend), others are flash points that die almost as soon as they reach critical mass (e.g. 30 to 50 feral hogs). Both are good. Even memes like Salt Bae – where it turns out the hot man who dramatically salts his meat also hosts alleged murderous dictators – are good enough.
You know what wasn’t good? The stupid memes from the late 2000s / early 2010s, when any image overlaid with Impact typeface could be considered a meme. Plot twist: the oldest person in your office would still agree.
So in no particular order, here are some of the absolute most dogshit memes we used to think were funny.
Nothing says “corporate-friendly reminder to clean the kitchen sink” like a baby pumping his fist like he’s just nailed a mid-year sales meeting. I know he’s a baby but I hate him. Also, every time I see this stupid meme I’m reminded that when the kid grew up, he was forced to use his viral fame to finance his dad’s kidney transplant, which is one of the bleakest outcomes possible from becoming internet famous at a young age.
Maybe the first handful of these were funny. The subsequent 4,000 of these memes were not. Mostly it makes me want to gently introduce Steve to a skincare routine, and tell him he doesn’t have to wear the clothes his mum bought him if he didn’t want.
An 11-year-old girl with killer brows was a Goosebumps fan? And we made fun of her for that? Fuck all us from 2012.
Bad Luck Brian
Brian is the darkest of the monolithic personality trait characters, and therefore the funniest. I hate him the least.
Annoying Facebook Girl
Annoying Facebook Girl was apt for describing an annoying Facebook habit back when everyone actually used the platform as their primary means of online conversation. But where, I ask you, was Annoying Facebook Boy? Answer: in your DMs, messaging “hey” every couple days until one of you dies.
Ugh, look at this stupid guy. Every single edge lord on the internet between the years of 2009 and 2014 imagined themselves making this face every time they hit ‘post’. Rage comics were fine – internet comics come and go like everything else – but honestly, every person using Trollface in any kind of serious capacity just makes me thing they’re the literal embodiment of this tweet:
Pepe the Frog
Once upon a time, there was a whole meme economy around Pepe the Frog. Since they became very popular after their creator stopped drawing them, ‘rare Pepes’ found on weird corners were a thing. Then Pepe the Frog devolved into an alt-right meme, making it objectively the worst one.
Grumpy Cat memes were the Garfield comics of 2012, only less funny and more prolific. An important destination here: the memes were awful, but the cat itself ruled. Rest in power, king.
So as we close out this decade and find ourselves in the 2020s, let us take a moment and remember how deeply fucking embarrassing we all used to be online. And then try and forget it – very quickly.
As a final closing note, please enjoy this deeply weird video I found while researching this article, which tracks the most popular memes by date over the past 15 years.