There are so many ways to express oneself online. Perhaps a succinctly worded tweet, for example, or an Instagram photo, or something on Snapchat, or some Vaguebooking. The universal language that works on all social media, however, is the meme. Somebody posts an image and uses it to emphasize a point, and it works so well and is so instantly recognizable in its meaning that thousands upon millions use it to illustrate what they mean, also. And then, like the fads they are, they fade away and get replaced by the next big meme. Here are the biggest fad memes from 2017.
1. Shouting Meryl Streep.
Meryl Streep got a lifetime achievement award at the 2017 Golden Globes, but the Streep meme comes from her shouting to the stage during the 2015 SAG Awards. The still image of America’s Greatest Actress hollerin’ was too irresistible, and memers used it to make Streep look like she was singing lyrics or echoing statements.
2. Distracted Boyfriend.
This stock image by Antonio Guillem told a complete story: Guy is with a woman, but another woman catches his eye, and his girlfriend rightfully gets mad. Over the summer it became a meme to express any way that too diametrically opposed things competed for attention.
3. Salt Bae.
It’s “salt” because it’s a guy erotically (somehow) sprinkling salt on food, and it’s bae because it’s a dude who looks like a standard-issue hunk. It’s actually a picture of an experimental Turkish chef named Nusret Gökce. The meme originated as an Instagram video Gökce uploaded himself, only for him soon to become the entire world’s salt bae.
4. Mocking SpongeBob.
Anybody about 35 and under grew up with SpongeBob and has fond, comforting memories of the absurdly funny pineapple who lives under the sea. At it’s heart, SpongeBob SquarePants is a weird show, such as the episode were SpongeBob pretends he’s a chicken. That’s where this meme comes from, which caught on as a mocking response to dumb questions or statements (and with weird capitalization, of course).
5. Thinking Guy.
Used as visual, personified example of a “profound thought” or “circular logic,” or “complete and total lack of logic,” the thinking guy comes from a BBC 3 mockumentary called Hood Documentary. The image is of actor Kayode Ewumi, playing a character named Reece Simpson, or Roll Safe, making a subtle sex joke.
6. Blinking Guy.
When you were baffled by something in 2017, and/or self-deprecatingly aware of how dumb you for being baffled by something that didn’t baffle anyone else, you might have expressed that through this meme. It’s a guy who looks like Wesley from The Princess Bride named Drew Scanlon, wildly blinking and trying to contain his shock.
7. Snapchat Dancing Hot Dog.
Snapchat users couldn’t get enough (and/or were terrified) of this bizarre character: an animated, breakdancing, headphones-wearing hot dog who also breakdances.
8. “First of all…”
The simplest memes are the ones that catch on, and there are few simpler and more open-ended than the meme known only as “First of All.” It’s a word-based format, so it took off on Twitter. A statement is made, and the speaker responds, indignantly, with “First of all…” and then a punchline.
9. “This Is Just to Say…”
Memes can be fancy sometimes. This one is based on a poem from 1934 if you can believe it. “This Is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams is short and straightforward, and everybody read it in high school. (“I have eaten / the plums / that were in / the icebox / and which / you were probably / saving / for breakfast / Forgive me / they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold. It’s so simple, and rude, that it made for some easy parodying/mashing up with song lyrics, especially after Twitter doubled its character limit to 280.
10. Kendrick Lamar’s Album Cover.
The actual music is among the best released in 2017, but the cover looks deceptively simple. It’s just Lamar, standing in front of a wall, looking exasperated. You know what’s exasperating? Getting turned into a reaction image.
11. Guy Loves His Curvy Wife.
|| I love this woman and her curvy body. As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, girls that the average (basic) bro might refer to as "chubby" or even "fat." Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as feminism and how the media marginalizes women by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of beauty (thin, tall, lean) I realized how many men have bought into that lie. For me, there is nothing sexier than this woman right here: thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll, etc. Her shape and size won't be the one featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan but it's the one featured in my life and in my heart. There's nothing sexier to me than a woman who is both curvy and confident; this gorgeous girl I married fills out every inch of her jeans and is still the most beautiful one in the room. Guys, rethink what society has told you that you should desire. A real woman is not a porn star or a bikini mannequin or a movie character. She's real. She has beautiful stretch marks on her hips and cute little dimples on her booty. Girls, don't ever fool yourself by thinking you have to fit a certain mold to be loved and appreciated. There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are, someone who will love you like I love my Sarah. || photo cred: @kaileehjudd
Robbie Tripp probably thought he was doing a good thing in August when he wrote a gushing, lusty love letter to his admittedly knockout of a wife on Instagram. “I love this woman and her curvy body,” Tripp began the post. (He seemed to want a pat on the back for both loving his wife and thinking she’s attractive, which are things husbands are supposed to do.) While the phrase “I love my curvy wife” doesn’t actually appear in the post, it became a much-derided catchphrase on social media (as did the rest of Tripp’s post).
12. The Matthew McConaughey Power Stance.
In October, the Academy Award-winning star of Dallas Buyers Club and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days delivered a pep talk to the men’s basketball team at his alma mater, the University of Texas. A photographer caught a picture of McConaughey in a weird stance, and once it hit the internet, it was, as they say, alright, alright, alright.
13. “Right in front of my salad?!”
It’s just a picture of a woman eating a gigantic salad with a look of vague displeasure on her face. It soon became the perfect reaction shot for any kind of shock or righteous indignation — along with the catchphrase “right in front of my salad?!” (Because how could you not acknowledge that humongous bowl of leafy greens?) Interestingly, the image comes from a movie called Private Lessons 3. In one scene, the woman from the meme comes home to find a salad, as well as the chef who prepared the salad, although he’s preoccupied with having sex with some dude. The actress then actually says the words. “Are you f***ing? Are you serious? Right in front of my salad?!”
14. Grande Stooling.
Ariana Grande released her album My Everything in 2014, but the cover became a meme in 2017 — apparently it took three years for people to realize Grande’s kneeling-on-a-steel pose is impossible to re-create, or at the very least, uncomfortable. But it’s like the Ice Bucket Challenge from a few year’s back — a person has to try.
15. “If you play…”
After Twitter user @blondedocean pointed out that if you started listening to Frank Ocean’s “Nights” on New Year’s Eve at exactly 11:56 and 30 seconds, the song’s big transition will occur right at the stroke of the New Year. Then people started doing their own backwards time math so other cool stuff could happen at midnight.