Four hundred years from now, when children listlessly shuffle into a murky classroom and haul their textbooks - or whatever the 25th century equivalent of a textbook is - from their backpacks to begin the study of our civilization, they’re going to learn about how we expressed ourselves and our feelings about the world in which we lived through these weird little things called “memes”.
A meme, for those of you who don’t know how to access any website but this one, is a comical picture or short video which either reflects or influences popular culture and politics. Every couple of weeks, a new image will emerge and spawn hundreds upon thousands of memes created by people who have mastered the art of adding text to a picture.
For the most part, memes have a pretty short shelf life and generally don’t spend more than a month or so on our Facebook timelines, but a couple of them have simply refused to go away. Other, relatively recent memes have not quite outstayed their welcome, but are certainly beginning to get stale due to mass production and oversharing, so they should be nipped in the bud before they become too big for their own good.
Here are 15 of the worst memes that need to die like right now.
15 Mocking SpongeBob
The television series SpongeBob SquarePants has spawned dozens of memes, but the most popular at the time of this writing is the Mocking SpongeBob.
The Mocking SpongeBob meme is pretty straightforward. The anchor picture to which all offerings are tied is a still shot which shows SpongeBob SquarePants hunched over with his arms behind his back and his mouth fashioned into a beak, giving him the appearance of a chicken or somebody who isn’t entirely with it. The meme is used to show the creator’s disdain for somebody else’s apparently idiotic opinion.
The Mocking SpongeBob meme has been criticized for belittling the mentally disabled, something which its defenders continue to deny despite the fact the meme is more popularly referred to as “Retarded SpongeBob”.
14 Roll Safe
“A meme can’t stop being funny if it was never funny to begin with”. Cue a picture of actor Kayode Ewumi pointing to his temple, the image which has inspired one of the most popular memes of 2017 thus far.
Like so many recent memes, the anchor image of the Roll Safe meme is a still shot, in this case, taken from Ewumi’s web series Hood Documentary. In general, the meme portrays Ewumi having come up with what he believes to be a fool-proof plan to get around a common problem. In one particularly popular Roll Safe meme, for example, Ewumi grins and points to his temple with the caption “You can’t get cheated on if you’re not in a relationship”.
The meme’s continued popularity comes not from the love of the public, but from meme creators who are fond of its simple paint by numbers formula.
13 Evil Kermit
Speaking of painting by numbers, here comes the Evil Kermit meme, which has been plaguing our timelines for what seems like an eternity.
The frustratingly stubborn meme shows Kermit the Frog, the velvet star of the Muppets franchise, confronted by his evil self, who is decked out in a hooded cloak, giving him the appearance of a Star Wars Sith Lord. Those who want to create their own Evil Kermit meme need only follow the below template to internet superstardom:
Kermit: Don’t do [insert activity here]
Evil Kermit: Do [the aforementioned activity]
What is even more annoying than the Evil Kermit meme’s assault on creativity is the fact that it has introduced a generation of children to Kermit the Frog, making him, in their eyes, just another meme rather than the masterpiece of The Muppet Show creator Jim Henson.
12 Singing Meryl Streep
During the 2015 instalment of the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, beloved actress Meryl Streep was seen cheering on the equally beloved actress and star of such classics as Singing’ in the Rain and How the West Was Won Debbie Reynolds as the then 82-year-old accepted her SAG Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was an emotional moment, so it only makes sense that the image of Streep calling out to Reynolds from the audience was turned into a meme.
The Singing Meryl Streep Meme is used to convey the creator’s sense of duty to sing along to certain songs and is frustratingly uninspired in its formula. Simply add a line from your favorite song to the top of the meme - intended to denote somebody other than you singing - before adding the proceeding line to the bottom of the image to indicate you singing in response. And that’s all there is to it. No creativity or talent of any sort required.
11 Cash Me Ousside
When Danielle Bregoli was 13 years of age, she appeared as a guest on Dr. Phil to discuss her life as an unruly teenager. In keeping with her reputation, Bregoli challenged the audience to “cash me outside, how bow dah?”
The internet quickly latched onto this and, being the forum for public humiliation that it is, turned Bregoli into a meme. While most people would be unhappy with becoming an internationally recognized joke, Danielle was quite pleased by her internet fame, believing it made her a celebrity in the style of Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner.
Shortly after becoming a viral sensation, Bregoli began hocking products on Instagram, earning a purported $40,000 per post. Today, she has more than one million dollars in the bank; proving, once and for all, that memes can have dire consequences.
10 Trump’s First Order Of Business
Since taking office as the President of the United States of America back in January of this year, Donald Trump has inspired hundreds of memes. Most of them have disappeared from our timelines as quickly as they arrived, but the Trump’s First Order of Business meme has become a mainstay of social media.
The image from which all Trump’s First Order of Business memes arose shows the commander-in-chief proudly displaying a recently signed executive order with his childlike signature on it. Almost as soon as the image was posted online, meddlers took to photoshop to mutate and reimagine it. Photoshoppers swapped the executive order for a variety of silly objects, such as a crudely drawn picture of a cat or a collection of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.
The meme was actually pretty funny for a while, but as time went on it lost its meaning. Today, it is no longer a means to minimize a guy who many believe is the embodiment of everything wrong with the world and is instead a competition to determine who can photoshop the wackiest item into his tiny hands.
Student athletes are a motivated bunch, there’s no doubt about that. With their constant talk of chasing their dreams, refusing to give up, and, of course, the seemingly never-ending grind, they are the perfect targets for satire.
The Student-Athlete meme is a dialogue meme, meaning it doesn’t rely on a picture or a video and can be created simply by typing a couple of words into Facebook or Twitter. Most Student-Athlete memes feature a conversation between a hypothetical student-athlete and somebody else, perhaps a dentist or a doctor, and see the athlete embark on an unprovoked monologue about how they will never “stop the grind”.
The Student-Athlete meme was, admittedly, pretty funny at first. However, its simplicity means there isn’t a whole lot of room for the joke to grow, which has resulted in it becoming worn out. Despite this, social media users continue to create and share student-athlete memes, proving that the meme is as unrelenting as the athletes it is intended to mock.
8 How Italians Do Things
How Italians Do Things was one of the first big memes of 2017. The meme was probably inspired by Bruno Munari’s 1958 book Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture. The book is a comical dictionary of those infamous Italian hand gestures and features an image of the classic hand gesture on the cover.
The How Italians Do Things meme features a pursed hand performing a variety of different tasks, such as cutting the grass or lifting a cup (“How Italians Mow the Lawn” and “How Italians Take Their Coffee respectively”).
Despite the fact the meme is popular among Italians and Italian-Americans, it has been criticized by some groups for what they believe to be racist undertones. A more obvious problem with the meme, however, is its inability to evolve. The pursed hand gesture has been used in literally every How Italians Do Things meme ever posted online, despite the fact Bruno Munari’s aforementioned book contains hundreds of Italian hand gestures for meme creators to choose from.
7 All The Substances...
Cocaine, Marijuana, Beer didn’t have quite as long a journey as the hand from Bruno Munari’s 1958 dictionary of gestures to internet immortality, but it did spend a little while floating around cyberspace before being turned into a meme. The image which inspired the Cocaine, Marijuana, Beer meme first appeared in a 2014 Vice article entitled “Here’s What Your Eyes Look Like When You Take Different Drugs”. The image shows the eyes of various thrill seekers after snorting cocaine, smoking marijuana, and drinking beer.
In spring of 2017, a Twitter user added a fourth set of eyes to the image to show, in jest, what a woman’s pupils look like during sex, and it just took off from there. Immediately people began adding new sets of eyes to the image, one, for example, showing a squinting Josh Peck with the caption “Megan”.
The meme has been criticized for what many believe to be the trivializing of drug abuse, an accusation that is actually pretty difficult to argue with.
I mentioned earlier on that SpongeBob SquarePants has spawned more than its fair share of memes. The show has inspired so many, in fact, that we could conceivably run a whole article on the 15 worst SpongeBob SquarePants memes. Today, however, we’re just sticking to two. We already looked at the infamous Mocking SpongeBob, now it’s time to look at SpongeGar.
SpongeGar - also known as Caveman SpongeBob and Primitive Sponge - shows a loincloth-wearing, saber-toothed SpongeBob SquarePants in the middle of a primal meltdown one would expect from an ape. The meme is used predominantly on 4chan to show unhappiness with certain opinions, not unlike the Mocking SpongeBob meme.
The meme has been bashed as of late for having overstayed its welcome, but the constant sharing of it presents a greater problem. By sharing SpongeGar memes on websites such as Facebook and Twitter, it can be argued that users are giving some degree of validation to the notoriously racist, homophobic, and sexist users of 4chan.
5 Donald Trump And The Pope
The Donald Trump and the Pope meme is one of the most recent entries on this list. The meme arose from the American president’s meeting with the head of the Roman Catholic Church during his first official visit to Europe earlier this month.
During the meeting, Pope Francis took the time to pose for a photo alongside The Donald and members of the Trump family, a picture which has since been chopped and changed in much the same fashion as the picture which inspired the Trump’s First Order of Business meme.
A lot of Donald Trump and the Pope memes have been fairly amusing, with some of them bordering on hysterical. However, it seems that some meme creators have forgotten just who the meme is supposed to be mocking. Rather than a satire on the American president, many Donald Trump and the Pope memes come across as a not-so-subtle dig on the pontiff, who, by all accounts, has been doing a pretty stellar job of bringing the Catholic Church into the 21st century.
4 Welcome To Your Tape
13 Reasons Why follows the story of teenager Hannah Baker, who takes her own life after recording 13 tapes, each of which is dedicated to a specific person whom she claims contributed to her suicide (Baker begins each recording with the words “welcome to your tape”). Despite its success, the series has been criticized by various suicide prevention organizations for glamorizing teenage suicide.
The Welcome to Your Tape meme, which was inspired by the show, has fallen under similar criticism, and it isn’t hard to see why. The meme is another example of a dialogue meme and typically features a short conversation between the creator and a fictional character. Off the top of my head, a Welcome to Your Tape meme may go something like this:
Me: Can I get an Oreo McFlurry?
McDonald's Employee: Sorry sir, the ice cream machine is broken.
Me: Welcome to your tape.
I’m sure you can see from that example how pretty much every Welcome to Your Tape meme works. I’m also sure you can see why some people have taken issue with them. It’s hard to argue that implying you took your own life over something as minute as a broken ice cream machine doesn’t in some way contribute to the trivializing of suicide.
It seems like Minion memes have been everywhere on social media since the release of the movie Despicable Me back in 2010. While those little yellow guys are admittedly adorable, the vast majority of active Facebook users grew tired of them within a month of the movie’s release, as is the tradition with memes.
So what is the secret to the longevity of Minion memes? In a word, moms.
Sure, nobody below the age of 30 has shared a Minion meme in almost a decade, but middle-aged women have been sharing them on their timelines and the timelines of their friends in copious amounts, ensuring the goggle-wearing beans remain among the most popular memes in the world.
One of the most annoying aspects of Minion memes is that the Minions rarely have anything to do with the words that are written beside them. They serve no purpose beyond adding some sort of innocence the sentence “of course size matters, nobody wants a small glass of wine”.
2 Cracking Open A Cold One With The Boys
Cracking Open a Cold One With the boys is something most people thoroughly enjoy doing, so it’s no wonder it spawned a pretty popular meme. The only surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner.
The Cracking Open a Cold One With the Boys meme is extremely straightforward and involves little more than the creator declaring that he or she prefers cracking open a cold one with the boys to literally any other activity.
As you might expect, the meme has come under fire for promoting alcohol consumption through a platform that is largely used by teenagers. It has also divided the meme community (yes, it exists), with Irish and British meme creators insisting the phrase “cracking open a cold one with the boys” is too American and should be replaced by “having a big huge bag of cans with the lads”.
1 Rick Rolling
We all know that feeling. You have, after hours of trawling the web, found a link to that movie you’ve been waiting to see for months, but don’t have the money to pay for. You press the play button, wait ten minutes for it to buffer, and then, after all that time searching and playing the waiting game with your subpar wi-fi, you hear it: “Never gonna give you up…”
Those words from Rick Astley’s 1987 “song” Never Gonna Give You Up spawned the most infamous internet meme of all time. Rickrolling, as it has come to be known, lures the victim in with the promise of some precious content only to present them with a video of Astley shucking and jiving.
Rickrolling first entered the mainstream in 2007 and simply refuses to go away even a decade later. It has found its way into South Park, baseball, and even the 2016 United States presidential election, which saw then candidate Donald Trump give a speech containing phrases eerily similar to those sung by Astley in the 80s.