ByPeter Flynn, writer at
An advocate for understanding the phenomenological wonder of the moving image. Also Tremors is the best.
Peter Flynn

The mere idea of memes is actually kinda incredible. The fact we live in such a world where informational and iconographic exchange is at such a level where we can reappropriate imagery and practically turn it into our own form of art is something that should be celebrated. Let's list some of the most prolific memes of recent years, and really penetrate why they've connected with people the way they did, but first, it's worth asking one simple question.

What is a Meme?

You might be inclined to assume that a meme is merely something that makes you laugh on the internet, but the gauntlet a mere joke has to go through to become a meme is full of circumstances that have to be met. Sometimes things go viral, and that's that, but then there's cases of evolution and growth in memes, which if something ignores, it becomes a "forced meme", as exhibited by the most notable example "Milhouse is not a meme". This is a meme that's being pushed by an individual to take off, and alerts everyone their forced nature. To put this in Mean Girls terms that the internet understands, it's "fetch".

It's not gonna happen.
It's not gonna happen.

In this sense, a meme is simply something that must take off organically, and be agreed upon by the people who participate. It just needs to be a piece of iconography used for a purpose that goes beyond its original intent. Now that's out the way, let's take a look at some of the most popular!

Sad Keanu and Happy Leo

Sad Keanu
Sad Keanu

Why do people connect with memes like Sad Keanu and Happy Leo? Well it's for the same reason that we indulge in degrading paparazzi snaps, but in a nice way! It's the feeling that these huge Hollywood stars are no different to us, but instead of seeing drunken binges or upskirt shots, we're seeing the absolute binaries of human expression, plus the feeling that these actors aren't able to be posers. Sad Keanu in particular matches up with the ethos of the guy, who seems to embrace a general being of sadness on the basis that he "doesn't have to be happy to live".

These two lucky pics also provide the ability for users to mix and match elements of the meme. Sad Keanu looks extra sad when Leo is walking right by him. Memes gain extra longevity when people are able to repurpose them, and put their own stamp on them. Speaking of which...

Chris Pratt Jurassic World Meme

It's just like in the movie!
It's just like in the movie!

This meme speaks to just how much an image from a movie can take off, even when it isn't the best form of cinema. Think about this image. It's just Chris Pratt holding his hands up to three CGI raptors, so what's special about it? Well, people can replicate it. Many, many people can replicate it, and as long as there's more people wanting to get in on the joke, the longer the meme lasts. It's the same mechanic that was had with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, only with no benefit to charity. The danger comes when people stop adding to a meme as a collective, and start jumping in only for themselves. That brings me to my next example.

Don't Judge Challenge

Don't judge
Don't judge

Don't judge videos are an exercise in redundancy and misunderstanding, the level of which I have never seen on the internet. It started out clear enough. People making themselves up to be stereotypically ugly, only to cover over the camera and suddenly reveal that, surprise, they're actually a hot person. I suppose the sentiment is that anyone who looks traditionally ugly can, with a bit of cosmetic help, appear traditionally beautiful. A little shallow, but at least that's a sentiment. It has however been overrun by teenagers completely misunderstanding any conceit, and simply using it as an excuse to showcase how "good looking" they are.

A Don't Judge video is extremely easy to make, and thus, basically everyone can cash in on it, regardless of their actual opinion on body positivity or judging people. The the makeup skills on display are so dire that it's unclear what we're even supposed to "not judge". Are we supposed to not judge fake teeth? Comically huge monobrows? Clearly drawn on pimples? The only sentiment this Ugly/Beautiful bait and switch leaves us with is "boy it sure sucks to be ugly". This is the moment where a meme becomes a bandwagon.

What are your favorite memes, and why do you like them? Let us know with a post here on MoviePilot, by voting in our poll, or by leaving a comment below!


Should "Don't Judge" even count as a meme?


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