The Funny And Weird Memes Of 2018 – A Year In Review
There are many ways to measure the passage of time: the tick of a clock, the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of the seasons – or the ebb and flow of internet memes. At the beginning of the year, we were still eating Tide Pods, and Distracted Boyfriend was at its peak. The summer ushered in the Kiki Challenge and the Yanny/Laurel debate. By the end of 2018, we were ready to unplug – not a cell phone in sight, just living in the moment.
Memes marked some of the most momentous occasions of the year, from politics to sport, and held up a mirror to our prevailing concerns and preoccupations. Here we look back at some of the memes that defined 2018, from A to (almost) Z.
American Chopper Argument
The best memes hold up even when you don’t know the source material, as is the case with American Chopper Argument. You might know this better as a strip of five still frames depicting a man with an impressive grey moustache gesticulating irately at a younger man in a cap, who ends up throwing a chair in anger. These figures are, apparently, Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Teutul Jr., from the US reality TV show American Chopper (me neither). The meme involves adding captions to each frame that speculate what the pair could be arguing about.
Beating out tough competition from the likes of #BlackHogwarts and Big Dick Energy, Baby Shark takes the ‘B’ spot on our list thanks to the sheer extent of its popularity. The most annoying earworm since Crazy Frog, this irresistibly catchy kids’ song has truly permeated the global consciousness, having racked up over two billion views on YouTube and been featured on prime-time TV and radio – plus on a constant loop in your brain.
Change my mind sign
In February 2018, Conservative American podcaster Steven Crowder uploaded a picture to Twitter that showed him sat at a table near a university campus, looking smug behind a banner reading “Male privilege is a myth. Change my mind.” The banner presented a perfect canvas for people to PhotoShop parody phrases onto – and boy, did they rise to the challenge. The result is a meme that perfectly captures the antagonistic nature of discussions on identity politics in 2018.
Possibly the biggest meme of 2018, and the epitome of the recent trend for object-labelling memes, Distracted Boyfriend’s success is largely down to its glorious versatility. The meme consists of a stock image of a young man holding a woman’s hand but looking over his shoulder at another woman walking by. Originating in 2017, this year it really came into its own, becoming a template for commentary on everything from prog-rock to politics. The discovery of dozens more images from the same photo shoot fuelled creativity even further, resulting in comic strip-style soap operas giving a different spin on the characters’ stories.
The ‘Floss’ dance began its life as a meme a couple of years ago, when a teenager going by the moniker The Backpack Kid uploaded a video of himself performing the move on Instagram, going on to perform it onstage with Katy Perry. But you probably know it from Fortnite, where the Floss was added as an “emote”, allowing players to make their characters do the hip-swinging, arm-pumping victory dance – and swiftly replacing dabbing as the go-to move on the school playground.
He’s not your man
ladies, if he:
- never texts you back
- always interjects with unsolicited advice
- reads your personal documents
- constantly tries to help you format paragraphs
- is a sentient paper clip
he’s not your man. he’s clippy the microsoft word office assistant— #1 Rachel (@rachel) November 24, 2018
A late entry, appearing only towards the end of 2018, the ‘He’s not your man’ meme is a text meme spread mainly on Twitter, which starts off “Ladies, if he…”, then lists a few increasingly unusual traits before revealing: “He’s not your man. He’s [insert humorous alternative here]”. There are many amusing examples, but my favourite, combining as it does a modern meme with antiquated enterprise software, has to be the Clippy the Microsoft Word office assistant version.
This object labelling meme originates from a scene in the animé series The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird, in which a character looks at a butterfly and asks “Is this a pigeon”? Cue the perfect template for any confusing situation or humorous misunderstanding.
As Brexit looms ever closer, most political memes just don’t seem that funny any more, but we can’t not mention Theresa May’s dancing. The UK prime minister first found meme infamy for her clumsy dance moves on a trip to South Africa, then at the Conservative Party Conference, where she lumbered on stage to ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’. The great thing about this meme is that it’s funny regardless your opinions on May herself. For one fleeting moment, as our political leader swung her arms and waddled her feet like a robot duck in a power suit, Britain was united.
Not a cell phone in sight
2018 saw much discussion about the potential negative effects of technology, with plenty of handwringing over smartphone overuse and nostalgia for simpler times. The ‘Not a cell phone in sight’ meme pokes delightful fun at self-righteous attitudes about forgoing devices to “live in the moment”. As the many hilarious takes on this meme remind us, life before smartphones wasn’t always quite so idyllic as all that.
World Cup – assorted memes
This summer brought a World Cup that saw the England team defy expectations on two counts: 1) they were actually quite good, and 2) they embraced social media. Players for once seemed to find the fun in mocking themselves, with highlights including Harry Maguire’s “Hey girl”- type pose, Jesse Lingard’s phone call to his mum, and Kyle Walker’s unconventional quarter-final celebration – plus, of course, the team’s use of that must-have Instagram influencer prop, the unicorn pool inflatable.
It was 2018’s answer to “The Dress”: a recording of a computerised voice clearly saying the word “Laurel”, which for some reason some people thought was actually saying “Yanny”. Scientists explained that it’s all to do with the frequencies you hear and the way your brain perceives things. Laurel. Yanny. Laurel. Yanny. Laurel. Yanny. (It’s Laurel.)