TLF’s Favorite Internet Memes of 2011

Most pop-culture blogs are posting their top album of movie lists at this time of year, but TLF is sticking to what we know best: The Internet. After all, it was a pretty lackluster year for music, but for internet memes? Stellar. From rainbow-pooping cats to Republican presidential candidates holding gigantic pizzas to teenage songstresses of questionable talent, there was something for everyone.

Rebecca Black’s Friday

Yes, the song is awful.  Production wise, lyrically – on any level, it’s hard to defend “Friday” as a song of any redeeming quality.  But it’s oddly hypnotic (I know all the words, and I don’t even know why!) and its brain-numbing simplicity makes it an easy – and hilarious – meme target. Not all the parodies worked but a few, like comedian Matt Mullholland’s emo cover version, were well done and inspired. I still find myself saying “we so excited” at random intervals. Usually on Friday. – KDC

Pepper Spray Cop

One of the most memorable and disturbing images of the Occupy movement – Lt John Pike casually pepper spraying UC-Davis protestors directly in the face – has become one of the year’s more darkly hilarious internet memes. The Pepper Spray Cop  has been photoshopped spraying everyone from Mr. Rogers to Sleeping Beauty to the Declaration of Independence on peppersprayingcop.tumblr.com.  I admit, that I get a little humorless when it comes to activist movements (I went to UW-Madison, yo) and people’s responses and part of me wonders if the explosion of Occupy-inspired memes are too glib, that some jokester’s seem to take the civil liberties far too lightly if they can poke fun at this.  The Pepper Spray Cop Tumblr, however seems to toe the line comfortably between absurdity and cultural commentary.  At least enough so that I am not discomforted by it. – KDC

Nyan Cat


Who could imagine that an animated gif of a Pop Tart shaped cat with a rainbow coming out of his butt combined with an irritating Japanese pop song would me the most epic internet meme of the year, but here we are. Like Rebecca Black’s Friday, the song’s viral annoyingness is a part of its appeal, but for me, the musical inventiveness of many of the meme parodies. Two of my favorites, like the orchestrated version and the dubstep remix (posted above)and several versions of the meme inject Nyan Cat with some cultural pride with Nyan Cats from Mexico, Sweden, China, and other countries. Nyan Cat is what I love most about internet memes: random, nonsensical but oddly unifying and beloved across internet subcultures- KDC

Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling

The Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling meme, where a picture of Ryan Gosling (preferably shirtless, preferably looking directly at the camera) with a ridiculous come-on line, is my favorite meme of the year, from its slow burn start in 2009. I warmed to this meme slowly, but the ridiculous themes (Hanukkah, Feminist, Public History, Silicon Valley, Librarian, Biostats — it’s like he’s a Barbie!) plus the cheeseball photos, slowly wore me down, unlike any of the appalling lines.

One of the frequent questions asked is “Why Ryan Gosling?” And my response is — who else would be more appropriate for a third-wave feminist reinterpretation of the oppositional gaze? Or crassly, why the !@#$ not?

Additionally, this meme is an unfortunately rare well-recognized form of reinterpretation specifically not only directed towards a female audience, but also female created. One of the interesting things about this meme is that some dudes seem strangely threatened by it, though the only thing menacing about Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling is that he always has both the best abs … and the best lines! -RL

Herman Cain and the Invisible Orange That Is Instead a Pizza

What end of the year list would be complete without a meme that lives up to the short half-life of most memes? For our entry this year, we give you: a Pokémon quoting Presidential candidate who … hmm, how to summarize Herman Cain? I know how! With a badly photoshopped picture of him holding a pizza! A meme that even a five year old can understand, despite its short shelf-life, this meme is now over, but the memories of its LOLs will warm our hearts, if not our pizzas, for months to come.

-RL

Peace, LOLs, and lots more memes in 2012!

I can has cheezburger?: An example of female nerd culture

The kitteh that launched millions of lolcats

One of the most amazing items missing from the two recent books on nerd culture (American Nerd & Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them) was the difference of the nerd experience of girls and women compared with male nerds.

I was thinking about how easy it would have been to include examples of female nerd culture in these books — the differences in ways of discussing and experiencing pop culture, fanworks (fanfiction, fanvids, and slash), the difference in marketing to girl and women (shoujo /shojo versus shonen anime and manga, especially mahou shojo, the magical girl subgenre).

One other real-world example of the gendered difference in nerd culture is Icanhascheezburger.com, the home of lolcats. While there are male fans and non-nerd fans of lolcats, lolcats is a generally female nerd phenomenon. But why?

First, the gender issue — lolcats are based on cute pictures and it is socially more acceptable for women and girls to be involved with cute things. One such example is the Japanese penchant for all things cute, called kawaii, like Hello Kitty.

Secondly, the nerdyness — lolcats “talk” in their own form of English, based on leetspeek, used primarily by computer programmers.

Those two elements put together (and in my personal non-empirical experience) show the reason why many of the fans of lolcats are female nerds.

For example, look at the picture below — filled with cuteness, yet with oddly stated language. If this would only have the picture, it could be directed at anyone who likes cute or cats; if it only had lolcat speech, it would be directed at anyone interested in subculture speech patterns. But the combination of the two demonstrates that lolcats is directed at those in both groups — female nerds.

cat

The spread of lolcats is detailed in a history page, describing the process by which the cat speaking oddly picture became an internet meme and a website. There has even been detailed analysis, trying to describe what makes lolcats what they are.

Ican hascheezburger.com also has a significant economic role on the internetz — according to Business Week,

A week of ads on Cheezburger, via Blogads, starts at $500 and tops out at $5,400 for a premium position. … It recently ranked No. 26 on the most-linked-to blogs list on Technorati. [Ed: As of this blog post, it is the 13th most popular blog on Technorati.]

According to the Times (UK),

In March [2008], icanhascheezburger reached No 8 in a UK newspaper’s 50 Most Powerful Blogs list. [The week of October 12th], it was recording about 5.5 million hits every day.

The spread of lolcats and its staying power for an internet meme, specifically Icanhascheezburger is quite amazing. Time quotes the site’s creator

“The breadth of cultures [lolcats] has spread to is mind-boggling,” … “We think it has evolved beyond Internet subculture and is hitting the mainstream.”

Time magazine says

The striking thing about lolcats–besides its amazing fecundity and variety and the fact that, unlike a lot of Internet cat humor, it’s actually pretty funny–is how little else like it there is online right now. …

We may be witnessing a revolution in user-generated content, but the more mainstream the Web gets, the more it looks like the mainstream: homogenous, opportunistic and commercial. It’s no longer a subculture; it’s just the culture. And don’t we have enough of that already? Are we facing a future without a weird, vital, creative phenomenon like lolcats? Say it with me: “Do not want!”

Icanhascheezburger is now a book, I Can Has Cheezburger? A Lolcat Colleckshun, by Professor Happycat, “full of kittehs and win!”

cat

If I tell you about this, Chuck Norris will roundhouse kick me into butter! Or court!

Chuck Norris has decided that others making money from the Chuck Norris meme is unacceptable to a man who roundhouse-kicks cows into making butter. His means to shut down these money-making cowards/fans? Not another Mountain Dew ad or a Mike Huckabee endorsement spot, but in a recently-filed lawsuit. Once Justia and PACER have the docket, I’ll post all the documents. (Note how the Huckabee ad has the exact same meme-created pushup/ground “fact” as this one read by Mr. Norris himself)

The meme about Chuck Norris as the ultimate tough guy has been around for awhile, though whether it was done in homage to the man or to make fun of him isn’t clear and either way fits tightly within snark fandom. One snarkish fan, The Hot Librarian, gives a great social history of the meme — and what participating fans got out of the Norris effect. In 2005, THL wrote:

Someone sent me one of those FWD: emails that … had to do with Chuck Norris and roundhouse kicking and beards and such, and I know you’re saying, “Who cares about Chuck Norris and his roundhouse kicks?” to which I say, “EXACTLY. No one. That’s why it’s funny.” People don’t care about Chuck Norris or Amish people anymore. It’s a travesagedy. That’s a travesty and a tragedy combined. It means “something really really bad.” …

“If you ask Chuck Norris what time it is, he always says, “Two seconds ’til.” After you ask, “Two seconds ’til what?” he roundhouse kicks you in the face.”

“Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.”

If you threw an Amish quilt over Chuck’s shoulders as he roundhouse kicked me in the face, I would die from laughing and beard-related injuries. I was explaining this Norris Phenomenon to my very good friend and he told me, probably just to humor me and get me to shut up about Chuck fuckin’ Norris, “Chuck Norris doesn’t churn butter. He roundhouse kicks the cows and the butter comes straight out.”

Many if not all of the Norris “facts” were created by fans and shared openly — such as Mr. Norris’ butter churning ability, yet he then used these facts to help his own image. The Hot Librarian states that

I would just like to point out that my very close personal friend MADE UP THE STARRED CHUCK NORRIS FUN FACT. AND THE FIRST TIME THAT FACT WAS SEEN ANYWHERE ON EARTH WAS ON MY BLOGBLOGBLOG. That website copied our little piece of Chuck-i-trivia (complete with homage to the butterchurning Amish I love so dearly) word for word. Of course, they gave us no credit but the thing is – we know. Immortality? We took it. It is ours.

The Hot Librarian’s butter-churning Chuck Norris “factoid” was used on The Best Sports Show — with Chuck Norris himself reading this fact.

Lest this go without being made clear — Mr. Norris capitalized on this bizarre form of Real Person Fanfic where he could do no wrong (like a modern-era urban-legend Paul Bunyan (sans Blue Ox), making himself $$$ in the process based on fan creativity. Other actors, such as Richard Dean Anderson (in a MasterCard ad “as” MacGyver) and William Shatner (see Boston Legal) have made money from making fun of their fan-created images without suing said fans.

I’ll have more to say after I read the complaint — but at this point, does Mr. Norris really think that his oeuvre is really being critiqued incorrectly by these “facts”? Or is the real fact that Chuck Norris will roundhouse fans into court (soon as look at them) if you complement him wrong? Or that only Chuck Norris is allowed to make fun of Chuck Norris?

2 Girls 1 Cup: Bringing the Internetz Together!

So I’ve been watching the “2 Girls 1 Cup” phenomenon on You Tube and it’s been cracking me up while simultaneously grossing me out by proxy (I have not seen the original video, don’t plan to, and don’t suggest that you do it either, unless you have a strong stomach)

For those that don’t know, “2 Girls 1 Cup” is a website that features about 40 seconds of … umm, how do I put this … adult situations of a highly graphic nature. Highly graphic. You can read more about it on Wikipedia. I’m not linking to it. People all over are playing the video for friends and screening it themselves and recording their own horrified and disgusted reactions. My buddy Jon comments on the phenomenon on his blog. And here are a couple of other amusing reactions:

This phenomenon is fascinating to me because its interactivity (pull up the site, set up a camera and bring in an unwitting victim) the sheer diversity of people engaging in it: college students, business professionals, servicemen, married couples, drag queens … this whole idea of sharing the experience of being utterly disgusted with the rest of the world. As Jon said, shock sites aren’t anything new, nor is the phenomenon of pranking someone into watching a viral video but this whole phenomenon of recording the real-time reaction is pretty fascinating to me. It’s the Internet’s equivalent to audiences’ initial repsonse to The Exorcist back in the 70’s.