In a few centuries from now, as crazy as it is to believe, historians might be looking at our memes to suss out exactly why we are the way we are. When they come to 2020, the memes will say that we were in a bit of an existential crisis. They’ll speculate that the internet, this digital playground of ours, has made us so unable to communicate in person that we have to take weird images and pop culture to make sense of our times. But my goodness—just look at the mechanical deer below to understand just how jilted we are. Who could say it better?
From serious news stories to frivolous celebrity drama, memes have given our daily assault of reality some much-needed moments of levity. They also have gotten really freaking weird this year. Be it politics, Taylor Swift, or cake, the memes of 2020 have been a comfort in dark times. Long live the meme. May they forever reign.
This is Where I'm At
By the time we've hit September, we're just looking for some new way to communicate that, Hey, we're in a tough spot right now. That's where the "This is Where I'm At" meme comes in. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. A video, presumably, is worth a million. So why try and vocalize the very strange place you're in when a photo of a deer head, a mechanical body, and prosthetic legs can do it for you?
How the Email Found Me
“I hope this email finds you well”— Tom Zohar (@TomZohar) August 30, 2020
How the email found me: pic.twitter.com/JAca0f6Ag7
Fire whomever came up with the phrase "I hope this email finds you well." I don't care what their job is. Fire them because when has an email—and I cannot stress this enough—ever found you well? Emails are the worst, and in this hellscape of a year, no email is finding me well. Do you think I'm sitting at my computer, joyously feasting on a salad and laughing for no reason? No, Debra. I'm not great. This meme was created to encapsulate that vibe. Let us all retire the sentiment.
The Real Villain
The movie villain. The actual villain. pic.twitter.com/alAeLvmtO4— Danielle Perez (@DivaDelux) July 8, 2020
The rare 2020 meme that isn't about total existential dread. Refreshing! This meme format is for the hindsight lovers out there. Voldemort? Maybe not as bad as we thought? Thanos? Perhaps there was another villain. Nate from The Devil Wears Prada? Human garbage. Sorry, it's canon.
The 2020 Challenge, AKA, Reese Witherspoon Challenge
It's unclear who exactly started this challenge, but what became known as the "Reese Witherspoon" challenge is simply charting out your emotional journey over the past 8-9 months. A common through line is that after, say, May... it just doesn't get any better.
What is Cake?
Now this—this is existential dread, personified. One BuzzFeed video launched a whole craze of cake madness: what hyper realistic things around us are actually cake? Are we cake? The meme is strangely dark and a bit heady, but at least there's icing on the outside.
Which _______ Are You?
Another weird meme that took off on Instagram is the "Which _______ are you?" meme, which ran the gamut from which cow you might be to which Moira Rose. They're niche and weird and, unsurprisingly, largely crafted by a bevy of Gen Z teens who then used a big portion of the profits to donate to charity. You love a success story.
Boys Thrusting to Taylor Swift
As TikTok looks into the face of its potential dissolution, memes are still emerging on the platform every day. In Summer 2020, the one that bubbled up above the rest is the Taylor Swift "Love Story" challenge, where boys—typically of the teenage persuasion—set up their camera on a skateboard or something that rolls, wait for the beat to drop as the camera moves away, and then thrust like their lives depend on it when the chorus hits. Youth is magical.
The Ana de Armas Fan Account That Ana de Armas Blocked
Ana de Armas convinces Ben Affleck to join her for midsommar festivities and assures him that it will not be like the movie. (June 30, 2020) pic.twitter.com/5wwNlDQAuo— Ana de Armas Updates (@ArmasUpdates) July 1, 2020
To be fair, @ArmasUpdates is less of a meme and more of an exemplary study in internet humor. The account, which posts photos of Ana de Armas and then captions them with fictional happenings, is an internet sensation. It has also been blocked by the actress, who seems to not think the joke is as funny as everyone else.
Nature is Healing
Bear Tree blossoms in early summer.— Timothy Huyer (@tim4hire) June 28, 2020
Nature is healing. We are the virus. pic.twitter.com/Eb5qYEdpZf
In late Spring, amid all the terrible news coming from Europe regarding COVID-19, one good thing seemed to be happening. Water quality hadn't been so good in Italy in decades. The internet then took good news and turned it into a meme. See something outside of the norm? "Nature is healing. We are the virus."
Andrew Cuomo's Briefing Slides
While Governor Andrew Cuomo is far from perfect when it comes to governing New York and/or handling the coronavirus outbreak, his regular COVID-19 press briefings have offered a twisted, humorous goldmine for memes. And in a year where no one really knows what day it is (see below), his often simplified slides sure offer a bit of levity.
My Plans // 2020
Well. We tried it. This year has come along and derailed just about everything good we had going for us. From quarantine to everything else that happened in the Before Times, this year has decidedly not been the refresh we were hoping it would be. At least there's a good meme to follow. The format: what you thought your year was going to be in a photo, followed by how it turned out. Take this one: Mmmm whatcha say?
X Æ A-12, now better known as X Æ A-xii
Grime: Where's the baby?— I said what I said (@Spilling_The_T) May 5, 2020
Elon Musk: Outside in the new self-pushing Tesla pram!
X Æ A-12 travelling around: pic.twitter.com/sjBdQgE8Ck
Leave it to Elon Musk and Grimes to make an easy task impossibly difficult. When their baby was born this Spring, they unveiled that their child's name was something akin to what happens when your cat walks across your keyboard. The full explanation, which you can explore on your own time, is prime Elon x Grimes content, but the internet when wild with the memes, prodding at the couple's bizarre naming technique.
Dear Men, What is Preventing You...
Dear men, what is preventing you from looking like this? pic.twitter.com/GXc9z8uux6— Alex McDaniel (@AlexMcDaniel) May 26, 2020
We love a tone deaf tweet that gets co-opted into something grander. After one Twitter user posted a picture of a man with abs and asked the question, "Dear men, what is preventing you from looking like this?" the internet had a field day with their own variations on what men are supposed to look like.
What Day Is It?
Me when someone asks what day it is pic.twitter.com/1lhUh4eRUh— John Robert Allman (@Johnny_Allman) March 29, 2020
With the COVD-19 virus trapping the world at home, it’s scientifically proven that we’ve all lost grasp on exactly how time works. What day is it? Does it matter? While the virus itself is no laughing matter, it is pretty funny to take a step back and find ways to joke about how incredibly topsy turvy we’re all feeling about time. This particular take sparks quite a bit of joy. For reference, let’s just say that the day of the week is “Spring” for now.
Wash Your Lyrics
As the COVID-19 virus spread, a revamped mandate to wash your hands came about. But washing your hands doesn’t mean briefly running them under a faucet and then simply showing them a bottle of soap. No, it’s 20 seconds of thorough scrubbing. Because we’re all children at heart, one website made it possible to chart the process out with the lyrics to your favorite song. Let the internet take control, and then you end up with a chart about washing your hands to Sylvia Plath poetry.
Gossip Girl Meme
The internet loves to drudge up an old show and make a new meme. In this one, the objective is simple. You have a Blake Lively up top. A Leighton Meester on the bottom. You pose a question with Blake, and with Leighton, you use those crude Photoshop skills that kept you from succeeding in graphic design school, and you rearrange the letters to spell something ridiculous. Boom, a meme is born.
No One Has the Range
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but no one has the range. pic.twitter.com/3fuQI2346V— Jorge Molina (@colormejorge) February 18, 2020
Sure, Joaquin Phoenix is an award-winning actor best known for playing unhinged characters, but could he high-kick his way through the “Dancing Queen” choreography in Mamma Mia? You bet your bottom dollar he couldn’t--but Christine Baranski could. This meme celebrates the range of actors and actresses who’ve made a career out of playing diverse characters, from the serious to the zany. Go ahead and try your hand at creating a “no one has the range” meme of your own while in quarantine--we bet you’re watching enough TV and movies to identify some good candidates.
TikTok Point to Text
What started as an innocent meme—where TikTok users would point at superimposed text to the wholesome tune of the Yoshi’s Island “Map Theme”—took a dark turn when medical Twitter (yes, that’s a thing) got involved. A user by the name of Nurse Holly, who has over 1.7 million followers, came under fire when she used the format to claim that abstinence is the best method of STD prevention. Holly deleted the video due to backlash, but not before other medical professionals piled on to set the record straight. Fact-checking—you love to see it.
Bernie “I Am Once Again Asking for Your…”
my cats moments after i've filled her food bowl pic.twitter.com/6oRYYK5Onl— rae paoletta🍍 (@PAYOLETTER) February 3, 2020
If there’s any positivity to be found in what’s promising to be a nightmarish 2020 Election, it’s in the memes. Yes, our democracy might be in shambles, but at least we can share stupid images on the Internet right? This one is simply a still from a Bernie Sanders fundraising video. Simply insert what you’re asking for.
I’ve Tried, But I Can’t
Tracy Turnblad when she tries to stop the beat https://t.co/aiyQzmcP6X— John Robert Allman (@Johnny_Allman) February 17, 2020
Little Women didn’t win Best Picture at the Oscars, but who needs that when we have some very prestigious memes? Saoirse Ronan’s impassioned speech to Timothee Chalamet is the perfect antidote for any vibe you’re feeling when you’re just utterly defeated. Assign it to an impossible to-do list. An exhaustive reading list. Tracy Turnblad trying to stop the beat. You get the gist.
Billie Eilish Oscars
Poor Billie. Seemingly unaware of anything that happened in pop culture before the year 2000, the Oscars and all the Olds threw the young woman for a loop. When Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph went into a musical medley, she seemed fully confused by all of their references. And don’t get us started on the face she made when Eminem performed “Lose Yourself.” In her defense, that performance has been 17 years in the making.
Nancy Pelosi Rips Up a Speech
Me ripping up the study guide after failing the test: pic.twitter.com/HVPXObzpGG— Josh Silverman (@JoshMSilverman) February 5, 2020
If Speaker Pelosi seemed chill throughout Trump’s third State of the Union, you didn’t stick around until the final moments. With a few seconds of airtime left, the Speaker of the House ripped up Trump’s speech as she stood behind him. Thus, a meme and a 2020 mood was born.
Instagram has a Twin Peaks character filter. Of course I had to try it. pic.twitter.com/T6IBEptKGY— Kristina Morss 🏳️🌈 (@kristinamorss) February 17, 2020
If you’ve ever been curious which Harry Potter character you are or which Disney Prince you are most like or any other general question, chances are there’s an Instagram filter that will reveal it to you. Based on no science or discernible decision making criteria, the filters took off in 2020, continuing the tradition of Instagram being the lazy man’s TikTok.
The Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt Wrist Grab
This is art. A captured exchange between former spouses Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston launched all kinds of memes and debate about the couple. Meeting backstage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the quick photo is likely just a strange shot as Aniston passed Pitt, but man if it didn't light the internet on fire.
Marriage Story Fight Meme
god this scene in marriage story is so beautiful. honestly a fight scene so rooted in realism it shook me to my core. so difficult to watch. pic.twitter.com/zNzU0kTH74— james mckenna (@chillhartman) December 13, 2019
Marriage Story has had such an interesting trajectory. First it was beautiful. Then it was a bit overwrought, and then everyone realized just how much potential there was in using some of its most dramatic moments as a meme. Though there are other variations on this beautiful moment, how long has it been since you had "Chop Suey" stuck in your head? Welcome home, System of a Down fans.
Not Even to Dinner with the Kushners?
(•_•)— Ξvan Ross Katz (@evanrosskatz) January 3, 2020
<) )╯Not even
\( (> to dinner
<) )╯with the Kushners?
Note: If you fuck up on Project Runway, turning on the judges isn't going to save you. Note 2: Turning on the judges could make you go viral. That's what happened when contestant Tyler Neasloney's design got panned by the judges, including Karlie Kloss. When one judge said he couldn't see Kloss wearing the design in Paris, and she agreed, Neasloney said, "Not even to dinner with the Kushners?" and a meme was born.
Tom Hanks at the Globes
Ricky Gervais knows how to make a room cringe, but Tom Hanks, America's dad, encapsulated it perfectly with this cringe-worthy face... an expression that hasn't leant itself so perfect to meme-status since Chrissy Teigen's face a few years ago.
Which is the Best Seat?
All my sandwich eaters, which is the best seat at subway? pic.twitter.com/9LTXog0qD3— Diego Lopez (@thisdiegolopez) January 1, 2020
What started out as a debate about the best seat on the New York MTA system turned into a whole new meme. Applicable to... any place with seats, the more creative, the better.
Canceling Plans is OK
Cancelling plans is ok. Doing mushrooms by yourself is ok. Creating your own religion is ok. Running away from society to live off grid is ok. Do whatever you need to do to cope.— Nick Hinton (@NickHintonn) January 18, 2020
The best part of the "canceling plans" meme is that it starts out as self-care. Then it absolutely spirals into hyperbole, meaning that if you need a bit of space to relieve yourself from the anxieties of the world, you can do so by going as much in the opposite chaotic direction as possible. Stress, meet stress.
I Just Got Impeached for Making the Perfect Phone Call
I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL! pic.twitter.com/aC7Wxl3cDP— Kevin Zak (@KevinJZak) January 16, 2020
Trump's gonna tweet. People gonna meme.
Get You a Woman Who Can Do It All
Did Dolly Parton technically create this meme? We think not. But she did breathe life into it again, and when Dolly touches something, it turns to gold. Every timeline—Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook—was flooded with the #DollyPartonChallenge. And in case you're wondering, no one pulled it off better than the originator herself.
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