And there’s no better way to explain the latest Twitter trend, where everyone is claiming that they’re related to a famous celebrity.
“My grandparents in Basra, Iraq (1960).” reads the caption of a picture that has literally nothing to do with Basra, Iraq, but is actually a still of Cillian Murphy and Keira Knightley from their 2008 film The Edge of Love.
Another tweet features Kim Kardashian West as the user’s grandmother, “My great grandma being rescued after the titanic hit the iceberg 1912” the tweets reads, the picture is from that iconic Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode where Kim loses her diamond earring in the ocean. “and yes she did in fact lose her heart of the ocean earring” the user further clarified. Seems appropriate.
And just like that, everyone from the Obamas to Adolf Hitler is now a long lost ancestor of someone probably tweeting from a dark corner of their quarantine space. Modern pop culture figures are being juxtaposed with important historical events, usually infused with a touch of humour, irony and absurdity.
The trend, much like 2021, is an inside joke that no one seems to fully understand, but are playing along anyway.
“I saw someone use this format with a picture of Ariana Grande and I thought it was super funny, I tried to give it a shot myself,” says Twitter user @gayofbengal, they re-enacted this format with a picture of Parvati Patil from the Harry Potter series. “The downside was people from the Harry Potter fandom calling me a liar, they were late to the meme party, I guess.”
Now, using elements of the old to fit the current cultural context isn’t new. In fact, earlier this year, a similar meme trend emerged, where photos of people eating at crowded restaurants or shopping at supermarkets from when we could freely do these things in a pre-pandemic age were ironically splashed with a vintage black and white filter and a line that read and old photo of people doing things in 2019 B.C. or before corona.
But what makes this new Twitter trend all the more intriguing is that it appears to be a push for inclusivity, given that a majority of the tweets are coming from POC.
“Yes! I’ve seen people pass off cultural appropriators as people from their country. I personally chose Rihanna and that particular photo because she’s wearing a traditional hairstyle worn by women in my country, Eritrea. Her big forehead helps her resemble people from there as well.” says Twitter user @wheresurthesis who posted a picture of Rihanna as her grandmother.
Several celebrities who have been called out for cultural appropriation like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian West are popular memes in this trend. “I guess this is a play on how white people think all brown people and South Asian cultures are the same.” says user @gayofbengal
So what made this trend become so popular? Was it the sheer fluke of the first-ever tweet getting a ton of likes and retweets? “There have been loads of posts where people actually post their real grandparents who looked attractive back in their day and it gets a lot of traction. I think this meme is sort of a riff on that and kind of parodying.” says user @AYVIE000J who participated in the trend by posting a picture of Cardi B as his grandmother in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Keke Palmer and Halle Berry participated in the trend too, but they made it meta by layering two meme formats. Palmer posted a picture of herself from her teens with the caption, “My granny was such a vibe in the 1940’s” to which Berry responded, “Baby, that’s KeKe Palmer.” If you don’t know the whole story behind the Keke Palmer metra train meme, this is a helpful guide.
Maybe the meme took off because of its simple, effective and easily recognisable format. Maybe it’s because we feel like we’ve aged a decade in the last year. Or maybe we’ve all just run out of throwback pictures, and need formats like this so we can continue to microdose on the dopamine rush of social media likes.