Culture

14 most iconic memes of 2019

Politically speaking it’s been a bit of an annus horribilis, so here’s everything that made us laugh in the dumpster fire that was this past 12 months.
December 26, 2019, 2:00pm
Chicky nuggies meme

Some people have loads of skills. They’re experts in crazy, impressive things. Like, they can fly a plane or do quantum physics. Even in the i-D office there are experts in social media, people who can tell just from looking at an Instagram photo which season the clothes were from and the designer who made them. Anyway, I have one skill. And my one skill is that I always know good memes. So here is the summation of my professional career in 2019 -- the best memes of the last 12 months. Enjoy, because this is all I have.

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January: No man has all five and the four generations challenge
Hard to believe that January even existed isn’t it? It’s been widely written that the internet, as a destructive, ever present vortex of overstimulation, has completely ruined our concept of time, to the point that we cannot place events chronologically – whether they took place five minutes or five years ago. But yeah, January! It happened!

Despite the fact that the start of a new year is often filled with heady optimism about what we’re going to achieve, January’s best meme was an exercise in the limits of the human spirit; a reminder, if we ever needed it, that no man has all five of the things needed to be perfect:

On a more wholesome note, however, there was also that really sweet “four generations” challenge, which took social media by storm in China. It later exploded on TikTok, where people quickly decided it was the cutest thing they’d ever seen. We all need some wholesome energy in the dark days of deepest winter (we probably need it more now than we did back in January, tbh), so here’s a compilation of the sweetest videos from the challenge:

February: Gaga and Act My Age dance
February was the month Lady Gaga did something weird and went viral for it, so in this way it was no different from any day, month or year of our lives since Lady Gaga became famous back in 2007. So let us be more specific. February 2019 was the year she l e a n e d towards the screen at the end of her Grammy’s performance -- a hard rock take on her hit song “Shallow” -- and swiftly became a bizarre and beautiful meme for it.

February was a great month for non-celebrity memes too. It was the month we all began explaining away our awful personalities “due to personal reasons”, and embraced a new dance craze. The latter shows a viral video of a woman and her two kids busting some serious moves to what was initially termed “pirate music” (it was eventually determined to be One Direction’s “Act My Age”, released in 2014). Originally gracing the internet with its presence back in 2017 via Vine (RIP), the video experienced a resurgence this year. It’s mesmerising.

March: Nobody
The thing about being constantly online and constantly screaming into the void that is our Twitter TL is that we’ve become desensitised to oversharing. We have no fear or shame about announcing intricate details of our personal lives and sharing every thought we have, however inane, with the masses who never asked to hear it. Perhaps this is where the nobody meme came from.

Nobody:
No one at all:
Not a single person:
i-D: Bet you’re still annoyed we never released the Harry and Timothée audio.

April: Here we go again
April’s iconic meme proves, if nothing else, that we love a bit of nostalgia. You may remember this as the month where we rediscovered our collective love of the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, using a scene from the game to explore the concept of frustration and human resilience . It’s pretty wild, when you think about it, that as a society we have access to tech which is advanced enough to give us deep fakes and AI influencers, but we’re still obsessed with a Playstation 2 cutscene that looks so pixelated it’s almost indecipherable. I guess all culture is cyclical, eh. Ah shit, here we go again.

May: Notes on Camp
May, what a concept!

Also a good concept: the Met Gala theme. This year it was camp, Notes on Camp, to be exact. But in the tradition of the ball, not everyone nailed it! The bad news is: wow, you’re lazy and tacky and you should ultimately have your invite revoked by Anna Wintour and the Vogue crew. The good news is: you fucked up the dress code so much that you graced our timelines with memes about it. There were also, inevitably, memes about how much Lady Gaga nailed it. But c’mon, she was never going to get “camp” wrong.

It’s almost like we were there right? One day, one day I will cop that invite. Anna, if you’re reading this I am free to hang out on the first Monday in May you can reach me via the email in my bio to confirm I am free to hang out on the first Monday in May thanks.

June: Woman yelling at a cat
It’s hard to believe that one of the things we love most in the world only really came to our attention six months ago. Cast your mind back to the glorious days of summer and the June fling that managed to do what so many memes -- and summer flings -- have never managed: stay in our hearts and our TLs for a long, long time; to become more than a flash in the pan, a veritable international treasure. It will come as absolutely no surprise to you that I’m talking about that meme of the woman yelling at a cat across a dinner table.

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The chaotic energy of this diptych kind of defies explanation, but we’ll give you one anyway. The image on the left is a screencap from a 2011 episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the aptly named “Malibu Beach Party From Hell” from season two. The crying woman is Taylor Armstrong, captured mid-argument while being comforted/restrained by co-star Kyle Richards. The image on the right is internet hero, Smudge the Cat. Some genius had the brainwave of putting them together and the rest, as they say, is history.

July: Storm Area 51
I honestly feel like summer 2k19 was a complete fever dream, because in July we all decided en masse that we were going to storm Area 51. How we ever thought that the US army would not instantly gun down the select few who actually managed to travel to Nevada for this stunt -- the original mentality was that “they can’t stop us all”???? -- is baffling. Obviously, a real life storming was not to be (although there were attempts). But at least we got some good memes out of it, eh?

August: Imma head out
I’m tired now. Why did I start writing this? Dunno. August’s meme is that one of Spongebob getting up from his chair and it says “Ight imma head out” underneath. Wish I was doing that right now. Still four months to go. Cool!

September: Joker stairs
Between Pennywise and the Joker and that one meme of the guy painting his face in front of a mirror, 2019 really was the Year of the Clown. But one clown really ascended in terms of having his own meme. Only Joaquin Phoenix, with his much riffed on stairs dance, made the cut. You probably remember this meme, which sees Joaquin’s interpretation of the Joker (dapper suit, bad movie) sashaying down a flight of stone steps in Gotham City. It appeared on the film’s poster, and swiftly again and again and again, and again, on our newsfeeds. Almost entertaining enough to make the film watchable? Undecided.

October: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself
If you were ever in doubt that the internet’s preferred brand of humour was intensely bizarre and just a little too dark, then the fact that objectively the most popular meme of October 2019 was a joke about how Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself will eliminate any uncertainty. This “joke” became so ubiquitous that it even featured on morning news in the USA. The internet is a weird place, I dunno what to tell you.

November: Baby Yoda
Usually you expect to receive your Christmas presents in December, but this year the world was given the gift of a messianic baby a month early. Move over Jesus because Baby Yoda is in town! I’ve never seen a Star War in my life but I would -- and I cannot emphasise this enough -- lay down my life for Baby Yoda. Apparently he’s in some show called The Mandalorian. Something to do with Disney? Honestly, who cares! The world is bleak and dark and cold and this little guy gave us the adorable memes we needed to push through to the festive period. Thanks lil’ guy.

December: A Marriage Story
Whether you pay for it yourself or you’re still stealing the log-in from your ex-ex-ex-ex boyfriend, you’ve probably seen A Marriage Story all over your Netflix. Aside from giving us some hilarious news stories of Adam Driver storming out of interviews, it’s also gifted us with memes from the film’s most iconic scene, a fraught argument between the titular married couple. In shades of the arguing Orange County Choppers meme from last year, this meme is evidence, if we ever needed it, that we should eliminate our old, stale, Academy Awards and give the Oscars to funny screenshots on Twitter instead.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.