what's it like to be a meme?

/ 26 August 2011 /
In 1968, Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

Well, welcome to 2011, where practically every person can indeed be obsessed over throughout the globe -- just not always in the fabulous way. That's how an internet meme works. For those in the back, a meme (rhymes with 'team') is basically an idea that goes viral, spreading wildly throughout a culture. And in the case of internet culture, memes can be anything from pictures to quotes to songs and yes, even to people.

Finally, a shot at global popularity. Yay, right? Hmm... why don't we ask the actual, living meme personalities of our time?


I'm being cyberbullied -- Rebecca Black
Meme: Friday

Only the unaware can be blissfully unaware of the "Friday" phenomenon, so let's be even: "Friday" is a song performed by then 13-year-old Rebecca Black. But it's more than just a song -- it's a blatant (mis)use of Autotune, a piece of poetry for four-year-olds (with words like "Tomorrow is Saturday / And Sunday comes afterwards"), and an excuse to put out a music video that's so 'fun'ny, it's confusing.

So of course, the internet cast its power, albeit cruelly, transforming the song and the singer into a supernova of a joke. Because of the massive harsh response, Rebecca Black got tons of press, and in one interview, she admitted, “At times, it feels like I’m being cyberbullied.” And now, to keep away from real-life taunts, she has had to be homeschooled, too. Tsk. Can't have everything, indeed.

Hope my daughter isn't embarrassed -- Rick Astley
Meme: Rickroll

Some of you are going to hate me for this, but I just have to include the Rickroll here. Again, for the blissfully clueless, the Rickroll is a modern-day version of the bait-and-switch: you show your prank victim a video that's temptingly titled (like, "Justin Bieber Arrested") but actually contains the '80s music video of "Never Gonna Give You Up".

The man behind -- or performing in -- this music video is English musician Rick Astley, who, in the midst of the unexpected internet popularity, is just concerned about his daughter. He joked, "I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it." D'aaww, dad.

A drag/pretty funny -- Keanu Reeves
Meme: Sad Keanu

Just when you've had enough of bashing the candid pics of Britney and Paris, here comes a paparazzo shot that has actually tugged on the heartstrings of the internet. It's the ever-good-looking Keanu Reeves, eating a sandwich, alone and hunched over, looking like he could need a friend.

The Sad Keanu photos have inspired countless Photoshop alterations, and dug up facts about his personal struggles and kind pursuits. Suddenly, everyone's showing Keanu some love. And what does he have to say about it? That it's "a drag to get your picture taken when you're eating a sandwich", but "conceptually, what was going on was pretty funny." It's all good, Keanu. We're here for ogling paparazzi photos of you.

I'll drink to that -- Bear Grylls
Meme: Better drink my own piss

Here's a meme that could really be disgusting but turned out funny. In the TV show "Born Survivor" (UK)/"Man vs. Wild" (US), Edward "Bear" Grylls shows how a person can survive in rough natural environments. At some point, that involved... umm... re-hydrating himself with his own piss. That daring act, plus a sketchy context, made the internet go wild with Bear Grylls image jokes, from classic ones like "Radioactivity in my tap water. Better drink my own piss." to more twisty ones, as in "Unable to pee. Better drink my- oh, God."

And because of this popularity, Bear Grylls was obliged to do it all over again! Well, kinda. He tweeted a pic of himself drinking from a china teacup, with a message: "In honour of all your @replies about pee drinking. am on vacation in LA. Looks like I’ll have to drink my own pee!" Uhh... cheers?

I approve -- Chuck Norris
Meme: Chuck Norris facts

Chuck Norris is the Father of Badassery -- at least, as this meme implies. Anything that's tough to do, he does. For example, "Chuck Norris was bitten by a cobra, and after five days of excruciating pain... the cobra died." And, "He who laughs last, laughs best. He who laughs at Chuck Norris -- it's definitely his last laugh."

The best part? He has officially approved those facts in a book compilation. That's right: an actual book filled with facts about the most superhuman human on the planet. Because, guess what -- the 71-year-old former action star himself wrote, "I have as much fun as anyone else reading and quoting them." That's badass Chuck Norris for you.


Well, after all the mockery, taunting, and hilarity, still want your 15 minutes?

Photo credits for Rebecca Black, Rick Astley, Keanu, Bear Grylls, and Chuck Norris


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