31 Great Memes That Defined 2016
1. Dat Boi
2. Arthur's fist
3. Petty Skai Jackson
As The Atlantic explained, Harambe "became the perfect meme" by essentially being about nothing:
During its summer peak, merely dropping the word “Harambe” into an online conversation was sufficient to manufacture a surreal moment.
Harambe, in other words, is the perfect meme. In a reversal of Marshall McLuhan’s classic dictum, Harambe is the message that became a medium, capable of carrying any signal, without becoming identified with any of them. A meme in the original sense intended by Richard Dawkins: a cultural signifier that spreads simply because it is good at spreading. It is neither worth spreading the way a TED talk aspires to be, nor particularly worth resisting. It spreads because it can.
5. Damn Daniel
6. Running Man Challenge
7. Blurry Mr. Krabs
8. Bone app the teeth
9. Obama and Biden
11. Evil Kermit
12. If I see a clown...
13. Mannequin Challenge
14. "Roses are red..."
15. "Tea lizard"
16. Ted Cruz, Zodiac Killer
18. Don't talk to me or my son ever again
Pepe, the cartoon frog who first appeared in a 2005 web comic by Matt Furie, has been a mainstay of meme culture for nearly a decade, but had a dark resurgence this year with the so-called alt-right.
The story of Pepe's journey from good-natured cartoon frog to neo-Nazi darling is a long and strange one. It starts with with 4chan trying to reclaim their beloved meme from the normies by associating him with Nazi symbolism, and ends with Trump retweeting a rare Pepe drawn in his liking, and the Anti-Defamation League naming it a hate symbol.
"When mainstream culture gets in on the joke ... the joke is ruined forever," the Daily Beast explained. "The campaign to reclaim Pepe from normies was an effort to prevent this sort of death, but it also had the effect of desensitizing swaths of the Internet to racist, but mostly anti-Semitic, ideas supported by the so-called alt-right movement."
20. Confused Math Lady
21. TZ Anthem Challenge
22. Ken Bone
Here's how the Washington Post explained how the Ken Bone meme was "ruined":
The fact that the Ken Bone meme isn’t as pure and fun as it once was shouldn’t surprise anyone with an Internet connection. Every meme has a cycle that ends with the meme being “ruined” in some way. That can happen through overexposure, brands swooping in to take advantage, or the simple march of time. (These days “being co-opted by Nazi trolls” is also an actual meme endgame.) But when the Internet turns a real human being into a meme, the end of that cycle can be particularly vicious and swift.
23. "Haven't heard that name in years"
24. *Record scratch*
25. Primitive SpongeBob
26. Get you a man who can do both
27. Wholesome memes
Meme culture has always leaned towards the dark and snarky side, and the overall dumpster-fire vibes of 2016 pushed this towards the mainstream. Wholesome memes hilariously countered this with purity, kindness, and quite a few declarations of "I WANT TO LOVE AND SUPPORT YOU."
28. Bottle flipping
29. Honey Bun Baby
30. Bee Movie
This post has been updated to provide further context about the origins of the "tea lizard" meme.