1. Dat Boi
2. Arthur's fist
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"
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
Straight: I accept you but don't fall for me Gay: Don't worry I don't like you Straight: Aren't you gay tho? Gay:… https://t.co/gtPrN92EXs
In a truly mind-boggling year, we needed a meme just as mind-boggled as we were. Enter “confused math lady,” a meme that originated on Brazilian telenovela Senhora do Destino.
21. TZ Anthem Challenge
22. Ken Bone
"How will you protect my job as a card in Guess Who?" #debates
No one encompasses the rise and fall of internet fame quite like Ken Bone, an undecided voter who went viral after asking a question during the second presidential debate. Almost immediately, his iconic red sweater sold out, "sexy Ken Bone" Halloween costumes were made, and he even sold out to Uber.
Less than a week later, Bone held a Reddit AMA, that led to the discovery of some not-so-savory info on the guy — namely, an interest in pregnancy porn and suggestions that the killing of Trayvon Martin may have been "legally justified," (but "not in the moral sense," he later said).
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.
25. Primitive SpongeBob
when ur at the doctors office with ur mom and the doctor asks if you're sexually active
26. Get you a man who can do both
get you a man who can do both
"The meme, seemingly celebrating the importance of a varied wardrobe, began by advising people to find a partner who owns at least two outfits and, you know, possibly more than one pair of shoes," BuzzFeed News explained back in March.
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
@Mike_Senatore FLIPPED A WATER BOTTLE FOR OUR TALENT SHOW AND ITS THE MOST LIT THING IVER EVER EXPERIENCED
2016 was the year teens flipped bottles. While a few bottles had been flipped in years passed, the meme went wild this year after high school student Mike Senatore, in the above video, wowed his classmates with a perfectly executed flip.
While the original bottle has since been disposed of, a signed "replica bottle" reportedly sold for at least $11,100 on Ebay.
29. Honey Bun Baby
When you drop your phone, pick it up and your screen isn't cracked
Joining Gavin in the ranks 2016's most viral children, the "honey bun baby" — aka Ashton Howell — is a bit of a meme origin mystery. The baby's photo was first shared on his uncle's Instagram, and eventually moved to Twitter as a reaction image.
Ashton's mom, Ariel Griggs, told Alabama.com that her son has no clue how famous he's gotten.
"He doesn't know what's going on," she said. "He still wants his nap time. He's still cranky in the morning. And getting on the potty is still big business."
30. Bee Movie
me at the beginning of 2016 vs me at the end of 2016
As 2016 drew to a close, people showed how this year has aged them with side-by-side images representing themselves "at the beginning of 2016 vs. at the end of 2016."
2016 has been a lifetime. At least we had memes.
This post has been updated to provide further context about the origins of the "tea lizard" meme.