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05th Jul 2019

Ranking the best memes of 2019 (so far)

Ciara Knight

Knowing meme, knowing you (AHA)

2019 has been a strong year for memes (so far). Is it as strong as the first half of the fiscal year 2018? Truly, probably not. But it’s still been fine.

The internet has been swarmed with content ranging from topical memes to downright obscure concepts that frankly never deserved to see the light of day.

So here we are, halfway through 2019 with a sizeable amount of solid effort behind us. Who knows what lies ahead? Will something as innocuous as baking soda be a hysterical meme reference point in three weeks time? We simply do not know, such is the excitement of being alive.

Let’s look back fondly on the biggest memes of 2019 so far, in reverse chronological order, casting insight on what worked and what sadly didn’t. Why? Why not.

20. Fiji Water Girl

From the outset, this felt like a staged meme. It screamed of ten-suited-men-in-a-boardroom-trying-to-figure-out-the-internet-at-6pm-on-a-Friday and the final product supported that theory. Basically, a girl stood behind celebrities at the Golden Globes, holding a tray of bottled Fiji Water. That’s it. That’s the meme. It wasn’t great. In fact, I would like to deem it as The Worst Meme of 2019 (So Far). The subject of the meme was thirst, and that’s exactly how it came across. Everything about it is thirsty. Memes mustn’t thirst, they must only sate.

19. Black Hole

This wasn’t a great meme concept purely because the subject matter was a bit lacklustre to begin with. The first ever image of a black hole emerged and despite the obvious issue with it being visibly orange, that was the only raw material people had to work with. We did what we could, but it was hard work. With each meme you could practically hear the sighs from the creators as they scrambled to pull anything funny out of such a boring historical feat. It was short-lived and rightfully so. We had our fun, but it was a flash in the pan. Two days later it was old news and scientists went back to being heroes again.

18. Momo

There was a tinge of sadness associated with this meme because it originated from questionable territory. Momo was generally regarded as a hoax, but rumoured to be a challenge circulated on WhatsApp linking to a suicide game. Whether it was ever true or not, the meme was potentially insensitive so approached with trepidation, if at all. Looking at it objectively, the meme was a bit shit anyway and could’ve been left in the failed meme pile where many of our fallen heroes now lie. In a way, the memes took the seriousness out of a potentially dangerous trend, but that’s a bit of a reach. Momo didn’t deserve meme status. It will not stand the test of time.

17. Ashley O

We can thank Black Mirror for this meme, which requires little explanation other than the song lyrics “I’m on a roll”. Miley Cyrus plays a troubled pop singer who sings a catchy tune, which spurred hundreds, nay thousands of memes online. It’s a simple concept, much like some of the greatest memes are, basically just giving examples of things that can be literally or metaphorically on a roll. Listen, memes don’t have to be abstract ideas with any level of intelligence behind them. They just have to be funny sometimes. Good effort, but overall a mediocre meme.

16. Tough Guy Entrance

Right up until we learned its origins, this was a very solid meme effort in the year of our Lord 2019. It’s got a great plot, character development and suitably shit production skills. Basically, a tough guy makes an entrance, to the awaiting paparazzi’s camera flashes. He makes eye contact with every camera in the room, proving that tough guys care about nailing their angles just as much as the rest of us. That’s it, that’s the premise. Where things get murky is when you learn that the guy was entering a courtroom to be sentenced after being convicted of sheltering two jihadists involved in terrorist attacks. So yes, not great, in retrospect.

15. Pregnant Tummy

Exclusively a Twitter meme, this one grew old pretty quickly, but the ones that slapped absolutely slapped. The content ranged from moderately funny to actually quite introspective and sad, which is the mark of a decent meme. Not a great one, but a sufficient meme. The online discourse was in a bit of a lull at the time. Would the pregnant tummy meme have taken off during, for instance, the great distracted boyfriend meme surge of 2018? No, but it filled a void when it was needed. We laughed, we cried, we bonded. No regrets.

14. Ah Shit, Here We Go Again

It’s been done to death at this stage and I hereby propose that we officially retire this meme. We had a good run, it really gave us all it had, but now the ship has sailed and it’s time to put this sick puppy to sleep. The meme originates from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and references repetitive confrontations that went on during the game. Its 2004 graphics really give the meme a certain sense of je ne sais quoi, along with the retro font and colour scheme. We’ve had some good efforts, in fact some great ones, but we must now place it firmly in the pile of Memes That Were Fun But Now They Are Done.

13. Summoning Circle

This one isn’t a million miles away from the pregnant belly meme. It’s a similar format and concept with comparable results. Simply, people made a circle out of candles and expressed their innermost desires. It was great to see the candle emoji getting its day in the sun, along with some truly wholesome wishes. Summoning circles are steadily dying out in everyday life, so if nothing else, this meme put them back on the map, albeit temporarily. Try it yourself, do a real life summoning circle today. Parental supervision is advised.

12. Bad Guy

In what was initially expected to be a case of ‘the first one was funny, then it got old very quickly’, the Bad Guy meme actually had an unexpected burst of longevity to it. Billie Eilish’s music video fitted with the concept beautifully, containing just the right amount of suspense before delivering the eventual punchline. People surpassed themselves with this meme, there was a really great effort from all involved. This could be dished out in three years time with a modern twist and it will still slap, I’d bet my parents’ house on it. Well done to all involved.

11. Sasuke Choke

An image taken from the Naruto: Shippūden series was an unlikely but ultimately very satisfying meme from earlier this year. In the original image, Sasuke is being choked by his brother Itachi. That’s it. No more, no less. Just an innocent choking image that sparked a thesis-meriting amount of inspired meme content by lining up someone’s arm with an anime scene. It was reminiscent of the monkey haircut meme of last year, where the entire internet lost its collective mind over a blessed concept involving a monkey getting a haircut by an image that fits in with the arm placement. This is a niche but good meme. Yes.

10. Powerful Shaggy

Some of the best memes involve taking older content (SpongeBob, The Simpsons, Shrek) and giving them a new lease of life. Enter: Powerful Shaggy, the meme that saved 2019. Its very essence is simple. Imagine if Shaggy from Scooby-Doo possessed superhuman abilities, wielding so much power he didn’t know what to do with it. Some of the finest exports of this meme came from screengrabs of the Scooby-Doo movie’s cast inaccurately captioned with recollections of instances where Shaggy exercised his alleged power. Even Matthew Lillard got in on the action and endorsed the meme. Hurrah!

9. Comparison Threads

Another relatively simple concept but with a large amount of work going into each effort, this meme was a wonderful splash of colour on our respective timelines during Q1 and Q2 of 2019. The meme involves comparing unlikely things with other unlikely things, usually a celebrity or character of some sort. Twitter threads are usually text-heavy, so these image only threads were a godsend. You can whizz through at your leisure, taking as much or as little time to appreciate the extensive body of research that went into each meme thread. This one has longevity and we’re going to see it revived again, mark my words.

8. Daenerys Squint

Game of Thrones was the most talked about TV series of the first half of 2019, that is undeniable. So it was only natural that some memes would ensue, regardless of their quality. This meme took us back to the simple days of an image being paired with a relatable caption. It’s good to know that although we’ve come so far in terms of the technicality of memes, we can still strip things back and marry a simple caption to an image to great effect. The shot comes from a scene during the final series where Daenerys flashes Sansa Stark a squinty smile during a heated conversation. All it took was one screenshot to launch this effective meme into the mainstream. Life can be simple if you just allow it to be.

7. Jonathan Frakes

Stemming from a supercut of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, this meme showcases Jonathan Frakes’ various musings from the show. It’s peak reaction video content, proving that memes will never become obsolete because prime content is infinite. The series started in 1998 and it’s only taken 21 years for it to spark a series of relatable memes to delight the masses. The captions have been exceptional. It’s rare to say this, but by and large, there hasn’t been a weak one in the bunch. Everyone has excelled themselves in accompanying this bountiful meme with the relatable yet giggle-inducing context it deserves. Congratulations to all involved.

6. And I Oop

Queen Jasmine Masters was recording a video rant about friends who get messy drunk when they’re socialising. She’s then interrupted by hitting her balls and accompanies the revelation with “…and I oop”. That’s from 2015 and criminally it took 4 years for this stunning piece of content to get the worldwide recognition it so truly deserves. It resurfaced in March and has been going strong ever since. The entire meme rests on the quality of the caption since everyone is familiar with the contents of the video by now. If you nail the caption, you’ve got a viral meme on your hands, sonny Jim. Use this information wisely.

5. I’m Baby

Originating from a viral screenshot in 2017 where a girl text her mother “I’m baby. Call 911” during a house invasion, this meme grew legs earlier this year when it was teamed with a ‘Kirby Explains’ image, marrying the two concepts in beautiful matrimony. At the end of the day, we are all baby. You, I, even babies, we are all baby. This meme perfectly sums up the insurmountable chore that is living everyday life. Things are hard, being an adult is no fun. We are all baby from time to time, and now we have this wonderfully relatable meme to comfort us during our times of need.

4. Shen Yun

An aggressive advertising campaign saw Shen Yun rightfully achieve meme status earlier this year. The performing arts company went hard on their marketing campaign, going over and above all standard requirements for ensuring that people know about your upcoming shows. Naturally, the internet welcomed this wholesome intention to the meme community with open arms, ultimately elevating the already-present status of Shen Yun in society. Simply saying ‘Shen Yun’ is enough to trigger people into laughing at the countless memes that have gone before us. It’s a wholesome meme, it’s a good meme, it’s SHEN YUN.

3. Dancing Family

Just a mother and her kids dancing to an absolutely banging soundtrack. No more, no less. Three folks dropping sick moves to even sicker beats. With that, a meme was born. It tells the tale of family, of love, of losing control of your body when, as Gloria Estefan warned us, the rhythm eventually gets ya. The video was originally a Vine but saw divine resurrection this year because it rightfully deserved a second lease of life. You could quite literally caption the video ‘Me and my family dancing’ and it would still get #numbers. It’s a rare meme that ticks every box, even the ones you didn’t know existed. What a time to be alive.

2. Me Explaining

Viner Quen Blackwell posted a glow up photograph and it somehow got used in conjunction with an image of Ms. Juicy Baby from Little Women: Atlanta, thus sparking one of the most recognisable memes from the first half of 2019. Search any hashtag (especially #LoveIsland) and you’re likely to see this dynamic duo being used to illustrate a point. It’s a funny two-parter that can cover any subject matter in existence. This meme is not going to get old any time soon. Although it’s practically a daily visitor on your timeline, the excitement is still there. This meme could go anywhere. Dare I say it, even outer space. It’s a timeless classic and we have to stan.

1. Traveling SpongeBob

In the year of our Lord 2019 and we are still finding new SpongeBob SquarePants memes that absolutely slap. It’s the show that will simply never cease giving us prime content, asking for nothing in return. This meme has impeccable production value, requiring a very specific level of knowledge of editing software along with very simplistic captioning ability. The meme stemmed from the concept of SpongeBob traveling the world and really leaning into cultural stereotypes. There’s no reason why this meme should work. It’s so dumb. It’s so silly. It’s so stupid. But at the same time, it’s just so fucking funny. Long may the SpongeBob SquarePants memes continue to present themselves after life on earth ceases to be. Thank you for the memories, you yellow spongey little freak. Never stop being you.