Behind the Meme: I'm Losing My Sh*t Over the Superheroes Bowing Meme
"Doctors and nurses are the real superheroes."
Oftentimes, the most powerful memes are the memes that were never intended to be memes at all.
Bad Luck Brian really was just some unfortunate dude's yearbook photo. Distracted Boyfriend came from a series of stock photos shot in earnest.
But now we have what might be the greatest unintentional meme in the history of unintentional memes: Superheroes Bowing to Doctors.
The image depicts two rows of popular superheroes, including Spider-man, Batman, Hulk, and even Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan (more on that later), lining the walls of a hospital and bowing down to three scrub-wearing health care providers. In essence, these superheroes are saying, "We may have superpowers, but we're not the real heroes. No, YOU, doctors and nurses of the world, are the real superheroes."
While its origins are currently unknown, the image first spread on April 22nd, 2020 when a Barcelona-based comic book store Tweeted it alongside two clapping hand emojis. They later followed up, clarifying that they did not know who the original artist was, and would like to give proper credit if possible.
On the same day, the image was shared by Indian government official Dev Choudhary, and in a highly upvoted thread on the r/nursing subreddit titled "OK, this is getting ridiculous."
Given the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the common sentiment that essential employees are "the real superheroes," it's safe to assume that the image was initially created as a genuine attempt to pay tribute to the doctors and nurses fighting on the frontline.
Normally, the word "cringey" is, in and of itself, cringey. But the truth is that there are no words in the English language to describe the Superheroes Bowing meme other than existentially cringey. It's so cringey that looking at it for more than a millisecond literally makes your skin crawl off your body. It's so goofy, so over-the-top, so mind-bogglingly stupid, that it transcends rational thought.
First of all, the superheroes are not adhering to quarantine best practices. They are gathered in public as non-essential employees, crowding the walls of a f*cking hospital and standing way less than 6-feet apart from both one another and doctors. They're not even wearing masks. Imagine how many people these superheroes come into contact with collectively, and then think about what an incredible risk they pose by bringing all of that into a hospital for no reason. In the artist's vision, these dumbass superheroes are an outright public health hazard.
And then there's Dr. Manhattan. One can only assume that the artist is unfamiliar with Watchmen, and simply included Dr. Manhattan for a splash of color, but holy crap, what a misstep. For those unfamiliar with the source material, Dr. Manhattan is essentially a God, possessing the powers to manipulate matter at a subatomic level and view all of time (past, present, and future) simultaneously. Ultimately, this power leads him to detach himself humanity and refuse to involve himself in their affairs.
Point being, the notion of Dr. Manhattan bowing down to doctors in a hospital is utterly hilarious. We're talking about a character who, if he wanted to, could instantaneously erase coronavirus from existence. So for the artist's scenario to work, we must assume that Dr. Manhattan has already decided not to help, which is in-character. But in that case, why would he ever show up at a hospital to bow down to human doctors? He's just like, "Yeah, I could end all of this, but I'd rather just come all the way down from outer space to give you guys a meaningless curtsy and then go back home. Have fun dying."
Also, when Dr. Manhattan does appear around humans, he typically shrinks himself to normal human height. There's no reason for him to be so big unless that's part of his intent to just mock these doctors.
Logic aside, Superheroes Bowing to Doctors is straight-up one of the best macro templates in the history of memes. Check this out:
You can make these superheroes bow down to anything. Here are the superheroes bowing down to the true greatest superhero, Big Chungus.
Or how about Harold, the stock photo king of memes?
They'll even bow down to Danny, my friend from high school.
The idea of some artist sitting down and thinking to themselves, "How can I possibly show the doctors and nurses fighting against coronavirus that they are the real heroes? Oh I know!", drawing this garbage, and watching in horror as it gets decimated into a parody of itself is objectively funny.
Look, if you want to show essential workers—doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, delivery drivers, etc.—that they're appreciated, the way to do that isn't spewing empty platitudes about them being "real superheroes." The way to show appreciation is by actively advocating for them to have the proper protection they need in order to both continue working in as safe an environment as possible to avoid getting sick, and then also provide them and their families with proper, free healthcare when some of them inevitablydo get sick.
If you think essential employees are heroes, great. Now it's time to put your money where your mouth is.
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