CULTURE

The 11 Best Memes of the Decade

If you disagree, just shout at your screen, and Mark Zuckerberg will let me know.

The concept of a meme describes a unit of cultural information that mutates and evolves as it is passed along and interacts with other memes.

This process mirrors the way genetic evolution takes place, and just like genes, it can be hard to really define the boundaries of any particular meme. Technically Christianity could be defined as a meme—though the folks over at r/dankchristianmemes might disagree.

Colloquially, the term is used to describe certain forms of image macros, as well as blocks of text that are repeatedly copied and pasted—"copypastas," and endless variations on these themes. It's an increasingly broad category that can be used to describe all sorts of internet phenomena, but as an extremely online white man who has done the bare minimum of research—i.e. an expert—I can say with certainty that the following 11 meme formats (not the specific images themselves) are the best that this decade has produced.

Of course, everyone has their own preferences in matters of taste like this, so feel free to leave your incorrect opinions in the comments.

10 Guy

10 Guy

10 Guy is the face of joyful and oblivious confusion. He doesn't know he's confused, and he doesn't particularly care. While the intended function of this meme was to capture the kind of thoughts that occur when a person is as high as it's possible to be—a 10 out of 10—it's equally appropriate for capturing the everyday neural misfires that result in putting your phone in the fridge and saying "you too" when the waitress tells you to enjoy your meal. 10 Guy is not as well known as many of the items on this list, but it's such an effective and funny packaging for a relatable experience that it has stuck around since 2011 and still gets some use to this day.

Starter Packs

starter pack

Reddit user u/NotBrigitte

Starter Packs originated in 2014, and have grown to be one of the most recognizable and versatile meme formats today. They can be used to highlight unusual situations and find solidarity in common experiences, but more often than not they are used to attack others. We all like to judge people who are different than us, and starter packs are among the best ways to do it online. Define a group of people you don't like with a handful of accessories, phrases, and personal defects, and you can turn a vague assemblage of distasteful traits into a monolithic Other. Starter Packs are often amusing in their incisive exposure of the regimented and superficial personas that people choose to project, but they too often function as an outlet for the unfortunate human instinct to dehumanize and invent divisions in order to elevate ourselves.

Virgin vs. Chad

virgin chad

Reddit user u/zamoon

Virgin vs. Chad memes share a lot in common with starter packs, but they establish a binary in-group—the Chads—to juxtapose with the detested Other—the virgins. This format adopts the slang of toxic communities of men online—and the "virgin" artwork was originally a sincere artifact of that culture. The absurd image of the Chad, however, was created as a direct response, mocking the perspective of the original artist, and lends an inherent tone of self-deprecation that makes Virgin vs. Chad memes better suited for ironic or exaggerated dichotomies than sincere attacks on an out-group—though the format is often used by people who don't seem to understand that...

Galaxy Brain

galaxy brain

The Daily Dot

Galaxy Brain is similarly a meme that can be used sincerely—as a step-wise progression from a conventional opinion on an issue all the way up to a god-like enlightenment—but is more appropriately used with an ironic bent. The ironic usage has come to predominate to such an extent that, since the meme first appeared in 2017, the terms "galaxy brain" and "galaxy brained" have become synonymous with people and opinions that are smugly oblivious to their own stupidity. There are multiple versions of the format with variations that make it flexible enough to accommodate any issue on which there are a variety of opinions.

Epic Handshake

The Epic Handshake meme represents the other side of the Galaxy Brain hierarchy of opinions. In this meme, there is only one correct opinion, and two usually distinct groups are brought into an unlikely alliance by their agreement. Adapted from a scene out of 1987's Predator—depicting a hyper-manly meeting between Arnold Schwartzenegger and Carl Weathers—the handshake had already been fodder for viral videos and fan art for nearly a decade when, in 2018, a twitter user started labeling each bicep with a different group and the clasped hands with the idea that has unified them. It's a symbol of unity for our divided times.

Corn Cob

Originating in a 2011 tweet from @dril, the concept of corn cobbing—and of visually representing a person as transforming into a corncob—refers to the phenomenon of a person actively denying their humiliation when they have been made to look foolish. It's unclear why a corncob was chosen as the symbol of denial, but the concept of visibly transforming while vehemently denying that anything has happened is a potent image of a common mentality online—particularly when it comes to political debates. The term gained an added level of comedy when its cryptic strangeness was misinterpreted by centrist political pundits as being in some way homophobic or related to sexual violence. Their indignant misunderstanding was taken as proof of their self-righteous tendencies, and the term Corn Cob has thus taken on a second meaning, synonymous with out-of-touch political centrists.

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