Are we sure 2018 wasn’t actually five different years stitched together? If you live and breathe the internet, it probably felt even longer. But between the horror and absurdity of the last 365 days, there were sprinklings of joy and goodness, as the Extremely Online community banded together to celebrate nice things, fuel a positive narrative and/or take something seemingly negative and putting a wholesome spin.
Memes in 2018 pivoted towards the warm and fuzzy, so let’s take a moment to remember the best good things on the internet this year.
The year began with a surge of memes about government agents spying on people. Technically, the meme really picked up traction in the final moments of 2017 (and actually started earlier that year), the meme peaked in 2018, so it earns a spot on this scholarly compendium.
The idea of an FBI agent constantly keeping surveillance ended up taking an oddly poignant form, as people started to post memes where the agents were looking out for them. There was something comforting about an all-seeing presence dedicated to one’s personal care and well-being. Whether these hypothetical agents directly interacted with the poster or just watched from afar, they were looking out for us as we went about our lonely online existences.
me: (sitting back down on my bed with a bowl of chips ready to binge a new series) hey so what does "fbi" stand for anyway— jonny sun (@jonnysun) February 1, 2018
fbi agent inside my computer: uh Faraway.. Buddy.. Insideyourcomputer
me: cool. so what do u wanna watch next
fbi agent: i heard grace and frankie is fun
Me: *finally closes laptop after 1am*— Claire M. Biggs (@ClaireMBiggs) February 1, 2018
FBI watching me: oh thank god
Me: *opens laptop to start working before 7am*
FBI agent: pic.twitter.com/bUzmJaxTlF
Such a simple little Twitter tend, yet such a lovely one. The sparkles originated with a tweet of a photo in which someone appears to empty a jar of stars into the sky. Instantly, the hipster Tumblr aesthetic sprang back to life.
Some took variations, using different emojis depending on the picture used at the bottom. This Bulbasaur, for instance, swapped the stars for leaf emojis. For a brief time in April, Twitter timelines were filled with these sparkly posts, some humorous, some just damn cute.
The Mamma Mia! Cinematic Universe
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was the sequel we never knew we needed, doubling down on song, dance and the absolute power of ABBA. Suddenly everyone was wondering: what would happen if we just kept on making Mamma Mia movies?
Thus, the MMCU (Mamma Mia! Cinematic Universe) was born. If there could be eight Fast and Furious movies, Transformers movies tied with Arthurian legends and a Star Wars standalone for every passing character, then why not cull ABBA’s vast discography and delve into the world of Sophie and Donna Sheridan?
if we all pray hard enough we can make mamma mia the fast and furious franchise of musicals— miel (@miel) July 21, 2018
Mamma Mia: Knowing 3, Knowing You— Laura Bonang (@laurabonang) July 22, 2018
Mamma Mia: 4nando
Mamma Mia: 5 Been Cheated By You (And I Think You Know When)
Mamma Mia 6: Tokyo Drift
they will defeat thanos pic.twitter.com/Ho7Zhg4n4a— duh ENDGAME// traveling (@horrorsmarvel) July 24, 2018
Give Carly Rae Jepsen a Sword
The saga of Carly Rae Jepsen and her sword began early in 2018. In January, Tumblr user swordlesbianopinions posted about giving pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen a sword.
“I like her and think she should have one,” they wrote. Fair enough.
The dream sparked a movement across Tumblr and Twitter, as Carly Rae Jepsen fans rallied to get the singer a sword. There were tweets, there were memes, there were works of fan art, there were photoshopped pictures. There was a Twitter account dedicated to daily updates over whether or not Carly Rae had received a sword. Getting Carly Rae Jepsen a goddamn sword was a movement.
Finally in August, during Jepsen’s set at Lollapaloza, a fan handed her an inflatable sword in the middle of “Cut to the Feeling.” As the Twitter user who posted a GIF this historical event noted, “the prophecy was fulfilled.”
The day after this momentous occasion, Jepsen posted a piece of fan art on her Instagram, bringing the meme to its logical conclusion.
For the record, this screenshot of a text exchange posted in July, which gave the meme the name and is what most will cite as the first instance of Polite Cat, was actually not the feline’s first appearance. (It’s also probably fake, but that’s okay because it’s really funny).
The first instance of Polite Cat actually appeared a month earlier, posted on 9gag with the caption “My face when someone expects me to be excited about something that I’m not excited about.”
Somewhere along the way, people discovered that Polite Cat was named Ollie.
Both Ollie’s face itself and the text exchange became instant meme fodder. People altered the cat’s face and used it as a suitable reaction. Others would edit the text conversation to be about red pandas, dank dogs and more.
There’s been some debate about whether or not Ollie’s expression is real or the result of Photoshop, but one thing’s for sure: this Polite Cat melted us.
To All the Boys...
After Netflix romantic-comedy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, in which protagonist Lara Jean Covey pens love letters to all the crushes she’s ever had, many women took to Twitter, penning their own 280-character-or-less “letters” to less-than-desirable men of their pasts. On the surface level, this meme could read as regret.
To All the Boys Who Bought Me A Copy of Watchmen Because They Were Aghast I’d Never Read Watchmen Before: I Still Haven’t Read Your Copy Of Watchmen https://t.co/NtnVFAsxuJ— alanna bennett (@AlannaBennett) August 28, 2018
The meme became an outlet for people to confide their past relationships woes and move forward in a positive way. It’s personal, almost confessional, as if all the participants were sharing secrets at a sleepover, which is what makes it resonate all the more.
Ah, yes. Stan Loona. A phrase that has proliferated nearly every corner of the internet, from queer Twitter communities, to webcomics about midterm elections. The meme originated from Kpop group Loona, and there’s a ton of history behind just how the phrase reached the height of popularity. The phrase itself originated in 2017, but didn’t hit peak popularity till Loona’s debut in August.
The phrase got a bit of backlash, mostly because it was literally everywhere, but one thing’s for sure: even if you don’t know what the heck Loona is, you know you should “stan” them.
If you do end up falling down the deep, sparkly rabbit hole that is the Loonaverse, you might just find yourself in a better place.
Bongo Cat is exactly what it sounds like on the tin: a cat playing the bongos.
The original Bongo Cat was simply a GIF of the cat smacking its wee paws on a table, but someone replied with a video of the cat playing the bongos (hence the name bongo cat) to “Athletic” from the Super Mario World soundtrack.
From there, the possibilities were endless. Bongo Cat was not limited by bongos — or even cats — but instead, just by the sheer power of imagination. Bongo Cat celebrated favorite songs, favorite memes, and favorite moments, and is definitely one of the warmest and fuzziest things to grace the internet.
Sluggo is Lit
The latest iteration of legendary newspaper comic strip Nancy is the first to be penned by a woman, under the pseudonym Olivia Jaimes. Jaimes took over the strip in April and quite immediately, her loud, shameless, robotics-loving take on Nancy captured readers.
On Labor Day, Jaimes penned a strip purposefully designed to poke a reaction from those who claimed Nancy was too modern and millennial. In addition to a panel dedicated to cell phones, there were also two panels with the phrase “Sluggo is lit.”
It’s the juxtaposition of old and new, the classic Nancy characters and the newfangled slang, the self-awareness of Jaimes joke, the “take that” to her critics, the fact that the joke about millennials turned into a joke for millennial — “Sluggo is lit” is simply transcendent. Which is why we’re OK with the merch.
Zendaya is Meechee
Former Vine star Gabe Gundacker took to the streets of Los Angeles and sang a gospel-like hymn to posters for animated movie Smallfoot, starring Zendaya. Previously, Smallfoot was barely a blip on most people’s movie-going radar, but with Gundacker’s joyous melody people began to actually take notice of it.
zendaya is meechee pic.twitter.com/zE6rXniAnQ— Gabriel Gundacker (@gabegundacker) September 23, 2018
The song was completely nonsensical, birthed of nothing more than the ridiculous phrase “Zendaya is Meechee” that Gundacker had seen plastered on various posters, yet it became a sensation. There’s something utterly delightful that this less-than-a-minute long clip, and the countless imitations that followed, became more memorable than the movie it spawned from.
Venom spawned many an internet discussion, but the most wholesome of them all was the transition from gritty action movie to warm and fuzzy romantic comedy. Eddie Brock and Venom the symbiote just made a perfect couple and fans scrambled to redraw the movie into the “gay alien rom com” that they wanted.
Venom as a caring, loving partner is something that the Chinese marketing leaned into. And hey, Venom’s always been kinda hot, so why not? Sony got in on the idea of Venom the rom-com too, releasing a romantic trailer for Venom’s digital release.
Baby Shark has been around for a while, but it was just this summer that the catchy children’s song surged to internet popularity. Unlike the other YouTube kid’s song making rounds, there’s nothing unsettling about Baby Shark. In fact, it’s all together pretty adorable and positive — sure it’ll get stuck in your head for the next week or so, but oi
thank u, next
Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” subverted expectations that her first post-Pete Davidson song would be a petty break-up song by being an unapologetic declaration of self-love and growth. The music video is a pop culture crossover to rival Avengers: Endgame, celebrating romantic comedy, girl-power movies. The surprise pop hit quickly climbed to the top of the charts and as any pop culture sensation does, it was quick to inspire a meme.
The anaphora of the lyrics “One taught me love / One taught me patience / One taught me pain” prompted people to create their own versions of just what pieces of pop culture taught them love, patience and pain. It was a celebration of favorite media, sprung from a song that was a celebration of the self, juxtaposed with a music video that itself was a celebration of a specific movie genre. Everything about “thank u, next” was joyous.
one taught me love, one taught me patience, one taught me pain pic.twitter.com/jcPkfsmHH4— Ayo Edebiri (@ayoedebiri) November 5, 2018
This year was a good year for large animals. From the Museum of English Rural Life’s Absolute Unit and Knickers, the absurdly large bovine, to a whole chart of Chonk Cats. The doggo language of the internet, which gives us phrases like Big Floofer and Small Pupper, has evolved to include all sorts of animals and the bigger and rounder, the better.
look at this absolute unit. pic.twitter.com/LzcQ4x0q38— The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL) April 9, 2018
Wholesome Memes in general
There was something different about this year’s meme landscape: people celebrated love, positivity and friendship. These positive memes have always been around, but there was just something (er, many things) about this year that spurred the rise of positive memes.
Some used typical meme formats, but spun with a positive twist. Some took unexpected images to meme, focusing on love and support. Defeat, negativity and depreciation are out; positivity, wholesomeness, hope and resilience are in — nothing reflects that so much as the memes we churn out.