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Using Captain America’s first meme to understand his latest meme

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So ... do you understand the reference?

Captain America ‘so’ meme
Captain America in the “so” meme pose.
Marvel Studios/Disney

Captain America memes aren’t new, or even funny, but the most recent viral incarnation becomes far more charming when compared to Captain America’s first meme.

Memes are like onions. They have layers and, the more a meme is peeled back, the easier it becomes to see its entire makeup. Captain America’s newest meme is based on a scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming, where an old video is being played for a group of kids sitting in detention. Captain America sits down on a chair, and kind of sighs.

“So, you got detention,” Captain America says in the clip below.

His amused, slightly disappointed observation is the equivalent of a “welp” — an unfortunate situation you can’t really do anything about, but you want to comment on regardless.

“Welp, detention!”

It’s a cute meme. People are using the image below to throw their own takes out there, adding their own “welp” scenarios to tweets and Reddit posts. The meme is particularly interesting because it’s a perfect example of what memes need to work. People need to have a general understanding of the meme’s tone (in this case, the “welp”), an understanding of who the character is (this is funny because it’s Captain America effectively being Captain America) and, for added bonus, requires some knowledge of the movie this scene occurs (understanding that Captain America’s “welp” remarks are used to make teenagers, like Peter Parker, feel bad about their current predicament).

Part of the reason this meme is inherently funny in certain circles is because every aforementioned critical point is met. The image pops up on our Twitter feeds, a few words are scribbled down, and we instantly understand what the meme is trying to accomplish. Or, to put it much more succinctly, we understood the reference.

Fans of Captain America and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will recognize that phrase: “I understood that reference.” It’s a throwaway line spoken by Captain America in The Avengers. Again, it’s a cute moment that turned into an ongoing joke by Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter communities. It also became a response to inside jokes being made about other entertainment properties, or niche jokes, that signalled to people they understood the reference being made.

Captain America The Avengers
Captain America’s scene in question.
Marvel Studios

Now, six years later, everything comes full circle. Captain America’s “welp” meme is partially successful because after investing so much time into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its expansive and dedicated fandom, Captain America and meme culture, we all understand that reference. Neat, right?

Of course, this doesn’t mean the meme is going to remain a static image or GIF of Captain America sitting on the chair. Jokesters will continue to do what they’ve always done: go one step further. Soon, we’ll start seeing versions of the meme like the one below.

And if you understand everything this meta version of the meme is trying to do, congratulations — you understood all of those references.