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Expression Meme, also known as “Emotion Chart” on DeviantArt and “Expression Practice” on Pixiv, is series of illustrated charts in which a fictional character’s facial expressions are altered to convey a wide range of emotions on a template grid. These are often used as references for fan artists learning how to draw facial expressions.
The earliest known instance of the meme was titled “25 Essential Expressions Challenge" and submitted to DeviantART by user napalmnacey on May 17th, 2007 . The image featured a blank template containing boxes for 25 different facial expressions (shown below) and captions for corresponding emotions.
Animators have historically used model sheets to standardize a character’s appearance, poses, expressions and gestures. Some of the earliest model sheets were made by Walt Disney and Warner Bros. animators, who created templates for fictional characters like Donald Duck and Daisy Duck (shown below).
In the summer of 1998, University of Florida student Eric Wu launched the Eric Conveys and Emotion project, which featured a website in which Wu would post photos of himself acting out various emotions (shown below).
On the Japanese online artist community Pixiv, blank templates for facial expressions are often referred to as “Expression Practice” (Japanese: 表情練習, HyōJō Renshū), with its earliest instance featuring 12 panels submitted by Pixiv user Hide (秀) in response to another post on December 5th, 2008. Months later, an English-translated version was submitted to DeviantART by user NotSoFluent on July 1st, 2009 (shown below).
Hide’s illustration went onto generate more than 250 illustrated responses on Pixiv within the first month, 1,200 within a year and 3,400 by December of 2012. Additional templates have since been shared on Pixiv, many of which have been translated into English on DeviantArt (shown below). As of December 2012, there are over 8,700 search results for the query “expression meme” on DeviantArt.
Other Blank Templates for Expression Meme
Celebrity Emotion Chart
On July 8th, 2010, blog blameitonthevoices posted a “Kristen Stewart Emotional Chart” which featured 16 identical pictures of the actress with a vacant expression filling each emotional square, poking fun at her stereotypically emotionless acting style. The same day the chart was picked up by Buzzfeed. As of March 2014, the post has over 33,000 views.
On March 28th, 2011, Buzzfeed posted Stewart’s emotion chart next to the same chart filled with different expressive pictures of actress Emma Watson to further highlight Stewart’s often expressionless face.
On November 3rd, 2011, Buzzfeed posted an emotion chart for actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Though the chart features the actor expressing a variety of emotions, it pokes fun at him by including humorous emotion categories such as “angry drowning” and “who farted?”
Other celebrities and characters mocked for their expressionless faces through emotion charts include Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson (below, left), Star Trek’s Spock (below, center) and action star Stevan Seagal (below, right).