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Inception meme refers to a wide range of captioned images, multi-pane and videos based on the 2010 sci-fi action film Inception. The meme often plays on the recurring themes and motifs found within the film, such as science fictional concepts of extracting from and implanting information within a subject’s mind, as well as general experience of lucid dreaming and recursive dreaming, also known as false awakening.
Inception is a 2010 sci-fi action film written / directed by Christopher Nolan and features an ensemble cast starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. In the film, DiCaprio plays a specialized corporate spy (Dom) whose job is to extract information from the unconscious mind of his targets while they are asleep. Haunted by the loss of his family, Cobb is given a chance to return to his old life in exchange for the task of “inception,” the planting of an idea into a target’s subconscious.
Viral Marketing Campaign
In spring of 2010, a viral marketing campaign was launched to advertise the upcoming release of Inception. Among the promotional materials sent out to various companies were a manual filled with bizarre images and text, posters, ad copies, smartphone applications and esoteric websites like PASIV Device Instruction Manual, What Is Dream Share? and Mind Crime. According to LA Times article, Warner Brothers spent a grand marketing budget of $100 million in preparation for the film’s release.
Upon release in July 2010, the film received highly positive reviews and box office sales, debuting at #1 with $62.7 million gross revenue in its opening weekend. Given the common grounds shared by the film’s meta premise and internets’ fondness for recursive jokes (see: Xzibit / Yo Dawg), audience’s response to Inception quickly amounted to a spectacle of its own, spawning parodies in conjunction with other well-known memes and viral media. One of the earliest notable threads was posted on NolanFans.com, dating back to July 20th, 2010.
At its peak around July & August, 2010, Google search queries for “Inception” weighed heavier in comparison to Jesus, Obama, iPad and Justin Bieber.
Throughout July and August, image macros and videos about the film continued to expand across a number of influential hubsites and internet blogs, including Tumblr Reddit Buzzfeed, Geekosystem and more.
Trailer Mashup Videos
The very first wave of user-generated response videos relating to the film began with Inception Trailer Mashups in May 2010, shortly after the film’s official trailer was revealed via YouTube on May 11th, 2011.
Among the first to grab the audiences’ attention was the epic trailer score “Mind Heist” by Zack Hemsey as well as the film’s soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, who also composed the score for Batman Begins and The Dark Night prior to this project. In similar style of the YouTube series Recut Movie Trailers and Guile Theme Goes with Everything, YouTubers began uploading mash-up videos featuring edited footage from various movie trailers and the Inception soundtrack.
Inception Multipanes: Must Dig Deeper
One of the early multi-pane fads illustrates a mock conversation between Cobb (played by DiCaprio) and rapper Xzibit, playing on the theme of recursion embodied by both characters. The dialogue typically begins with Xzibit’s recursive catchphrase, “Yo Dawg I herd you like X,” to which Dom replies “we must dig deeper” and ends with blank stares from both.
Extractors Gonna Extract
The Inception meme also had a successful hybrid with Haters Gonna Hate macros, combining a paparazzi photo of Leonard DiCaprio walking on the film set and a caption that reads Extractors Gonna Extract.
In August 2010, an exploitable trend known as Strutting Leo emerged on Tumblr, Reddit and other sites, based on yet another photo of Dicaprio striding down the film set with a smile on his face. Similar to Disaster Girl and other exploitable memes, Dicaprio is usually shopped into background of historically significant photographs, such as Abbey Road and Moon Landing.
In September 2010, a video titled Inception Cat made its debut on YouTube, showing homemade footage of a cat raising its head and staring intensely at the camera, while the Inception soundtrack is heard playing in the background. Within its first month of upload, the video gained over 2,300,000 views.