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“You Tried” is a reaction image used to pity someone else’s failed attempt at humor or insult, oftentimes sarcastically in similar vein to usage of “Seems Legit”. On Tumblr, this is typically presented as a clip art of a golden star captioned with the phrase.
The practice of rewarding a job well done with motivational stickers or stamps can be traced back to its usage in elementary schools to award students for completing an assignment or good behaviors. On the web, clip art images of gold star have been used as genuine complements towards quality user submissions as early as in January 2011 and its sarcastic usage on Tumblr reportedly began sometime in May 2012.
Precursor: At Least You Tried
While it is difficult to pinpoint the origin of its online usage, the phrase “at least you tried” has been paired with FAIL image macros and cute animal photos on various humor communities like eBaumsworld, Threadbombing and Reddit as early as July 2008, including one of a capsized military tank and a photo of two wolf pups.
On Tumblr, the Gold Star reaction image is typically added at the end of a reblogged post to point out its inadequacy or shortcoming. Since gaining prominence through its usage on the site, the Gold Star has spawned numerous variations of the phrase “You Tried” as well as negative responses from other Tumblr users regarding its allegedly excessive usage. The Gold Star reaction image also became associated with Tumblr’s Homestuck webcomic fandom after it was paired with a poorly drawn image of Homestuck characters published on June 12th, 2012.
There are numerous derivatives of the Gold Star reaction image circulating on Tumblr, many of them bearing other messages like “You Didn’t Try” or “You Died.”