'José Luis' Meme Creator 'Idontreadtheory' Reveals The Origins Of The Viral Dog Meme
José Luis is the newest dog meme to take over the internet. While José started making the rounds on Spanish-speaking meme pages in late 2022, it wasn't until Instagram user idontreadtheory posted a demotivational poster-style meme adding the name "José Luis" under it that it really took off.
The dog is now forever cemented in meme history as José Luis and, like Jotchua before him, he's quickly become one of the internet's favorite doggos. We reached out to idontreadtheory, aka Nuria, to get the inside scoop on the meme, hear her takes on meme culture and discuss the origins of her meme page.
Q: Hi Nuria, it's great to talk to you. Can you introduce yourself for people who may not know you?
A: My name is Nuria and I run the Instagram page under the handle @idontreadtheory. I studied Linguistics and Spanish literature in university and have had a variety of jobs, mostly in that realm. I’m in school again and now I (poorly) balance those things. Almost nothing I do in my regular life mirrors what I do online.
I’m the only admin of the account (idontreadtheory), which might come as a surprise to some since sometimes I post a lot of disorganized things, impulsively. My content fits mildly under the philosophy or literary theme but over time I’ve branched out and it has become more silly and absurd. It might also be a surprise that I’ve never been a philosophy student, most of my knowledge of it came passively through a family member until I started reading on my own.
Q: When did you start posting memes online?
A: I’ve been posting memes since I was a really young teenager. Even making some of them, but they’d only ever see my Facebook feed. In 2011 I’d get home from school and post memes on my own wall. I still have a memory that pops up from when I shared the "Quote from man stabbed" meme after finding it on Reddit.
I created my Instagram page on a night in December 2020 after a summer of observing a side of Instagram memes I’d only just discovered. I was the follower before that in those instances, on the other side of it, taking it in. It was definitely something that for me was born out of the pandemic, and at a time when I was redefining the way I saw my relationships with others. I was adjusting to that more atomized way of life under lockdown where we had no choice but to find ways to entertain ourselves.
Q: What inspired you to start a meme page?
A: I thought of the username as a way to poke fun at how much more politically organized and maybe disciplined I’d been a few years ago in my early twenties. I saw it as “I used to read much more theory and have a motivation that I don’t possess now.” The popular memes on there at the time were kind of lengthy and word heavy, so I’d become a fan of a different particular posting style that was more random and self-referential, the @incellectuals spin-offs, especially @coincellpro.
I was also very immersed in Latin American memes, which are very distinct. I was part of meme communities on Facebook that were very popular among Latin American people but also Spanish people like myself. There was also a now-defunct meme page I really loved called @policiadeturing, run by an Argentinian admin.
Despite my being Spanish, and not understanding all of the different slang and cultural notions in some of those memes, I felt very inspired by how idiosyncratic they were in comparison to memes in English. I have a surprisingly big following in Chile, I think they probably recognize the inspiration or something. So I made the Instagram page itself to be able to participate better in an online community but also because I felt like I had my own ideas for how to do so. For how to be an active creator.
Q: Are all your memes original?
A: Mostly. This is kind of funny because I have had other phases. I also don’t have a very strong attachment to meme “authorship” which I’ll get into after. I started out making all of them for months. Then I did repost or “curate” memes other people made more often until maybe some time last year. In most cases I still really enjoy when meme pages do that, I think it can involve a lot of personality and creativity. Some of my favorite pages do that.
Now it’s very rare that I’ll repost other people’s content, though. I always have ideas for memes so I just get the urge to make them, honestly, even if it’s an incredibly low-effort one. I’ll still basically churn it out because I can't help myself, sometimes between work or classes. I think also my followers can tell when it’s me now. Especially long-time followers.
Q: What is it about meme culture that fascinates or interests you?
A: Honestly, all of it. I know there are specific figures on the internet who research and discuss memes as a modern form of visual art. I don’t know if I have as much to personally say about that per se, even though I find that idea cool. I’m more interested in the uniqueness of memes as a cultural item, or a remnant of a certain time in history.
You can sort of observe the overall tone shift with many memes, and then other ones are just timeless. “Memes,” to me, can’t be reduced to an image with text overlay. A lot of them carry meaning in many communities but move and dissipate very quickly. Still, the experience of understanding something collectively and joking about it together is something I find amazing. That they can bring people relief for a moment. That’s my favorite part. A flattering design really doesn’t matter as much, at least to me. I think in that sense all of us create memes, there isn’t always one single creator because we all participate in the spread.
Q: You share a lot of memes featuring dogs. Dogs are a massive part of meme culture. What do you think it is about dogs that historically make good memes?
A: I think animal-themed memes are so benign in the best way. You see so many templates with many kinds of animals and captions you wouldn’t expect these days. I like dog memes especially because they remind me of the Latin American style of posting. I’m probably most influenced by Spanish-language memes in that sense, whenever I post about dogs.
They often involve a slightly doctored image of a dog with only a little bit of text but that’s really all it needs. I love the simplicity of that, not everything needs to mean something. I see the future of @idontreadtheory as a meme-page-turned-pet-influencer account. I’m joking. Well, maybe only half joking.
Q: You coined the name “Jose Luis” for the puppy with the squinty lil eyes. Why did you choose that name?
A: I did, yes. It came instantly to mind. People are always naming random meme dogs on the internet and I think I just felt it was my turn. I knew he had to have a Spanish name, he’s very obviously from a Spanish-speaking country. I think most people would agree. He has the refined vertical features of a “Jose Luis”.
Q: When did you first come across the image of Jose Luis and what about it called out to you?
A: My friend sent me the picture in a DM one evening and an immediate obsession came over me. I made memes about it literally minutes later.
Q: What kind of dog (behavior-wise) do you think Jose Luis is? Would you assume he’s a good boy and why?
A: He is absolutely villain-coded. Or an anti-hero. I see him as a Kiryu from Yakuza or a John Wick type, hilariously. A man of few words who’s a bit too self-important. The perfect dark video game protagonist or villain. But he’s still a good boy.
Q: Jose Luis has taken off as a meme. When did you first see it taking off? What was the first meme you saw other than your own calling the dog Jose Luis?
A: I saw it take off maybe a few days later. My followers started tagging me on other pages that had reposted different variations of the meme I’d made. This is kind of usual, but it was happening much more often, every few hours. I don’t know if I remember the first meme I saw where someone else captioned him as Jose Luis but I definitely saw the comment sections of hundreds of people calling him that, which made me laugh.
*Q: What’s been your reaction to the meme going so viral? Did you expect it? *
A: I didn’t really think it would go as viral as it did but it’s very cool. I post all the time and it tends to remain in my sphere. I’ve had a few memes go really viral and spread far on the internet, but this is the first time a whole theme with spin-offs that I personally came up with has performed so well.
Q: Meme creators are always being robbed of credit. Does it bother you that some people don’t credit you with starting the Jose Luis meme?
A: This is an interesting question for me because I’ve talked about crediting memes before at length on my page and why I think it’s not always reasonable to expect it. This is because it’s really awkward to apply a concept of authorship to memes since they’re so unserious in nature and often take very little time to make. Plus, as soon as someone changes a tiny detail, the authorship basically transfers to that person, technically. That’s how loosely the creative process is defined for memes.
I’m not a fan of watermarks but I don’t really mind what other people do. The idea behind a meme, I think, can sometimes carry some valid desire for credit though. I know I like it when people know I’ve made something and I feel a little bit of pride in memes that were originally mine, but it doesn’t personally bother me a lot if it goes uncredited.
Unless the credit is being misapplied to the wrong person or something, which did happen with this meme, but even then I definitely don’t lose sleep. Finding your meme in the wild is a sign of success, I think. It's a good thing. I know people have varying opinions. I’m not even fully sure what I think.
Q: Jose Luis is very similar to Jotchua: pups with funny faces and funny names. Why do you think these “animal + name” memes are so successful historically?
A: Yes, Jose Luis is very similar to Jotchua, hahaha. I noticed that right away, even in just how the dog is being held. I’ve been posting about Jotchua for probably two years now, I have a whole roster if you scroll far enough. I purposely put Jose Luis into the Demotivate template for that reason.
I think the full-frontal blank stare has a lot to do with it. I think most of us love animals and get relief out of seeing them during our “doom scrolling.” Also, not all of us have pets at home. I don’t anymore. I had an Irish wolfhound and a rescued blue heeler as a child and they were probably my best friends, especially because I lived apart from my siblings a lot of the time. Dog + name memes are great for serotonin-depleted people and many of us are online not only to stay in touch with people we know in real life but for a distraction. Of course, cat memes are also excellent, and I’d argue bird memes too.
Q: Who is a better meme, Jose or Jotchua?
A: Jotchua is the better meme, nothing beats an original. I’m proud that Jose is even making any kind of ranks though and that I have a part to play in that. It’s hilarious but also cool.
Q: Do you plan on creating Jose Luis memes for the foreseeable future? How long do you think the meme will live?
A: I think I will probably make more of them but over time. I love sparsely throwing in references to old bits and he has some very weird ex-boyfriend-themed lore now that I established for whatever reason. He will pop by here and there, he’s mysterious in that way.
Q: Who would win in a fight to the death, Jotchua or Jose Luis?
A: I think both of them have a fighting chance here. I see it sort of like Thor versus Loki. I draw that direct parallel of “The Hero” versus “The Trickster.” Both of them have strengths but are very different in personality. Maybe it depends on the playing field… much to think about.
Q: Beyond memes, what other content do you create online if any?
A: I have a Youtube channel, which is still very much in its preliminary stages, under the same handle @idontreadtheory. I’m excited to make more videos and have content filmed and edited. I plan to experiment with similar themes as on my Instagram page over there but in video format. My video about the Hegel's bagels joke from The Simpsons has already been memed on Twitter and Facebook, surprisingly.
I also write and have since before the start of my page, some is on my Substack “Nerve vs. Sinew,” but most of my writing hasn’t been published by me online in any capacity yet. I have plans to do that there more often.
You can follow Nuria on Instagram and Twitter @idontreadtheory Substack, and TikTok @idoreadtheory.
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