The Top 50 Memes of the Decade: 20-11
This month, we asked you to help us narrow down the top memes of the 2010s in our Memes of the Decade community poll. Over the last 10 days, nearly 55,000 votes were cast as users passionately campaigned for their favorite viral phenomena, hoping they might secure their spot among the best memes circulated during this iconic era in internet history.
From now until Friday, join us as we run down the list showcasing which memes had what it takes to be ranked among the top 50 of the decade.
20. Derpy Hooves
Peak Year: 2010
Back in 2010, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fans took a liking to a background pegasus character sporting a blonde mane and googly-looking eyes, earning her the nickname "Derpy Hooves" in reference to the classic "derp" expression. It was later revealed that the appearance of her eyes in the first episode was actually an error, so show creators began intentionally altering the character to appear wall-eyed. Eventually, the character was even given canonical recognition in the episode "The Last Roundup," in which Rainbow Dash refers to her as "Derpy."
However, it didn't take long for controversy to emerge, as some felt the name "derpy" could be interpreted as an ableist slur. In response, bronies launched the Save Derpy campaign to preserve the character's name, spawning an avalanche of forum posts and online petitions. In the end, Derpy remains one of the most iconic memes to ever emerge from the My Little Pony fandom.
Editor's note: Derpy gained an enormous surge of votes in the poll due to a campaign on 4chan's /mlp/ board.
19. Steamed Hams
Peak Year: 2018
Like most popular Simpsons memes, "Steamed Hams" had a long gestation period in the public zeitgeist. "Steamed Hams", to fans of the show, is one of the long-running series' most quotable and memorable scenes. But what this remix series brought to the table was something more. While quoting the show has become a second language to fans, there's not much originality in it. "Steamed Hands" changed that.
The seemingly endless creative juice that fueled the array of remixes brought joy not just to memers and fans, but the episode's writers and animators. "Steamed Hams" is a testament to how memes can breathe fresh life into old works, recontextualizing, reshaping and reframing them into something new. In 2017, "Steamed Hams" never tired, due not just to Bill Oakley's writing and Hank Azaria and Harry Sheerer's vocal performances, but also the internet's friendly competition of trying to find new ways to stage that fateful luncheon. In the end, the meme went the distance, despite Skinner's directions.
18. The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis
Peak Year: 2017
The real irony of the "Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise" is that it's perhaps one of the least traditionally meme-able parts of the prequel trilogy. It's a slow, methodical monologue without great emotion. There's no weird dialogue, CGI goop or Obi-Wan Kenobi, all of which would help to turn George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy into a meme giant. "Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise" is simply a great scene, and, depending on who you ask, something of an anomaly in the Lucas' divisive trilogy.
Opinions on Episode I, II and III have certainly shifted a bit in the last decade, and meme-doms endless fascination with these three, deeply-strange movies played a big part in that. "Darth Plagueis the Wise" isn't the first prequel meme, and at this point, it might not even be the most widely used, but it's continued popularity indicates that the scene holds a larger place in the hearts of fans and memers. The irony of "Darth Plagueis the Wise" is that it helped legitimize prequel memes and, to some extent, the prequel films.
17. Galaxy Brain
Peak Year: 2017
Perhaps no meme this decade was as “late-2010s” as “Galaxy Brain.” The image-macro series parodied faux-intellectualism by presenting a series of similar items next to increasingly-elaborate brains, with the dumbest item always paired with the biggest brain. For example, the original Galaxy Brain paired a giant, shining brain with “Whomst,” setting the tone for a meme that not only highlighted dumb ideas but appreciated the intellectual, uh, “prowess” necessary to even reach that level of stupidity.
The meme became an influential template through the remainder of the decade, influencing the similarly-used Vince McMahon Reaction template and Drake Sprite Commercial remixes, both of which one could find under any of the blazing hot takes that became a daily feature of social media use from roughly 2016-on. In many ways, the late 2010s were arguably the dumbest time in living memory, and no meme identified the ridiculousness of the era like “Galaxy Brain.”
16. Surprised Pikachu
Peak Year: 2018
Pikachu has long been the face of the insanely popular Pokémon franchise, but until 2018, the character hadn’t broken into the memesphere with the popularity of, say, SpongeBob. This all changed with Surprised Pikachu, a meme that cracked the mainstream and grew into one of the decade’s most iconic memes.
Surprised Pikachu surged in popularity in late 2018 thanks to being one of the decade’s simplest reaction images to understand. The still of Pikachu grabbed by an eagle-eyed Tumblr user was an instantly-recognizable expression: dumbfoundedness at a completely predictable outcome. The expression and its ability to be adapted into a variety of situations made it a quick hit.
15. Smash Mouth's "All Star"
Peak Year: 2017
This 1999 alternative rock song has remained an iconic internet culture anthem across much of the entire decade. Some of its success can easily be tied to the meme world's obsession with the Shrek franchise, as the song is often associated with the 2001 film's opening sequence.
In 2014, YouTube memer Neil Cicirega released the album Mouth Sounds featuring numerous "All Star" mashups. Two years later, YouTuber Jon Sudano made a name for himself by posting videos of himself singing the Smash Mouth hit set to the tune of other famous songs, like "Imagine" by John Lennon or "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence. Eventually, the song was used in numerous "Bee Movie But"-style remixes, including a "pitch corrected" variation that gained near six million views.
14. Distracted Boyfriend
Peak Year: 2017
It's hard to say when memes became a mainstream sensation, warranting national media attention, but Distracted Boyfriend crested that wave like none other. Somehow balancing the needs of memers and normies alike, the quintessential object labeling meme continued to pay dividends to anyone that posted it, capitalizing on both the facial expressions of those in the photograph and its bizarre existence. In 2017, "Distracted Boyfriend" was everywhere.
Stock photographs have long been a boon for meme-ing, but "Distracted Boyfriend" brought it to another level. The clarity of meaning in Distracted Boyfriend made it so applicable and so easy to spot. Just as captioned image macros defined what a meme looked like in the first half of the 2010s, the "Distracted Boyfriend" did that for the second half as the genre dominated the internet in "Boyfriend"'s wake. Variations from throughout history of men ogling a woman in front of their significant others poured in throughout 2017 and 2018, so much so that even Jack Black and Charlie Chaplin got in the mix. In the end, "Distracted Boyfriend" became one of the most recognizable and widely-used memes online, a trend that still hasn't slowed.
Peak Year: 2018
It can’t be. Fooled again, really? A glowing blue eye stares into the depths of your soul and the oh-so-inescapable electronic tune of “Megalovania” by Toby Fox provides a reminder that you, like many others, have once again fallen into for the trap that meme edits of 2018 thrived upon. "Megalovania" by Toby Fox was once merely a composition that fans of 2015 Undertale loved maybe just a little too much, making a slew of music remixes along the way. But in early 2018, things changed.
From then on, no matter carefully you choose your videos, no matter how innocent the meme looks – there was no escape from Sans the grinning blue-coat wearing skeleton, who would appear out of nowhere, talking in his “voice” and blasting some “Megalovania” up your earholes. The infamous Sans Default Fortnite Dance is a monument built from layers upon layers of irony, which celebrates the post-ironic Gen Z humor we can’t help but love.
Peak Year: 2012
Wojak emerged during the Rage Comics explosion of the early 2010s and somehow came out the other side unscathed. Initially, Wojak was known as “Feels Guy,” a character with intense inner pain expressed by his haggard face. In comparison to his more cartoonish brother, Forever Alone, Wojak remained relatable, expressing emotions not to be laughed at but understood on a spiritual level. This kept Wojak, along with Pepe, a hit on 4chan years after the character was initially popular.
This concept extended into the Wojak “-Oomer” era, when variations on the character began to come to stand for seemingly every type of person to ever exist. It began with the 30-Year-Old Boomer, a cheerful, older bloke who just loved to mow his lawn and play Quake, but it soon expanded into Zoomer, Doomer and even the infamous Coomer. Wojak proved one of the most versatile memes of the 2010s, a man who knew "that feel," and every other feel under the sun.
Peak Year: 2016
As one of the most iconic reaction images of the 2010s, this exploitable format using images of recording artist Drake taken from the music video for his 2015 single "Hotline Bling" has been widely used to express one's preferences for just about everything under the sun. The Know Your Meme image gallery for this meme has accumulated an impressive 504 images over the years, with countless photoshopped variations replacing Drake with a slew of other people and fictional characters.
Dec 19, 2019 at 09:21PM EST in reply to
The Math Hatter
Dec 19, 2019 at 09:34PM EST
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