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X Staring at Wings on the Table is a phrasal template used to humorously describe one's keen interest in certain something, usually stemming from financial hardship or ineptitude. The phrasal template is usually combined with a scene from the 2005 film Madagascar in which the character Alex, a lion, inadvertently scares the character Mort, a lemur, when attempting to make an acquaintance. The scene initially gained popularity in GIF captions on iFunny in March 2021, with a still image of Crying Mort later also gaining popularity as a reaction image.
On May 28th, 2005, the animated comedy film Madagascar premiered in the U.S. In one scene of the film, the character Alex attempts to make a friendly introduction to Mort, saying "Hi there!" Mort, already scared of Alex's carnivore appearance, becomes even more frightened when he notices his sharp fangs, starting to cry in anticipation of being eaten (scene shown below).
On July 16th, 2017, an unknown Tenor user uploaded a captioned GIF based on the scene (shown below, left). The GIF did not see use in memes until July 21st, 2020, when iFunny user Moskau posted a fandom generalization GIF caption based on it that received over 1,200 smiles in one year (shown below, right).
Prior to late March 2021, the GIF saw limited use in GIF captions on iFunny without a defined trend. On March 25th, iFunny user Michael posted a GIF caption that received over 2,600 smiles in two months (shown below, left).
Following Michael's post, the GIF achieved significant popularity on the app, with multiple viral GIF captions posted by users starting in late March 2021. For example, on April 7th, 2021, iFunny user Dredge posted a version that gained over 5,900 smiles in one month (shown below, right).
In mid-May 2021, the image of crying Mort from the scene received spread as a reaction, particularly on Twitter. On May 10th, 2021, Twitter users @spark26249 and @intellattracted made posts that gained over 1,000 retweets and 6,700 likes and 6,000 retweets and 24,900 likes, respectively (shown below, left and right).
X Staring at the Wings on the Table
On April 18th, 2021, iFunny user TurboJew posted the earliest meme which used Michael's post (shown below, left) as a snowclone. The post (shown below, right) gained over 410 smiles in eight months.
Apart from reposts, the phrasal template did not see further use until September 28th, 2021, when Twitter user @blottso used the format to comment on the news that the US government could run out of money (shown below, left). The post gained over 2,100 retweets and 17,800 likes in three months, with screenshots widely circulated in the following days.
The format achieved popularity after on October 18th, 2021, Twitter user @FantaEnthusiast posted a meme referencing recent rumors about NSFW artist Shadman's drug addiction. The post gained over 1,500 retweets and 16,600 likes in two months (shown below, right).
Starting on October 20th, users on Twitter and others social media created memes based on the phrasal template, almost always illustrated by a still image from the GIF. For example, on October 21st, 2021, Twitter user @SNIPERTF2_ posted a meme that gained over 930 retweets and 9,100 likes in two months.