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Here's to Loss, the Internet's Greatest Meme

By Adam

5495900 views
Published 6 years ago

Published 6 years ago

When I see a tattoo on someone that catches my eyes, the first question that usually pops up in my head is "what does it mean to that person?" Now, I don't have a tattoo, but whenever I entertain the idea of getting one, my brain goes to either the best or stupidest place, depending on how I feel that day. I'd want a minimalist "Loss" edit. This one specifically:

minimalist loss edit

Not too bad, right? As far as memes for tattoos go, I like to think you could do far worse than a simple, nine-line pattern that to the casual observer doesn't mean much of anything. And weirdly enough, of all the beautiful images in this drain-circling world, the one that resonates with me most is a goddamn "Loss" edit. I haven't yet decided if that's cool or really fucking stupid.

If you don't know what I mean by "Loss", here's a quick background:

In the mid-2000s, during the renaissance of internet webcomics on video games, one in particular, Ctrl+Alt+Del, skyrocketed to popularity. The comic embodied some of the cringiest stereotypes of the genre from the decade; Ethan, the main character and a video game-obsessed twenty-something with a passion for video games and "nerd culture," exhibits hallmark behaviors of the childish and snobbish comic and video game nerd archetype, including many that would be characterized as misogynistic nowadays, yet somehow has a friend who put up with his nonsense and a beautiful girlfriend who takes care of him. Talk about Marty Stu syndrome.

Ctrl+Alt+Delete Breasts Comic

On June 2nd 2008, Buckley ran a four-pane comic strip titled "Loss." In it, Ethan rushes to a hospital and discovers that his girlfriend, Lilah, has had a miscarriage. Thus was born one of the most iconic imageries in internet meme history.

the original loss comic

If this is your first time seeing "Loss" and you don't think this is the funniest thing in the world, I don't blame you. Sure, it's not terrifically artistic and takes a rather cartoonish approach to a serious subject matter, but the comic wasn't inherently the worst thing ever, just a drastic departure from the tone its audience had been used to. And holy shit, did it get mocked to hell for it. After "Loss" was posted, it became a massive in-joke for the gaming and comics communities. Several webcomics outright parodied it by inserting their own characters into the template. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation brutally roasted it in one of his earliest reviews. It didn't help that Buckley was infamously defensive of "Loss" and Ctri+Alt+Del during the backlash, leading the Badwebcomics Wiki to label him "a giant douche, even by internet standards." TL;DR, the maligned comic's misguided attempt at gravity followed up by Buckley's own pretentiousness about the ordeal made for one incredibly ripe target for parody.

Hijinks Ensue Loss parody

And parodied it was, on Tumblr, 4chan's /v/ board, the Something Awful forums, and various other places online tuned into webcomics culture. Forum threads devoted to making fun of the comic had to be locked. The comic gained two entire wikis devoted to it, both of which are now closed. The comic became so iconically bad, so instantly recognizable that eventually the internet did to it what the internet does to most everything mildly bad nowadays: they destroyed it.

In the same way today's meme culture breaks down things like Shrek and Bee Movie into Replacement Remixes where, say, every time the camera cuts, All Star by Smash Mouth plays or something, the internet of the late 2000s to early 2010s took "Loss" and broke it down to its core components: four panels, with one character in the top left, two in the top right and bottom left, and two in an L position on the bottom right." Thus: the minimalist Loss edit.

When I first discovered "Loss," I didn't think too much of it. I had missed the original wave of controversy surrounding the comic so my first exposure to Loss was seeing an image on Tumblr I didn't understand captioned "GOD FUCKING DAMMIT" or something.

dark souls loss edit in game

With subsequent viewings of various other edits, I started to enjoy it. I followed the Loss Tumblr. Eventually I became the "GOD FUCKING DAMMIT" guy. I had a vague understanding of the lore behind "Loss," but what drew me into the meme was just how clever the edits had become. Some were downright artistic in their composition, the product of enormous care and talent, all in the service of reminding you of that time that one guy did a comic strip that wasn't very good. The intense effort dedicated to such a silly shitpost was, for lack of a better term, extremely my shit.

"Loss" will always be my favorite meme. It has it all: an easily-mockable, pretentious artist at its origin; a deep lore of context; a template that allows for incredible artistic interpretation. It's also a deeply codified in-joke that takes, like, ten minutes to properly explain, and even then, you just have to, like, "get it," which is not necessarily easy for a comic about miscarriage. And for the same reasons, it will never be as shareable as, say, Distracted Boyfriend or Roll Safe, but they will most likely fade away long before "Loss" does. I am still amazed that nine years after Buckley posted the comic, a new "Loss" edit can simultaneously take my breath away and cause me to facepalm as hard as if I were seeing my first one.

photograph of scenery that doubles as a loss edit

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