Time was you would open an article like this by saying “if 2009 was the year of anything, it was the meme”, explain what a ‘meme’ was, and make a real funny joke of it that anyone could regard something as inconsequential and fundamentally not-serious as a meme being anywhere near deserving of an annual retrospect.
Anyway, it’s 2017 now and memes have enmeshed themselves so deeply within the fabric of culture that you’ve decided to click this article instead of one of our other End of Year roundups about worthy pursuits like music, films and books. Imagine cultivating an interest in something beyond memes. It’s hard, isn’t it? Memes are the prism by which you make sense of life now, your rosetta stone for reality. You can’t parse the news unless it’s been poured through the great big meme sieve of online and garnished with a handful of memes which refer to the original memes.
And it’s so damn moreish. You are a greedy piglet suckling at the teat of the world wide web, and you won’t stop until you’ve guzzled the well dry. There’s a meme drought coming, mark my words, because we’re burning through them faster than I can mix my metaphors. That means we should take stock while we still can. Here were the memes to remember from 2017, in order of artistic merit.
that was the moment Trump became prsiduvhirw pic.twitter.com/fKVPPNVFH0— Anthony Smith (@AnthonyBLSmith) May 31, 2017
The weakest meme on this list, but a meme all the same. It’s Donald J Trump aka The President of the United States making a typo in a tweet. The typo probably sounds like ‘coffee’, a bit, and that was enough for it to provide ‘Stephen Colbert’ with a year’s worth of material, so fair play.
Sometimes you think, “bloody hell! This year’s gone quick!” and then other times you realise Salt Bae - the hunky butcher who inefficiently poured salt over his meat - was this year. 2017. And then you think, “life is very long”. Anyway, this was good for all of January. Expect him to be wheeled out in Students’ Unions in five years time.
Homeboy's Gonna Get It
bella hadid talk like a undercover cop 😂 pic.twitter.com/ENtObBtRxs— Young Black Jesus (@zekNcashe) October 5, 2017
“If homeboy’s coming through with these,” says Bella Hadid, pointing an accusatory finger at some entirely normal white trainers. “It’s quiet. It’s quiet for him. But if he comes through with these,” she points at a nominally different pair of trainers, except these have a go-faster red stripe down the side, “homeboy’s gonna, like, get it.” Bella Hadid’s lasciviousness for types of shoe was obviously too delicious for the meme community to ignore. In they tucked, posting different memes of what homeboy might be wearing which would lead him to getting it. Lewd stuff.
Winona Ryder's SAG Award Reaction
Stood next to her Stranger Things cast-mate David Harbour making a barnstorming acceptance speech about The Issues, Winny started pulling a succession of expressions as though she’d just discovered that her facial muscles could move for the first time and needed to try ‘em all out. The end result was somewhere in between a perturbed children’s TV presenter and a video game glitch.
This is Just to Say
somebody's sweet plums— merritt k (@merrittk) November 27, 2017
are crowding my icebox
somebody's cold plums
are giving me chills
A late end-of-year entry, which is a meme the parodies William Carlos William’s ‘This is Just to Say’, one of the most parodied poems of all time. Is it objectively good? No. Has it allowed people to get massive retweets slamming old memes together with jokes about plums and iceboxes? Yes. Does it pass the time? Also; yes.
He Protec but He Also Attac
This is good because it features a nude guy covering his penis with a toy lightsaber in two different ways, and also describes the duality of man. It’s quite sexually aggressive though, and the subsequent memes weren’t as good as the original, but to be fair, that’s because the original featured a nude guy holding a toy lightsaber over his dick.
The Floor Is
the floor is writing a coherent story without plot holes pic.twitter.com/X241AaPRK1— GAY CRUSADER (@HELL2U) June 7, 2017
You think the internet moves fast and renders everything else obsolete, but this is a joke schoolkids invented millennia ago that was only finally adopted by online in the last 365 days. Still bangs.
Man's Not Hot/The Ting Goes...
This was a great sketch, an inspired moment, a parody freestyle played so completely straight as part of Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth that bemused newcomers initially took it to be a real MC having a breakdown. Trouble is, the ensuing memes aren’t as funny as the thing they’re cribbing on, because the original was already a much funnier joke in its own right. It doesn’t feel a pure meme, in that sense, more like a bunch of people repeating wazzzzaaaap! This was good though.
You can't be broke if you don't check your bank account pic.twitter.com/brpgiWflym— Ryan (@RyanWindoww) January 23, 2017
See, now this meme also derived from a sketch, but the crucial difference is that the meme is actually an entirely fresh joke about turning self-sabotage into glass-half-full advice (“can’t [x] if [x]”), therefore it’s a superior meme. I don’t make the meme rules, I just enforce them.
Cracking a Cold One Open With the Boys
Like many on this list, you could make the case that this meme isn’t actually from 2017, but I’m in charge of this ranking, and I’ve decided the mainstream proliferation was this year. It’s a celebration of the power of friendly debauchery to mitigate life’s many disappointments, but - for reasons of extremely lacklustre ‘best practice’ - we much encourage you to not become overly reliant on either cold ones or the boys to deal with your problems.
The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist— pixelated boat (@pixelatedboat) June 12, 2016
Again, not technically from 2016, but this fully transcended from ‘funny tweet’ to ‘eminently useful shorthand for the manner in which the internet hurls people into a Trending tab, discovers their past transgressions, and then hurls them back to the bin of obscurity’ this year.
What Redbone would sound like while you're making out in the bathroom of a house party pic.twitter.com/1X4T7jFvZc— chloé (@chloestixx) May 14, 2017
For some reason, there’s something very inherently hilarious about remixing Redbone. It’s not that it’s a bad song, or a novelty one. It’s an objectively good song. Perhaps even one of my favourites from the last decade. It’s fantastic. It’s just very funny to remix it.
One Thicc Bih
This is about fictional characters having big butts. This is only really funny if they’re male, and preferably fictional, and even more preferably a cartoon though. Quite offensive if applied to literally anyone else.
This was 2017, too. I promise you. “Um, no, the Bag Raiders’ song came out in 2010, and people were using its wonky melody in amusing online contexts years ago!” But did they pair it with a satisfying action repeating in a loop and travelling the universe? No. They did not.
Monkey Getting A Haircut
The father, the son and the Holy Spirit pic.twitter.com/gtZ96nGCWD— Monkey Haircut (@MonkeyHaircuts) September 25, 2017
Sometimes you picture having to explain a meme to a ‘non internet’ ‘offline’ kind of person, and you wince, because to do so would be to reveal an alarming degree of knowledge about something profoundly immature and pointless. “Brother would you like some… oats? I don’t get it??” They’re saying to you, and you go “yeah, it’s an online thing… you know?! A meme!” and they stare at you and do everything they can to restrain themselves from asking if everything’s OK at the minute. Anyway, sometimes the meme doesn’t need to be explained cos it’s quite clearly just a contented lil monkey getting a haircut, then Photoshopped aul-fashioned style into various image macros. The best kind of meme.
bröther may i have some öats
Please don’t make me explain this one.
This was just Snapchat’s cute lil AR hotdog that danced in a loveable way. Not much explanation needed here. Just look at him go.
I Would Love it if We Beat Them
labour polling up to 30.5% pic.twitter.com/khItU7aldk— Stan The Golden Boy (@tristandross) May 11, 2017
Kevin Keegan’s infamously impassioned rallying cry for his Newcastle side to trump the dastardly Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United was re-contextualised for Labour’s meme-facing leader Jeremy Corbyn during this year’s General Election. Newcastle went on to finish behind Man United that year, and likewise Labour didn’t pip the Conservatives to the post, but actually, the analogy doesn’t quite work as Newcastle were ahead and lost the plot, whereas Labour were miles behind and performed valiantly. Anyway, I don’t care because I used valuable ShortList resource to make one of said memes, and it’s my list and I’ll put whatever I want in it.
⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀🤠— Neon Genesis Evangelidog (@DOGGEAUX) July 7, 2017
🚄 🚅 🚈
👇🏽 🚞🚂 👇🏽
howdy. im the sheriff of train emojis. whys there so many train emojis.
A flavoursome blend of emojis, ASCII art, self-referential memes and cowboys - the Nescafe Gold of online.
This meme was malleable according to the meaning you wanted to inflect, and therefore it’s a top-tier 2017 entry. You could make imply Pennywise the terrifying child-assaulting clown was luring you into the drain under false pretences, or that he was offering something so damn appealing you would happily hurl yourself into the sewers just to get it, or that he was offering such a Hot Take that he ought to be cemented over. This means the original image is a must for all camera roll-curators.
White Guy Blinking/Drew Scanlon Reaction
me: ill take a biology class, im smart enough for this just watch me— ini 🐖 (@eskbl) February 5, 2017
This meme originally came from some strange gaming roundtable Google Hangout(?), where ‘Drew Scanlon’ does a double take after hearing his friend say “farming with my hoe” (an accurate description in context). It became a very handy reaction face meme for many scenarios, i.e. when your colleague ‘Sam Diss’ announces he has a new article, and you look at the headline, and it says “Butter is Shit”.
This was a very good meme as it allowed you to couch your actual opinions inside a joke so people couldn’t boot off at them. For instance, you could outright say people who liked Sam Diss were pea-brained idiots, and that the more intellectually-inclined preferred Dave Fawbert, and then - as long as you went properly daft with the ‘biggest’ brain’ - you could get away with implying Gary Ogden was choice among those who have more brain than head. Or you could make it about more ‘relatable’ debates about putting ketchup in the fridge, or whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie etc etc.
Bf: "I don't even know her like that"— Lexy🥀 (@lexysaeyang) May 5, 2017
Me: "I doNt EveN KnOw heR liKe thAt" pic.twitter.com/xj4Fi5j2h1
Finally, they made ‘repeating a reasonable retort someone has just given you back to them, except in a silly voice, because you haven’t got the wits to think of a counter-rejoinder’ into an image macro. I didn’t realise this was what it meant for ages and so mortifyingly had to Google it to find out. I’m getting older every year. God bless 2017.
Just when you thought every obscure stock photo reaction had been mined, some wily prospector struck gold and unearthed this one. You could use it to refer to having your head turned, sure, that would be tier-one entry-level memeing. You could go one stop further and use it to refer to other meme formats. Or you could go even further than that.
What a meme. You have to remember that building, rigging, lighting, staging, animating and rendering a CGI Pooh Bear determinedly gurning his face off and really going for it will have taken someone ages. If someone told you they were going to spend hours animating 11 seconds of a dancing Winnie the Pooh ahead of time, you would tell them it would be a colossal waste of time, as there’s no way anyone could rationally know just how good it would turn out. Every single one of the things he’s been set dancing to is brilliant, and he seems to be in time to all of them, even when he definitely isn’t. I love it. Meme of the century.