Remember back in the ‘90s when you had to explain to your grandparents how email works? Memes are just like that, but somehow less intuitive. Oh, and the explanation will usually leave people even more confused.
Let’s break it down: at its most basic level, a meme is just a bunch of people riffing on the same source material.
Why? Oh, there’s no why here. It just happens, it snowballs, it becomes a whole thing, brands start trying to get in on the act, then it dies, to be replaced by the next meme.
The latest addition to the canon begins with William Carlos Williams’ 1934 poem ‘This is just to say’.
You’ve probably heard it read out, or studied it in class – you’re likely to be familiar with it at some level, at least.
It’s the one that goes like this:
Everyone likes plums, especially plums served out of an icebox, so there’s your relatability.
At the risk of dissecting something far more than is necessary, the simple language of Williams’ poem makes it ripe for parody. That’s right, ripe. It was a plum joke. Because of the poem. Because fruit’s good when it’s ripe. Shut up.
Anyway, the first viral example we’ve found of someone producing their own take on the poem came back in 2015. In many ways this is the gold standard.
There’s a good reason why the plums tweets were revived, reimagined and taken to another level, though – it’s not pure coincidence that this has begun in late 2017.
But memes develop, often to a point where they quickly cease to resemble the original.
You know, stuff like this…
Soon enough, we were left in a position where the common factors of plums and an icebox remained, but little else did – like in this rewriting of Fall Out Boy classic ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’.
Song lyrics are an easy win in situations like this, though only if done well, hence this similar take on ‘Paradise City’ by Guns ‘N’ Roses.
Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ got the treatment too…
As did ‘In the End’ by Linkin Park.
We even got a version of MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’.
Eventually we hit the sweet spot (yeah, it’s another plum pun, deal with it) where niche tweets morphed into niche tweets about plums.
Taking it in a new direction isn’t something you announce - it just sort of happens.
And obviously this…
Ended up as this
Go on, try explaining that to anyone who doesn’t spend 99% of their life on the internet.
“So they ordered a pizza with…”
“No sauce? No cheese? Nothing?”
“Why was there nothing on the other side?”
“Look, I mean, it’s…”
“And what do plums have to do with it?”
“OK, I’ve made a huge mistake here.”
On one side you have the crossover of plums and music, while on another there’s the crossover between plums and memes. Slap bang in the middle of that Venn diagram, there’s this.
Still confused? Don’t worry, it’ll soon have made way for a different meme you don’t understand.
Of course, all of these tweets leave one big question unanswered: who saves cold plums to eat for breakfast?
The ‘30s were wild.
(Images: Marten Bjork)