This year in memes, we sang about the calendar, laid face-down on the floor, and were mesmerized by a cat made of Pop-Tarts. We photoshopped pictures of penguins, and then we thought about how much better we have it than everyone else, especially everyone who isn’t fortunate enough to hang out online all day and analyze Internet memes such as these.
Inspired by the Web site Know Your Meme’s year-end tribute to the best memes of 2011, we thought we’d celebrate some of the unsung memes of 2011. Here’s our round up of some of the best Internet ephemera you may have missed:
Know Your Meme Editor’s Choice: Best Memes of 2011:
1. Rebecca Black — The wannabe teen pop starlet who created, along with the Ark Music Factory, one of the worst songs and music videos ever. The inane choice of lyrics (“Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday/Today it is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)/… Tomorrow is Saturday/And Sunday comes afterwards) was what really clinched Black’s meme fame.
Underrated alternative: Lana Del Rey . If we’re going to make fun of a singer on the Internet of questionable authenticity, why not make fun of one who can actually sing? Lana Del Rey incited the ire of hipsters everywhere when it was revealed that she was not actually the former trailer-park “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” who could tug at the heartstrings of Williamsburg residents — she was Lizzie Grant, daughter of an investment banker, whose marketing team came up with her new identity. Not even her lips are real, allegedly — but the girl can sing!
2. Planking — everyone lies down face-first in unusual places, and takes pictures of themselves.
Underrated alternative: The Leisure Dive
. It requires a lot more effort than planking, and has to be captured in a single take. People take pictures of themselves diving into a pool with clothes on, but time the shot so it looks as though they are enjoying a nap or a drink suspended in midair.
3. Occupy Wall Street (Pepper Spray Cop, Hipster Cop, etc.) — The year’s biggest political meme had several submemes associated with it. The most popular was the Pepper Spray Cop, who was Photoshopped into moments throughout art history. Hipster cop, Occupy Sesame Street and “We Are the 99 Percent,” were among the others.
Underrated alternative: The Vancouver Riot Kiss. Celebrate love, not pepper spray. After a mob erupted in Vancouver when the city’s team was defeated in the Stanley Cup Finals, Getty Photographer captured a mysterious image of a couple kissing on the ground as riot police marched by them. The image was photoshopped into other scenes of chaos.
4. First World Problems — A hashtag and photo series complaining about things that would only bother people who live in privileged countries — such as having to wait in a long line for a new iPhone, or eating a salad with too much arugula. The meme was criticized by the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal for implying that people from the Third World don’t also crave technology and luxury.
Underrated alternative: Stock Photo Cliches. We enjoy the mockery of a dozen different photographs of women eating salad and laughing, women spilling water on their faces, or people kissing computers? This meme was a more subtle way of showing us how good we have it — and how absurd stock photography can be.
5. Scumbag Steve
— A photo of a dude in a sideways cap and fur coat, superimposed with captions about drugs, partying, and hedonism.
Underrated alternative: Socially Awkward Penguin. This meme is about failing to understand social cues, but in a different way: Socially awkward penguin is a bad communicator, but he’s harmless. Another alternative would be the foul bachelor frog, who is hardly a prince.