This is part of an occasional series in which we explain what’s behind a popular meme. We like to call it memesplaining; you might call it meme-ruining. Regardless, if you just chanced upon a joke, tweet, image, app or GIF you don’t understand, we have the answers — insofar as answers can be had.
The meme: cursed sarcophagi
In the movies, an unopened sarcophagus is a Pandora’s box, filled with terrible curses that are primed to cause the main conflict of the film. So in July, when an unopened, black sarcophagus was discovered in Alexandria, Egypt, there were all of the warnings you’d expect from a culture raised on movies about cursed tombs.
But also . . . something else happened. Some people, in a tongue-in-cheek way, wanted to open the sarcophagus as quickly as possible. For them, finding a world-ending curse inside would be, well, a blessing, given the news cycles of 2018 so far.
And thus a meme was born, one that would grow through the mystery of the black sarcophagus, its opening and the discovery of another tomb that, if we’re lucky, may also contain the curse that will finally end this all.
How did this meme grow?
The initial reveal of these potential cursed mummy overlords was met with speculation. But once archaeologists did open the sarcophagus — revealing three skeletons and a mysterious liquid — the meme had its turning point: a change.org petition.
“we need to drink the red liquid from the cursed dark sarcophagus in the form of some sort of carbonated energy drink so we can assume its powers and finally die,” petition creator Innes McKendrick wrote. As of now, the petition has more than 32,000 signatures.
Some of those signing gave reasons for supporting the creation of a cursed liquid energy drink:
“I embrace death”
“I want to vape it”
(The liquid is probably some sort of sewage, a fact that the petition creator dismissed in an update to supporters: “please stop trying to tell me the skeleton juice is mostly sewage thats impossible everyone knows skeletons cannot poop,” he wrote.)
The petition prompted a bunch of news articles about how people online wanna drink the red liquid. For instance, McKendrick told the British publication Metro the following:
“Many felt let down when the dark and extremely cursed sarcophagus was pried open to reveal only skeletons drenched in raw sewage, which is weird because skeletons are inherently pretty awesome. However, I stand true to the hope we were promised, and deeply believe that by consuming the skeleton juice in the form of a carbonated high caffeine energy drink that we can still have the opportunity to enter an era of unending darkness and despair. I’m so glad to see others backing the petition, and sharing in my mission to rapidly bring about the end of all things.”
And then, in August, news broke that scientists had uncovered another mysterious tomb. This one was blessed with cheese — cheese that might contain a deadly disease.
Now the meme wasn’t just about drinking a cursed energy drink. It was about a whole world-ending meal.
Why is this meme happening?
2018’s meme history has been a little, well, dark. It opened with teens joking about eating Tide pods (please don’t do this), and then transitioned smoothly into a YouTube vlogger who posted footage of himself goofing off in front of the body of someone who committed suicide in a Japanese forest. That was January.
Other memes this year have included wallowing in the hopelessness of trying to save money as a millennial, joking about how we have all become detached from our own feelings with “this is so sad Alexa play Despacito” and a fun teen meme about how we are all being watched by the government at all times.
So it makes sense that, included in this descent into the abyss, there would be a meme weighing whether it’s worth letting a cursed mummy just take over already.
How can I use it like I know what I’m doing?
Wish for nothingness, and don’t stop.