The sparkling red jackets and white bandaged faces of his backup dancers at the end of his show reminded plenty of the tethered characters from Jordan Peele’s horror movie “Us.” The more video game-inclined thought of Shy Guy from the Mario Bros. series.
But those were mere hors d’oeuvres. The main course for meme makers came smack dab in the middle of his divisive performance.
The Weeknd began singing in the stands and concluded on the field. To get between the two makeshift stages, he walked through the halls of Raymond James Stadium as a cameraperson clumsily tried to keep the lens trained on his face. The halls glowed gold and were decorated with words including, “Turn,” “Tough” and “Rough Times.”
With his face much too close to the camera, the singer looked a bit lost — somewhat reminiscent of the scene from “This is Spinal Tap,” in which the band can’t find the stage. Whether this moment came off as the performer intended or not, it certainly made quite the feast for Twitter’s legions of jokesters, many of whom found the scene extremely relatable.
Buzzfeed writer Ryan Schocket, meanwhile, considered snack foods, writing “What my pizza rolls see from inside the microwave.”
How did this year’s memes stack up against previous ones?
Jokesters ran into some trouble last year when they mocked the moment Shakira’s undulating tongue let out a warbling cry. The memes were quickly criticized as being culturally insensitive. As The Washington Post’s Allyson Chiu wrote at the time, “Like much of Shakira’s widely heralded performance, which was full of nods to her Colombian and Lebanese heritage, the seemingly random trill actually carried deep cultural significance. To those familiar with Middle Eastern culture, the sound was akin to a traditional Arabic expression of joy and celebration called a zaghrouta. It was also interpreted as a reference to the world-famous Carnaval de Barranquilla, which is held in Shakira’s hometown in Colombia.”
Another that’s received criticism was in 2013, when an unflattering image of Beyoncé, captured mid-performance, became an meme that’s still widely used today — mostly to insult the pop star.
But one pure shot of Super Bowl halftime show joy stands above the rest, beloved for its sheer silly oddness. We’re talking, of course, about the Left Shark. Katy Perry was flanked by dancers wearing shark costumes during her 2015 performance. One of those sharks seemed to be in its own little watery world, doing its own weird thing that had little-to-nothing to do with the actual planned choreography. It was wondrous.
No offense to the Weeknd but that sort of organic moment can’t be replicated. The Left Shark remains at the top of the halftime show’s virality mountain, the Tom Brady of Super Bowl memes.