2010 introduced us to countless new memes. But only a few were clever and culturally pervasive enough for consideration for this list. For every 'Double Rainbow' there were a dozen 'Standing Cats' and 'Salsa Dogs' that may have proved good for a quick chuckle but lacked staying power, depth and versatility. [Ed. Note: Disagree. 'Salsa Dog' is tops.]
As viral videos and other Web phenomena continue to grow in cultural importance, we increasingly become a society defined by its memes. Sure, you can learn a lot about the current cultural climate by watching the news and by analyzing what movies and TV shows are popular but we think you can learn just as much, if not more, by looking at what obsessed our online masses. So, without further ado we give you the year in memes.
While World Cup fever was gripping fútbol fans, the Internet was going nuts for vuvuzelas. The plastic horns quickly went from cultural curiosity to over-saturated meme. There were iPhone apps that made the blaring sound super portable, sites that added the din of thousands of South African football fans
to other sites and Google even had a button to add a vuvuzela loop to any YouTube video (which led to our favorite mashup -- an adorable bunny transformed into a Kubrick-esque nightmare
). The vuvuzela meme burned bright for only a brief period of time, but there's still some life left in this viral phenomenon, as evidenced by a recent video that saw the plastic horns re-purposed as the most irritating burglar alarm ever
YouTube user Hungrybear9562, known IRL as Paul Vasquez, may have been talking about rainbows, but he could have just as easily been talking about his own viral video hit when he sobbingly declared, "It's so intense!" The former cage fighter rose to stardom largely thanks to a tweet from Jimmy Kimmel, who declared that the footage of the now infamous double rainbow accompanied by Vasquez's hysterical, "What does it all mean?" navel-gazing might be the funniest video ever. Shortly after the video was featured by Urlesque and the Huffington Post, it was remixed by AutoTune the News into the instant classic 'Double Rainbow Song
.' Soon enough there were more mash-ups than you could count. "It's so intense
" and "what does it mean
" were plastered on t-shirts, and Microsoft even hired Vasquez to parody himself
in an ad for Windows Live Photo Gallery. Chances are that his 15 minutes are over, but the phrase "double rainbow" is now permanently seared into our collective pop consciousness.
Antoine Dodson and 'The Bed Intruder Song'
Antoine Dodson wins the award for most opportunistic accidental meme-generator. The Alabama resident became an instant Net sensation after his flamboyant warnings and threats
made their way online. The 24-year-old Dodson is a legitimate hero who saved his sister from a would-be rapist, yet he'll forever be remembered as the guy who told the world, "they rapin' er'body out here." Dodson really took off, though, when he teamed up with the Gregory Brothers, the team behind Autotune the News, to create 'The Bed Intruder Song
,' which almost deserves a separate entry on this list. The song, brilliant in its own right, spawned covers galore (including this stunning marching band version
), entered the Billboard Hot 100 and earned him a performance at the BET Awards. Dodson, in addition to making some cash from the iTunes sales of the 'Bed Intruder Song,' started selling T-shirts, licensed his likeness for a Halloween costume and even endorsed a sex-offender tracking app for the iPhone and Android. While this made sure that we were all tired of hearing warnings to hide our kids and hide wives pretty quickly, but it also earned Dodson enough dough to move his family out of the projects. And we dare just one of you heartless bastards to try and diminish that.
Sad Keanu (Sad Draper, Strutting Leo, Prancing Cera)
Sad Keanu started life as a pair of paparazzi photos posted on Reddit along with a quote from the actor, "I really enjoy acting... Because when I act, I'm no longer me." Soon Reddit was flooded with Photoshop jobs
(of varying quality) showing the sullen-looking 'Bill and Ted' star staring at his sandwich in various settings, or munching on strange things (such as himself) while resting on a park bench. The meme, although fun, is undeniably one-dimensional. But the Internet never lets anything die without a fight. Soon there were tons of variations on the theme, such as Sad Keanu in a helmet, Happy Keanu
and, in a final jump-the-shark attempt at sustaining the Keanu meme, Tai-Chi Keanu. Ultimately the Web started looking for other celebrity images to manipulate, and thus were born Sad Don Draper, Strutting Leo
and Prancing Cera
, a series of less iconic memes that copied the pattern laid out by Sad Keanu. All were worth a quick chuckle in their own right, but they lacked the draw of Sad Keanu, which is still a staple of Tumblr blogs. It even inspired Cheer Up Keanu Day on June 15, during which participants were asked to send gifts and fan mail to Keanu and to make donations to cancer research charities in the actor's name.
Crazy Candidates (Featuring: Basil Marcaeux, Sharon Angle, Christine O'Donnell and Alvin Greene)
We've got a whole other post of atrocious political ads that graced the Web in 2010
. But there's more to the story than just a bunch of links. Thanks to the power of the Internet, candidates who would have normally flown under the national radar suddenly became celebrities thanks to their stunning insanity . It seemed like every month there was a new crazy candidate. There was Basil Marcaeux dot Com
(that's his name, apparently), Christine O'Donnell
(who thinks scientists are creating mice with human brains), Alvin Greene
wants you to know that DeMint started the recession), and Sharon Angle
(who suggested pregnant victims of rape and incest try to turn lemons into lemonade). There were, of course, countless others
who garnered varying amounts of attention
, but it's clear to us that 2010 was the year of the nutcase political candidate. But rest easy, dear readers: every one of these people lost.
Isaiah Mustafa, The Old Spice Guy
What can we say about Isaiah Mustafa and his terrifically successful run as the spokesman for Old Spice? The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
ad, which featured Mustafa delivering a monologue as he seamlessly transitioned from bathroom to boat to horse, has racked up over 26 million views since debuting on YouTube in February. Two other ads starring the effortlessly cool spokesman have also combined to attract over 22 million views. Despite other efforts at viral advertising success, including a collection of underrated spots created by comedy team Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, it was the Mustafa clips that captured the public's heart. It's not hard to see why: The spots matched the perfect level of absurdity with Mustafa's charm and sex appeal. The clips became so popular that Old Spice launched an intense viral video campaign that starred the shirtless man answering dozens of questions
that poured in via Twitter. He shattered the stereotype that attractive, charming men with six packs can't drop Python-esque non sequiturs.
"F**king Magnets, how do they work?" and ICP's 'Miracles'
There has been some speculation that the Insane Clown Posse's 'Miracles
' music video is actually a brilliant marketing ploy
, designed to troll the Web on a massive scale. It's an interesting theory, but we're just not buying it. It's true the Insane Clown Posse was in desperate need of something (anything) to spark interest in their sad and already undeservedly successful career with those who aren't amongst the Juggalo faithful. But have you seen these guys? They're just not that bright. We think that Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J sincerely believe that everything around them is a miracle bestowed on us by a higher power. That's fine for the religiously inclined, but it seems a little strange when talking strictly about the wonders of "long-necked giraffes" and "f**king shooting stars." And worse still, after dropping a bone-headed nugget of an inquiry like "f**king magnets -- how do they work?", they proceed to accuse scientists of lying about the explanation. The video and song inspired dozens of parodies
, including one on Saturday Night Live
, as well as many mini-memes and mash-ups
, thanks to its endlessly quotable lyrics. Even at the peak of their popularity, ICP was a niche act, but now the Detroit-based "rappers" are a legitimate cultural phenomenon
-- even if this isn't exactly the way they envisioned it happening, regardless of what they claim in interviews
is computer animation software for dummies, and we don't mean that in a derogatory way. It features ridiculous pre-rendered characters and settings with a drag and drop animation system and a simple text-to-speech engine for creating computerized dialog. It's this simplicity that allows irate netizens to quickly vent their frustrations with people's stupidity. The first video to rise to prominence using the Web-based animation tool was titled 'Embargoes
,' and was clearly the work of a frustrated tech-blogger tired of being hounded by PR reps. It was the 'HTC Evo Vs. iPhone 4
' video, however, and it's juvenile (but funny) expletive-laden rant against the iPhone, that really catapulted Xtranormal into the meme stratosphere. Searching for Xtranormal on YouTube now turns up hundreds of videos tackling subjects like the so-called 'Ground Zero mosque,'
or serving as a collections of "yo mama" jokes. The videos even inspired Geico to launch yet another "quirky" ad campaign (because the cave men and gecko weren't enough) that used the Xtranormal app to hawk car insurance
NMA (Next Media Animation) News made a huge splash on the Web this year. The "news" outlet's ridiculous, computer-animated takes on current events were originally intended for Taiwanese audiences, but interest online led to NMA News World Edition that put English subtitles on videos and turned the little animation studio into a viral phenomenon. No topic was too big (Net Neutrality
) or too small (Lindsay Lohan
). The company even started a mock feud with Conan O'Brien shortly after the launch of his new show on TBS. (Apparently, Conan fans are all potheads
and pandas.) Even Steve Jobs couldn't escape their crosshairs, being depicted both as a ninja
and as Darth Vader
. Sure, the videos are gimmicky and eventually the joke will wear thin, but for now, it's still our second favorite source of news next to the Daily Show.
Perhaps the simplest meme to turn into a viral sensation this year was 'Trololo.' It began life as a twist on the RickRoll
, but soon outgrew its derivative roots to become a cultural curiosity. Perhaps if you were living in Russia in the late 1960s, the video wouldn't seem strange. It's a popular song titled 'I Am So Pleased, As I Am Finally Returning Home' (roughly translated from the original Russian) sung in a wordless vocal style similar to scatting. The performer is Edward Hill, a singer twice honored with national awards by the Soviet Union. The video of the televised performance made its way on to YouTube in late 2009, but it wasn't until February of 2010 that it started to take off. The poor lip-syncing and exagerated (almost surreal) gestures and facial expressions made it a must-see for viral video aficionados. A site dedicated to the video
launched in late February and countless remixes
followed. The song was even performed by a terrifying children's choir
in masks at their holiday concert.