As a transitional post between end of year lists (the endless, endless lists) and just regular lists (sweet, sweet regular lists) I’m gonna take one look back at 2011 to close the door on it by breaking down the most obviously important thing of any 12 months: its memes. There sure were a lot of memes this year. Some good. Many terrible. And there are new ones popping up every day.
With every passing year, memes become more interesting as their originators move further and further away from 4chan and into, well, everywhere. The proliferation of meme-ing software for smartphones let even the most unmotivated troller create custom memes within minutes, making things (as idiots like to say) “go viral.” So, without further adieu, let’s look at my favorite memes from 2011.
Honorable Mention: Planking
In a move that surprised exactly zero people, the internet took an image that captured a profound, complex, and deadly serious moment and instantaneously memed it. The rapid spread and unabashed popularity of this meme really became, for me, a big part of the discussion about America’s reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden. Because, let’s be honest, it wasn’t the instantaneous grief panacea that perhaps we were hoping for.
But what it was was a really funny meme. It was risque enough (considering what they’re watching) that you could feel nicely taboo for looking at it, but not so much so (like the large amount of 9/11 memes) that you truly felt shitty for chuckling. Whether it be the many Obamas, a classic meme-tactic, the Obama w/ Playstation controller, Sad Keanu in the mix, and more, there were many a lolz derived from the situation room.
Already written about on the Bloglin by our quite tickled Elbows,  Guy came in at the very tail end of 2011 and charmed us with just its classic meme-ness. It’s just your standard image macro style, with a particularly good picture, a theme that everyone on the internet can relate to, and some pretty above average execution.
This meme didn’t have baggage, required no cultural reference, seemed to pop out of nowhere, and was endlessly digestible en masse. Especially since most people who troll chan and the like smoke a lot of weed, the pleasure of  Guy was the triumvirate of laughing at him, laughing with him, and then also laughing at yourself for doing the same shit.
Hands down the creepiest and most nightmare inducing meme of 2011, the “__”-eyes craze started off simply enough: take the beloved Steve Buscemi’s pretty objectively disgusting eyes (sorry Steve!) and throw them onto anyone and everyone. There had been head swaps that got big in the past (people holding babies, etc…) but this shit took off because it’s the most like watching a terrible car wreck. You just can’t look away.
The situation became even more interesting after Newsweek’s pretty fucked up “The Queen Of Rage” Michele Bachmann cover story that featured her impossibly shaped demon eyes. That became a meme two ways, one with the eye switching, the other replacing the headline on the magazine (e.g. “Michele Bachmann Will Fucking Cut You”). Then someone crossed the streams and we got the image above. Thanks internet. Goodbye sleep.
I like this meme for a couple reasons. First, of course, that it was initially funny. For those who haven’t played Skyrim, there’s a repeated speech that many characters in the game will give you about having once been an adventurer like your character, until they “took an arrow in the knee.” Someone noticed that everyone says it, it’s a dumb thing to say, meme is born. Lolz are had. But, much like Skyrim was a crossover “hardcore” video game for a lot of people who quickly found themselves out of their nerdery depth when talking to true blue fantasy fans about the game, “arrow in the knee” got your average internet folk involved too deeply with trolls and /b/-tards.
The rapid expansion and perceived overuse of the meme started a massive flame war that I don’t think either side was ready for. It got to that wonderful level where you can’t even tell who’s trolling and who’s a noob and it kind of ceases to matter. “Arrow In The Knee” is a surprisingly interesting case study in the glorious birth and violent death of a meme.
Oh Officer John Pike, you ignorant fuck. In another case of ostensibly terrible things that are destined for meme-dom, this mustachioed shithead decided to throw on the most casual face possible while laying down a torrent of neon-orange pepper spray on some sitting students. It’s funny for many reasons: It’s bizarre. He looks like the pigs from angry birds.
He was transplanted onto every other meme imaginable. By inadvertently becoming part of the largely internet based #Occupy movement, John Pike and his fat smug face became one of the most enduring and striking images of 2011. And we memed his ass. Go internet. Go America.- Whole Milk