Rebecca Black, planking, My Little Pony: Best memes of 2011


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Know Your Meme has come up with its top memes for 2011, and the list includes Rebecca Black -- the lauded and lambasted YouTube star for her video “Friday” -- as well as Scumbag Steve, My Little Pony, X all the Y and more.

It’s enough to make you nostalgic for “All your base are belong to us.”

“Rewind back to early 2000 or the late 1990s,” said Know Your Meme editor Brad Kim. “This is around when the word ‘meme’ slowly and gradually became associated with ... interesting Internet stuff.”


Memes, for the uninitiated, are “any online media that spreads on a massive scale across the Internet,” Kim said. Many, he said, come from TV, popular movies, video games -- mainstream culture. “That is the single biggest source of Internet memes.” See Know Your Meme’s top 10 list below. (Note: The language in some images in the meme video above is not always family friendly.)

Memes crop up at websites with looser restrictions on filtering content than mainstream news sites, Kim said. “But that’s only the beginning of a meme’s lifespan. An enduring meme, it explodes onto the scene ... but it transforms over time.”

All your base are belong to us,” Kim said, was one of the first Internet memes to be widely covered in the news media. It came from “an old Japanese video game” featuring faulty translations. ‘It went viral as people took the phrase and Photoshopped it onto other images.’

Cat images with misspelled captions peaked in 2007 and 2008 and kept with the theme of “intentional misspellings as a principle of Internet humor,” he said. Another example is the (culturally offensive) “Engrish,” which began with an ex-pat blogger in Japan who posted “goofy English signs around Tokyo and Japan” with poor English translations.

Even those who pay little attention to memes must remember Dancing Baby, “arguably the first online media to be dubbed a ‘meme.’ ”

A meme can be an overnight sensation. It can come and go or stick around, but at some point, it jumps the shark.


There can be a “huge allergic reaction” to some memes continuing, Kim noted. Example from 2011: “planking” -- which, interestingly, is on the Best of 2011 list -- and subsequent photo fads, including “owling.”

“One of the more interesting patterns we’ve seen,” Kim said, is the “ ‘Family Guy’ effect” -- evidence that online audiences can be snobs or, perhaps, just fickle.

The animated Fox show “is very Inernet savvy,” Kim said, and has incorporated references to memes. The effect, as worded on the Know Your Meme website, “is an observed phenomenon that indicates the end of a meme’s natural lifespan.”

Know Your Meme Editor’s Choice: Best Memes of 2011

-- Rebecca Black (YouTube celeb)

-- Planking (photo fad)

-- Occupy Wall Street (flashmob protest)

-- First World Problems (text / captioned images)

-- Scumbag Steve (captioned images)

Know Your Meme Community Choice: Best Memes of 2011

-- My Little Pony (fandom)

-- 60s Spider-Man (captioning)

-- Nyan Cat (video)

-- Nope, Chuck Testa (viral ad)

-- X All the Y (drawing)



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-- Amy Hubbard+