Dec. 27, 2012 at 2:30 PM ET
Here’s a look at 10 memes that made our Internet year worth living.
Grumpy Cat was not the only fresh-faced Internet cat of 2012, but she emerges as the most memorable … largely because she rose to Reddit fame in the fourth quarter. A former shelter cat with a 24/7 scowl, Grumpy Cat (whose real name is Tartar Sauce), appears in countless LOL-style pictures, showing her disdain for everything from the holidays ("Ho. Ho. No.") and the anticlimactic Mayan apocalypse ("Still here. Worst apocalypse ever.") to people ("There are two kinds of people in the world. And I don't like them.")
NASA Mohawk Guy
As NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory team celebrated landing the Curiosity Rover on Mars, the Internet was far more intrigued by Bobak Ferdowsi, the young, handsome JPL team member with the star-spangled Mohawk hairdo.
Picking up more than 20,000 Twitter followers overnight, Ferdowski also earned the ultimate tribute, a Tumblr site featuring an ongoing supply of user-submitted LOL pictures, many with captions complimenting his cool, such as this one: "Becomes an Internet sensation ... Too busy landing a robot on Mars to notice."
Binders Full of Women
While the President Barack Obama-bashing "You Didn't Build That" had decent run, it was Republican candidate Mitt Romney who inspired most of the memes of the 2012 presidential election. There was "Fired Big Bird," a viral response to Romney's comment about possible budget cuts to public broadcasting. Clint Eastwood, who addressed an empty chair (meant to represent Obama) at the Republican National Convention gave us "Eastwooding" (photos of fingers pointing at chairs).
But it was "Binders Full of Women," inspired by Romney's comment about pay equity, that brought the meme madness. From the Trapper Keeper notebook emblazoned with the words "Trap Her Keep Her" that graced the original "Binders Full of Women" Tumblr to a "Say Anything"-era John Cusack holding binders (instead of a boom box) over his head, there seemed no end to the ways the Internet could illustrated this quote ... until everyone got bored and moved on.
Texts from Hillary
A couple news photos showing sunglasses-wearing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aboard a military C-17 aircraft and checking out her cellphone inspired two guys to launch the "Texts from Hillary" Tumblr.
Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe manipulated the images to the max, juxtaposing photos to reveal Clinton cellphone-trolling everyone from Sarah Palin and President Barack Obama, to "Pretty Little Liars," a free-car offering Oprah Winfrey and the ever-texting Jeff Winger of "Community." Our favorite remains a cross pollination of the still-hilarious Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" Tumblr meme.
Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
Just a guy who happened to smile at a camera while running a marathon in South Carolina, Zeddie Little achieved Internet fame the way so many humans and cats do these days — via Reddit. The accidental photo bomb of Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy (as the photo was described when first posted to Reddit) became the subject of a very complimentary photo meme similar to that enjoyed by Nasa Mohawk Guy. His original picture was adorned with phrases such as "Looks into broken mirror … fixes it" and "Photo bombs a picture … everyone else is cropped out."
As Know Your Meme notes, "Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy" inspired a number of derivatives, including "Ridiculously Photogenic Puppy," Ridiculously Photogenic Surgery Girl," and "Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Rebel."
Overly Attached Girlfriend
Unlike Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, Overly Attached Girlfriend (Laina Walker) achieved her Internet infamy kinda sorta on purpose, via her YouTube song "Boyfriend," a spoof on the Justin Bieber song "Girlfriend."
"If I was your girlfriend / I’d never let you leave / without a small recording device / taped under your sleeve," is just one line of Walker's singing satire. Of course, it helped that the screen grab that went on to become a photo meme captured Walker wide-eyed and looking a little crazy. "I sewed my name on your shirt … in case you forgot you're taken" and "Oh, you found someone else? I'm pregnant" were two favorites.
The fake photos of Superstorm Sandy
In late October, as Superstorm Sandy lurched towards New York City, 10 pictures per second were being posted to Instagram with the hashtag #sandy — mostly of people prepping for the storm or what it looked like outside. Then there were the fake Sandy photos popping up all over social media. Some tried to pass off screen grabs from "The Day After Tomorrow." Others used Photoshop to show Godzilla emerging towards the waves or a kitty-faced storm cloud looming over the Statue of Liberty, funny stuff which help alleviate storm-inspired stress.
McKayla is Not Impressed
A momentary facial movement, frozen in time, made United States gymnast McKayla Maroney the biggest photo bomb meme of 2012. There she was, receiving the Silver Medal at the London Olympic Games for what many said was a nearly flawless vault, arms crossed and looking … well … really not impressed.
Thanks to the magic of the Internet, Maroney was soon looking unimpressed with plenty of things ("Hydrox? I thought you said Oreos") and turning up in famous memes of years past — Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Music Awards, the "Situation Room" scene when Obama, Clinton and the rest of the gang received news of the Osama bin Laden raid, and even "NASA Mohawk Guy." For her part, Maroney took it all in stride, and recently even struck her famous pose with the President.
When the photo of an adolescent girl with pigtails, a retainer and books from R.L. Stein's "Goosebumps" series first hit Reddit, it wasn't immediately clear how the meme would go. The phonetic mimic of what it sounds like when you're an excited kid with a mouth full of orthodonture inspired "ERMAHGERD!" ("Oh my God!), GERSBERMS ("Goosebumps") and "BERKS! (Books!) as the meme ramped up. But in the end, the Internet favored "ERMAHGERD!" And really, can you blame us? What better word describes overwhelming excitement and joy over something you find to painfully awesome! It's especially hilarious when "said" by an animal … at least in the ongoing photo meme.
The first video on the Internet to be viewed more than a billion times, this K-Pop hit by Korean rapper PSY is inarguably the top meme of 2012. The song, the video and the crazy cowboy dance moved past the meme-makers of the Internet to achieve mainstream obsession. Even before the "Saturday Night Life" sketch (featuring a cameo by PSY), YouTube was lousy with "Gangnam Style" parodies, from the political "Mitt Romney Style" to a baby version, a Gangam-meets-Minecraft sendup and even a Brony interpretation, as well as the must-see "Teens React" video from viral pros the Fine Bros. And so on.
"Gangnam Style" mania also inspired a bait-and-switch Jar Jar Binks "Gungan Style" video from Funny or Die's Nick Wiger that borders on brilliant. If you watch it through, you're rewarded with a cold-splash-of-water interpretation of how we're spending our life on the Internet. No spoiler alert here. You've got "Gangnam Style" stuck in your head now anyway, so you might as well have a look.
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