This year was eternal, but hey. We had memes.
2020 was unprecedented. That word has been used all too much this year, but it’s true — when else has the world experienced a devastating pandemic, nightmarish wildfires, social unrest, political upheaval, and testy diplomatic relations like this year? The memes that emerged this year, though, were far from unprecedented. Many were previously viral images or phrases that were repurposed and adapted to this year.
Here are 14 memes and online trends that defined 2020.
1. Bernie once again asking for your support
God, remember the primaries? Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ fundraising video, released during the last weeks of campaigning before the primary, went viral because it’s simply the perfect meme format.
2. Bong Joon-ho being a proud dad
Ah yes, the Before Times. Back when you could pack hundreds of people in a theater indoors, sans mask! Parasite swept the awards circuit, notably winning four Academy Awards, but its director Bong Joon-ho was more excited to take photos of his cast like a proud father at his kids’ soccer games.
3. Cardi B yelling “Coronavirus”
When the country began shutting down and Americans still knew little about COVID-19, Cardi B’s monologue about being scared of the virus went aptly viral. In an Instagram video, she yelled, “CoronaVIRUS! Coronavirus! I’m telling you, shit is real! Shit is getting real!” The oddly melodic rant has been sampled in countless tracks since, including this one by DJ Snake.
4. Last minute crushes
hey before the world ends does anyone want to admit they have a crush on me ahah 🙈
— ellie schnitt (@holy_schnitt) March 12, 2020
Before the civil war 2 starts does anyone wanna admit they have a crush on me
— donny (@_donnydrama) November 2, 2020
Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Guard patrolling protests for racial equality, and a divisive presidential election and attempted coup, it’s felt like the world has been on the brink of ending multiple times this year. And what better time than right before civil unrest than to confess your feelings for someone?
5. Nature is healing, we are the virus
As people around the world stayed inside to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, images of “nature healing” without human intervention emerged online. Viral images of elephants grazing in fields and dolphins frolicking in Venice’s canals, paired with messages about how humans are the problem, are pretty much just eco-fascism. The phrase “Nature is healing, we are the virus” were paired with absurd photos of abandoned cities for a more whimsical take on the meme.
6. Calling out influencers for not social distancing
Less than two weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, followers noticed that certain influencers simply weren’t social distancing anymore. Unfortunately, the longer this pandemic continues, the less the rich and famous seem to care about limiting the spread. Whether it’s effective or not, shaming influencers for not social distancing is one of this year’s defining online trends.
7. Gossip Girl memes
Nothing says “I’ve been indoors for the past month with little to no social interaction” quite like the Gossip Girl meme that took over the internet in April. Twitter and Instagram users rearranged letters from the show’s title screen for some delightfully broken trend.
8. The himbo/bimbo comeback
This is the year of being hot, dumb, and respectful. The term “himbo” — a stereotypically masculine person who may not be the brightest but is certainly pure at heart — made a comeback thanks to some unfortunate discourse. Its sister term, the bimbo, is also back. But unlike their derogatory origins, self-proclaimed himbos and bimbos are reclaiming the lifestyle. Similarly, “head empty” memes are also dominating 2020’s internet as this year has been so overwhelming, it’s just easier to not think.
9. I yield my time…
The Black Lives Matter movement itself is not a meme. Let’s clear that up. But the movement, which gained renewed worldwide support after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer, made huge waves online this year. From widely shared infographics to well intentioned, but misguided efforts to turn a meme into digital activism by invoking Breonna Taylor’s name, the Black Lives Matter movement drove online trends to activism.
One of the most satisfying outcomes was how voicing concerns to public officials became a meme all its own. It began when an angry resident upset at the Los Angeles Police Department’s response to Black Lives Matter protests concluded his disapproving rant during a City Council Zoom call with “I yield my time, fuck you!” — the simple phrase ended up inspiring protest signs across the country.
10. Tracksuit Robert Pattinson
A perplexing photo of actor Robert Pattinson has been used in countless reaction images this year. The photo, taken in 2017, depicts a bearded Pattinson stiffly posing in an Adidas tracksuit in a nondescript kitchen. The photo resurfaced on Twitter this past spring, and has been dominating reaction images since.
11. Da Vinky??
The Voros twins, better known as the Da Vinky twins, are the perfect example of himbos. They’re literally pro wrestlers, overall wholesome, and to put it nicely, aren’t the brightest. A TikTok of the twins trying to answer questions went viral when, upon trying to figure out who painted the famed Mona Lisa, they read the answer as “Da Vinky??” It’s exactly the laugh we need in quarantine.
12. Two pretty best friends
“I ain’t never seen two pretty best friends. Always one of them got to be ugly.” The quote haunts TikTok as the latest bait-and-switch meme, much like the conspiratorial Jeffrey Epstein meme that the internet obsessed over last year. The two pretty best friends meme started when TikTok creator Jorden Scott, known for his unsettlingly piercing eyes, posted the inexplicable statement on TikTok. His videos offer “advice” to anyone trying to date “females,” apparently inspired by his own experience, he told Insider.
13. This claim is being disputed
i didn’t cry today!
!⃝ 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗺 𝗶𝘀 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗽𝘂𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲𝘀
— rachel zegler (@rachelzegler) November 17, 2020
In response disinformation spreading across its platform, Twitter began flagging misleading tweets about the U.S. election and COVID-19 with a clarifying statement. The flagging system was then specifically tailored to dispute claims about election fraud, which President Trump and his supporters have been pushing despite mounting evidence of a fair election. Soon enough, Twitter users started mimicking the flagging system with their own disputed claims.
14. They don’t know…
An image of a character standing alone in the corner of a party is viral, which is ironic considering none of us can actually attend parties. The image is often paired with the phrase “They don’t know I’m…” to convey a sense of awkwardness and social anxiety, because our real live selves are rarely as cool as our online counterparts.
We can only hope that next year is better than this one — no matter the outcome, there are sure to be memes involved.