“Nothing has done
more to make us dumber
or meaner than the
anonymity of the Internet.”
-Aaron Sorkin, 2008
Richard Dawkins minted the term “meme” to explain the movement of information—as genes are to biology, memes are to culture. And though the word has some true-blue egghead roots as a term thrown around by evolutionary biologists, the Internet has bastardized it into a shorthand for all things viral. Throughout the aughts, we’ve seen an onslaught of viral media: indie bands on treadmills, prairie dogs turning heads, and LEEROY JENKINS. A list of the best of these memes reads like a super-abridged history of Internet culture, a rap sheet full of LOLs and WTFs.
10. ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US (2001)
“Somebody set up us the bomb.” Thus began the grammatically indecipherable English translation of the 1991 Sega Genesis game Zero Wing and the venerable viral video that parodied it. Its crude Photoshopping of antagonist CATS onto the cover of Time proved eerily prescient: The meme has filtered down to cable news, a YouTube 404 page, and the lexicons of snarky IT professionals everywhere.
9. David After Dentist (2009)
This YouTube video of a kid zonked-out on painkillers after a visit to the dentist proved that questionable parenting decisions and drug use by a minor can be funny. And young David’s plea of “Is this real life?” packed an unlikely existential punch.
8. JK Wedding Entrance Dance (2009)
An understated “Jill and Kevin’s Big Day” title card precedes this Chris Brown-fueled wedding-processional dance party. It’s easily the coolest nuptial ceremony since Slash stormed out of the church in the “November Rain” video and ripped a mournful guitar solo. And the parody “JK Divorce Entrance Dance” video doubled down on the choreography—though not the believability.
7. Chocolate Rain (2007)
Tay Zonday’s monotonic singing and cheesy synth loop went viral almost instantly. The cryptic tagline “I move away from the mic to breathe in” (cribbed from the video’s subtitles) made it seem sillier than it really was—Zonday’s song actually offered some sincere social commentary.
6. Numa Numa (2004)
Gary Brolsma decided it would be a good idea to record himself performing an over-earnest, choreographed lip-synch to the Moldovan band O-Zone’s “Dragostea din tei” and post it to Newgrounds.com.
The Internet decided it was hilarious.
At long last, Euro-pop-obsessed computer geeks and Belle and
Sebastian bedroom dancers had found common ground.