The term meme was first coined by none other than the noted scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins. He referred to memes as being like cultural genes. He proposed that a cultural idea, whether it be an ideology, a technology, or even a fashion movement, would self replicate, much like the genes within living creatures, and spread through the culture it arose in. As with genes, a meme can undergo a form of mutation and variations also appear.
Today the term is applied to internet memes: these are images, videos, websites or anything that exists on the internet and which is widely referenced by internet users. Memes have become popular tools for comedy and satire and many have evolved into unprecedented cultural phenomena. In this article we take a look at some of the most famous and recognizable internet memes in existence.
The memes on this list have been around for some time now. If you’re looking for some brand-new memes, then check out lolhit.com and give their meme generator a try.
The Dancing Hamster
The Dancing Hamster was one of the first ever internet memes and, as you might have guessed, it consists of a number of simple animations of a dancing hamster, alongside several other rodents, set to a sped-up loop of the song “Whistle Stop”, which first appeared in Disney’s Robin Hood. This early meme was successful in raising the number of visitors to the website from 4 visits a day up to a whopping 15,000.
Star Wars Kid
Star Wars Kid is one of the few memes which has transcended the internet and become recognisable elsewhere. It has been parodied on numerous TV shows, as well as in a number of feature films. The original meme consists of a home movie of a teenager wielding a pole as if it were a lightsaber and is set to music from the films.
Rick rolling is another meme which has spread far beyond the internet, but for those of us who remember its heyday, every time we clicked on a YouTube link we half expected to hear the opening notes of Rick Ashley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. The idea of Rick Rolling soon spread beyond the internet and before long unsuspecting victims were being exposed to Never Gonna Give You Up on a regular basis. This has also proven to be one of the most enduring memes and many people still enjoy playing the prank today.
This meme was born in one of the most unlikely places, a Filipino prison. As part of a program instituted at the prison in 2007, the aim was to keep the prisoners physically fit and mentally occupied. Prisoners were filmed performing an accurate rendition of the dance to the Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit ‘Thriller’. The video of some 1500 prisoners rapidly became an internet smash hit in its own right.
The nature of memes has changed slightly over the years, but they remain fascinating cultural phenomena.