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The Most Impactful Memes of 2020

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sYou don’t need us to tell you that 2020 has been a roller coaster of intense emotions, from frustration to boredom to sadness to anger. You also don’t need to be told that memes have helped many come to terms with such a long, long year.

Memes were a force in 2020. A force to vent, a force to call for change, a force to find normalcy, and a force to find connection, memes are, more than ever, becoming a lingua franca that bridges gaps during lockdown, but it has also widened fissures. The younger Internet’s Cheezburger Cat and Success Kid memes have matured into waves of jokes that betray the Internet’s most ruthless and cynical. The memes of 2020 reflect the internet becoming insensitive to the burning house around it and “that’s okay” is more of an appeal than a resignation. Memes, and the internet that spawned them, have honed to a fine, sometimes desperate point.

At the same time, memes continue to exist as they always have: blanket inside jokes and an entertaining shortcut to very specific life experiences. They still arouse recognition and even society, whether people communicate Impact of COVID-19 on mental health or about Waiting for a coffee order.

They, too, are still joyfully, immeasurably stupid. Don’t look further than when carp picture Most covered Twitter earlier this month.

Through group chats, social media, mutual co-workers, and many other methods, memes have brought many together, separated many from one another, and led to extended crisis after extended crisis. So with 2020 coming to a close, we’ve rounded up some memes that captured the true essence of this unprecedented year – and left an indelible impression on the internet in their wake.

Bernie Sanders asks again

It seems safe to say that no one on the Bernie 2020 campaign team could have expected a file December 2019 video From the then Democratic presidential candidate explicitly asking for donations while cruising down a snowy street would result in a screenshot that triggered a thousand memes. But that’s exactly what has become of a fundraising ad showing Sanders facing the cold, asking his supporters for financial help.

Many people have been left wanting this year. And a warm Bernie, clenched in the winter cold, provided the perfect avatar for asking for help.

Go to full Sue Sylvester mode

cheerfulThe season six run may have ended in 2015, but you’d never know it from online memes. While it felt like someone was sabotaging all of our lives behind the scenes, it’s easy to see why Sue Sylvester—the ultimate saboteur of McKinley Hay played by legendary Jane Lynch—enjoyed the meme’s resurgence in popularity.

The ruthless coach striving to create the most toxic environment possible was the mood for 2020 in and of itself, but it wasn’t always an accusation. While many have used Su’s threat as a way to discredit those who seek destruction, the meme has also often been used in the first person by those who happily bring more chaos into the world.

Animal Crossing to the Rescue

Weeks after New York City went into lockdown, Nintendo released the perfect game to play in the midst of a pandemic. Animal Crossing is a game where players get plenty of time to spend collecting, decorating, and personalizing objects just to show off to other people who have collected, decorated, and personalized their own lives away. The game is a very fun and relaxing experience, full of cute characters and charming moments. Millions of people, many of whom claimed they weren’t regular video game players, got involved in crafting their island and learned what it was like to owe it heavily to Tanuki.

While not a single meme has swept the internet, Animal Crossing has inspired many packs, pranks, sub-genres, and fandoms going around the game. This beautiful escape allowed both in the game and in the memes that helped create it.

Pope Francis blesses

On the Internet, nothing is sacred. So it’s no surprise that the concept of Photoshopping the Pope offering a corporate chip in religious sanctification took off on Twitter. Although people have been editing this particular image since it first appeared online in 2013, Twitter users have put a new spin on the meme by using the social networking site’s tiled image format to make it look as if Pope Francis is carrying everything from Simba to the scientist. twilight DVD discs to Aunt Anne’s brisket.

How it started vs how it goes

No matter what you thought 2020 would bring at midnight on January 1, it probably wasn’t a global pandemic that would push the world into lockdown for months on end. Of course, that’s why a meme format that mocks scenarios where things don’t quite work the way you expect has been pretty universally relevant this year — even if it already started out as a Nice way to brag about your relationship.

Although this meme can be seen as brave My plans for 2020, was not only used to denounce the year. In a refreshingly positive twist, this meme has become for many a way to show off their progress in learning skills, achieve goals, share childhood photos or even proudly show their identity.

cart problem

It may be grim, but it is so in 2020. The Trolley Problem is a popular thought experiment that asks people to consider the moral dilemma of whether it is better to let a runaway cart take its course and kill a group of people, or turn a cart and only kill one to save others. Finding new ways to frame this issue, with the height of online gallows humor, has become a staple of coronavirus discourse online this year.

The meme has often been used to highlight binary options that many believe are not binary options at all. Can the world’s richest country afford to help keep the economy afloat, or should businesses remain open even if hundreds of thousands of people die? Does wearing a face mask protect people, their loved ones, and their community, or is it a complete loss of personal freedom?

Trolley problem memes question the nature of these choices, and are intended to highlight the absurdity of limited thinking.

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nature is healing

With carbon emissions low in the early part of the year, and COVID-19 bringing much of the world to a standstill, people are beginning to post warm photos and videos of their Animals that are supposed to return to urban areas. Many of those viral posts turned out to be misleading. But on the bright side, they put Twitter users down for one of the best parody-driven meme formats of the year: “Nature heals, we’re the virus.”

DW across the fence

Where summer 2016 gave us Arthur clenching his fist, spring 2020 gave us a resurgence in the popularity of DW looking longingly through a fence meme.

Scenes from the popular PBS kids show of the ’90s Arthur It’s always been fodder for relevant online jokes, but perhaps no more so when people started missing out on the daily outings — from getting their manicures done to grabbing butter with friends — that make life fun while staying home amid the coronavirus. FOMO is very real, and in the simplicity of the picture, many immediately recognized their own cravings.

It’s all cake

In July, food website Tasty shared to BuzzFeed a profile video A group of chef cuts a number of highly realistic cakes decorated to look like everyday objects, including Croc shoes, toilet paper rolls, and a potted plant. The Internet quickly came to the conclusion that in a year when nothing else made sense, absolutely anything could have turned into a cake.

Collective anxiety took hold of “everything in a bun,” and nothing has changed on the internet since then. This post might be a cake.

Play as you feel

At the end of the summer, Nathan Apodaca reflected on our collective vibe with a skateboard, some cranberry juice and “dreams” of Fleetwood Mac. A short clip from TikTok showed him skating down the street, taking a big sip of juice and singing the words “It’s only okay for you to play the way you feel.” It was one of the most beautiful moments in 2020.

On TikTok alone, the video has received over 77 million views. It caught the attention of Fleetwood co-founder Mick Mick Fleetwood. He sent “Dreams” to the top of iTunes. The “Dreams” challenge was born. And we were all given a few seconds to cool off this year.

Four Seasons Total Landscape

One of the most bizarre stories circulating on the national stage, to say something, happened on November 7, the day most major news networks named Presidential winner Joe Biden. That morning, Rudy Giuliani held a press conference in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, located in Northeast Philadelphia between a sex shop and a crematorium.

At 9:35 a.m. that morning, President Trump tweeted That there would be a meeting taking place at the Four Seasons Hotel, which was considered by many to be a hotel chain. Ten minutes later, he tweet againsaying “a big press conference today in Philadelphia at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping,” which he’s never heard of, and not much has heard of in the press.

Thanks tweet From the Phillies Four Seasons Hotel, it appeared that someone in Trump’s camp had mistaken the family-owned landscaping business for a downtown luxury hotel. While the Trump campaign denied there was an error, that prevented few people from assuming that the entire press conference, which took place bewilderingly near a busy and noisy highway, was hugely subjective.

Do not worry about the contents of the vaccine

With the mounting misinformation surrounding the recently introduced COVID-19 vaccines — a development that has increased vaccine hesitation among Americans — some vaccination advocates have turned to memes to appease those who fear getting vaccinated.

A popular excerpt on the Internet asks people to reconsider their ideas about a vaccine if they have participated in a number of common trials that may have more worrisome side effects.


More must-read stories from TIME


write to Megan McCluskey at [email protected] and Peter Allen Clark at [email protected]

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