Memes are ephemeral novelties. The best evolve. The worst are abandoned. No meme lasts forever. That’s why the return of 2014’s best meme is so odd.
"But that’s none of my business" exploded in the summer of 2014, likely because of its ease of construction. The meme had the structural depth of a knock-knock joke. Take an image of Kermit the Frog, add an insult, and close with the same passive-aggressive punchline "but that’s none of my business."
Here’s an example:
Usage of BTNoMB climbed into the fall of 2014, then declined into the beginning of 2015. Like most memes, usage plateaued as its function shifted to a referential callback joke. Eventually BTNoMB reached the nadir of all memes: the Facebook political post.
And yet, BTNoMB has returned! On Sunday, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals, beating the infinitely hyped Golden State Warriors. To celebrate, James wore a cap embroidered with Kermit sipping tea. The hat made James' message clear: "We just beat the best team in basketball. But that’s none of my business."
And so began the rare second life of a meme. On eBay, over a thousand similar Kermit hats have been sold by tiny entrepreneurs with the production speed of first responders. Mainstream papers, from USA Today to the New York Daily News, attempted to explain the meme to an audience whose most recent interaction with Kermit the Frog was deleting their DVR subscription of the aborted Muppets reboot.
This morning, Good Morning America pulled a muscle while stuffing a tweet with the stilted meme-speak of an FBI agent trying to infiltrate a Hearthstone subreddit. Good Morning America’s tweet doesn’t call the meme by its name or even mention Kermit. Instead, we get #tealizard. Naturally, #tealizard is now its own thing.
This is the internet in 2016. Meme culture, built atop referential humor, is old and broad enough to reference itself. Memes are a self-sustaining ecosystem, reviving individual organisms so that they will birth fresh meme babies into a bottomless tub filled with the humor bile in which we all bathe.
Months from now, the MVP of the Super Bowl will celebrate with a tattoo of #tealizard and we'll all have a good laugh about this.