This was a mess of a summer. This was the summer of Suicide Squad, and that play about grown-up Harry Potter, and a seemingly endless string of horrific world events, and record high temperatures, and La Croix-themed birthday cakes, and Trump. And there was no song of the summer this year. No glittery pop confection, no windows-down hip-hop, no elegy to lost love that was well-suited to a club version with a sick drop. Nothing. No Fetty Wap, no "Summertime Sadness (Dance Remix)" no "Call Me Maybe," not even a "Payphone."
instead of music, we got memes
What did we have this summer? Memes! In some ways, memes are better than music. Music reminds you that you have a soul, and serotonin receptors in your brain. Music is emotion rattling around your head. This isn't really the summer for that. At worst, memes remind you that everything is a joke and you should keep laughing until your body physically overtakes the controls and powers down. But at best, they are communal creative acts, people from across the country or the planet working together to spread ephemeral nuggets of joy.
So, I ask, in a question I hope will soon be as simultaneously hotly contested and utterly meaningless as "What is the song of the summer?": "What is the meme of the summer? TM KAITLYN TIFFANY"
Before we get to the official meme of the summer, let’s review the runners-up month by month.
"She doesn't have the range"
"Delete your account"
This is an old Twitter joke that briefly saw daylight again because of the social media team of Hillary Clinton. People loved it, but resurfacing an old meme for a sweet little moment in the feeble suns of early June does not a meme of the summer make.
Tea lizard was a hoax, you guys. I will not reward dishonesty with an extremely important and very real title that comes with cash prizes and a place in America's textbooks for generations to come.
I'm not sure how to explain dat boi's decline to you because it's such a great meme, but I'm trying to be an impartial judge. For that reason, and no other, I must inform you a meme experiencing its dying breaths can not sit atop the winner's podium. It may be a case of burning bright and burning fast, a visual "damn, Daniel" that was called upon so oft in such a short period of time that we spent it prematurely. Oh god, now I'm thinking about the scene in The Lovely Bones, in which Mark Wahlberg yells at his daughter, a young Saiorse Ronan, for using up all her expensive film in one weekend, and then she gets murdered the next day. Bad dad! Bad movie! Good meme! Simply not good enough.
The dabbing frog and I have similar life stories, in that we have both gone through periods of extreme popularity (the week after I met Neil Patrick Harris, when I was the only one in my dorm with a car) and periods of everyone literally forgetting we exist (2007-2012).
Unfortunately the heretofore infallible data science tool Google Trends doesn't have any way to differentiate Graham the odd man-baby doll from Graham of "Nabisco Grahams" or Graham of Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. This is a scientific investigation, so Graham, I'm sorry. Pack your incredible bod and go.
Taylor Swift is a snake
Despite the enthusiasm with which the web declared #TaylorSwiftisOver and #TaylorSwiftisDead, it seems like what's really over and dead is our fury with her.
Bill Clinton’s balloons
PBS commented on this meme, nearly killing it, as you can see from the precise science above. It recouped some of its losses and shot back up, so it technically represents a contender for meme of the summer. However, I was on vacation during Arthur fist's highest zenith and can't accurately say how much joy it provided to anyone without doing a long and bothersome poll.
"I haven't heard that name in years"
Edgar Allen Poe? haven't heard that name in years pic.twitter.com/eJ4ZmqRxEv— sydney (@sydlol) August 8, 2016
I love this joke, but Google Trends keeps telling me "Oops! Something went wrong," which I'm assuming is a data tool's diplomatic way of telling me that no one else cares.
"This is not fine"
Wow, seems like for a very brief period of time, everyone realized that nothing was fine. Then the Olympics started and we were completely distracted from our moment of clarity. Has anyone read The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire? Has anyone seen Michael Phelps' cupping marks? I'm sorry, what were we talking about?
Overruled, under the fundamental law that "sports" memes are the most ephemeral of all memes, one day of sports constantly giving way to the next day of sports.
THE MEME OF THE SUMMER
It all comes down to three heavyweights who have barely left pop culture's collective mouth for a single second these last 90 days of crippling humidity and extreme surrealism.
Trump can't really be the meme of the summer because, while he has been popular for the most of the summer, he's dropped off hard in August. Not only that, but memes are supposed to make you happy, not "sad!"
This chart really tells a story. The story is: a gorilla died, and people were upset. Later, people gradually became comfortable with making jokes about the gorilla's death. Eventually the jokes stopped being jokes and started being the word "HARAMBE" thrown out as a non sequitur to elicit a laugh because it's a funny word and teenagers loves discomfort comedy.
Harambe has already been declared the meme of the summer by half a dozen other meme scholars, but most of them declared Harambe a symptom of something wrong with social media, or outrage culture, or an uncomfortable societal tendency to feel more compassion toward animals than our countrymen. Memes aren't a symptom; memes are a cure. Also, let's be real: kids are screaming Harambe because it's edgy, not because they're commenting on the human condition. Further, I think if I said "Harambe" to my grandmother she would almost definitely know what I was talking about, which is lame. And she would be sad, which is double lame.
"Don't talk to me or my son ever again"
You may hate me, you may even disagree, but "don't talk to me or my son ever again" is the meme of the summer. It has legs — it was the second set of footprints beside on the beach of this long hot death march. It has whimsy — to this day I don't think I've found anyone (myself included) who can accurately explain it. We may know its origins, but we will never know its soul. A group of Redditors briefly tried, and this is what they came up with:
And yet it's funny, and a perfect caption for any image in which there are two objects, one larger than the other. Long live our summer jam, "don't talk to me or my son ever again."