There comes a point in every meme’s life where the human imagination can’t fathom any further, better variations on the core joke. That point is the end of the meme’s life, and it’s natural and fine. Like promotional frappuccino flavors, TV shows about child-run governments, and purple ketchup, memes burn bright and die young.
But there is the occasional exception to the rule. For example, I don’t think an end point will ever come for the latest meme spinning off from CW’s Archie comics-Twin Peaks mash-up Riverdale.
It all started with a speech given by Twitter darling (and former Disney Channel star) Cole Sprouse, in character as Jughead. For some context: Jughead is sort of an oddball in the original Archie comics and cares almost exclusively about hamburgers, neglecting basically all other human concerns. In the TV show he’s a teen journalist on the homicide beat, super moody, and explains himself like this:
Over the course of mere days, Riverdale fans and meme attendants on Tumblr and Twitter have cycled through dozens of strange dudes, baby dudes, and doggos in hats who didn’t give this speech but could have. The bottom of the barrel is nowhere in sight.
This one is a meme within a meme:
This one too! As spotted by Polygon:
This is the best one I’ve seen so far:
The Jughead in the original comics wore a ‘40s-style “whoopee cap,” which is a fedora that has been cut to to look like a crown. To speak up for nouveau Jughead just for a second here, that is slightly more egregious than a beanie that has been cut to look like a crown.
It’s not his fault that the persona of “misunderstood art boy” is so timeless, but it is exactly that timelessness that explains why we’ll have this meme probably forever.
Most memes rely on more specific, dated, or finite wells of cultural reference, dooming them to die at the hands of the people who love them. But as long as we have doofuses in hats and angsty young boys who want everyone to know they just don’t fit in (and it’s because they just don’t want to!), we can have “I’m weird... Have you ever seen me without this stupid hat on? That’s weird.”
In a world where little is certain, the Jughead meme is, as my editor would say, “the meme equivalent of a bottomless cup of coffee.” That metaphor holds up for the most part, except on top of being (likely) infinite, this meme is also free.