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The Best Memes of 2016

In the song Seasons of Love, a famous question is asked, “How do you measure a year in the life?” The song suggests measuring a year in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.

Well, that sounds beautiful, but I measure years my own way. In memes. To be more specific, I measure a year in the life by recalling which iconic images or jokes took the internet by storm that year.

I feel this is a fitting way to measure a year, because memes reflect the tone of our nation. What is everyone thinking? What is everyone feeling? What are the values that we hold near and dear?

In addition to all of that, I also find them hilarious. So, without further ado, I present the most popular memes of 2016.


The gist: A video of Daniel, sporting a sharp outfit, while his friend remains behind the camera, complimenting his dapper friend. The most memorable quote from the video is, “Damn Daniel, back at it again with the white vans!”

My take:  Damn Daniel was, in my humble opinion, the purest meme of 2016. In the midst of election memes that were created out of animosity, Damn Daniel was just a wholesome, simple meme of a friend complimenting another friend. However, the internet turned on Damn Daniel and his friend when they appeared on Ellen. Discussing the meme on a daytime talk show somehow completely drained the meme of all humour, and made it seem like the meme creators cared too much. I was part of this corner of the internet that turned on the boys, but in hindsight I wish I was kinder. They had no idea that going on Ellen would be so disastrous. There is no manual on what to do when you and your friend become a meme overnight.


The gist: A simple tweet implied that Ted Cruz, a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, was in fact the infamous Zodiac Killer.

This conspiracy theory quickly gained traction, and soon there was a myriad of tweets, pictures, and articles examining this claim. Cruz was born after the Zodiac Killer’s notorious murders, but in the world of Twitter, that does not matter. This meme spiraled to the point where Ted Cruz had to acknowledge the rumour in a casual, joking manner on Jimmy Kimmel. (1:19) 

My take: This was my favorite meme of 2016. It was exhilarating to witness this ridiculous movement gain so much momentum that Ted Cruz finally had to find a way to acknowledge it. I imagine his people agonizing for days about how he could let the youth voters know he was aware they were calling him the Zodiac Killer for fun, without further fueling the jokes.





Gist: This meme is very simple to understand. There is a template that is supposed to take Bernie Sanders’ views on important issues and compare them with Hillary Clinton’s views on the same issues. Twitter would photoshop fake views on to this template, with the general idea that Sander was cool, and Clinton was uncool.

For instance, Sanders knew the infamous first rule of fight club (which is to never talk about fight club) whereas Clinton talked about it.

My take: This meme hit peak popularity around February, but then it crashed and burned (no pun intended) because people kept making more and more obscure versions of the meme until it wasn’t funny anymore.


The gist: The meme began as somewhat of a serious message, the message being “find a man who can dress up or dress down.”


However, the meme began to gain popularity and eventually became a popular caption for pictures of people side by side. For instance, junior Salena DiRubba posted this picture with Hawk Headline’s very own Caitlyn Martin.

The caption of this picture, which shows the girls wearing casual athletic gear at cheer practice and then formal wear at a sweet 16, is, “Get girls that can do both.”

My take: This meme is good because people are able to incorporate it seamlessly. Unlike other memes, which are taken out of context, this meme is very hard to mess up.



The gist: Vine star Nick Mastodon would often take videos of his nephew, Gavin. Gavin is a five-year-old who makes hilarious expressions. Pictures of his face are often used as reaction images.

My take: This is a golden meme. Twitter culture is about always trying to find the perfect reaction image, and Gavin’s expressions produce the perfect reaction images to so many different tweets.



The gist: A screencap was taken of a scene in Muppets Most Wanted, in which Kermit’s nemesis Constantine wears a dark hood and looks at Kermit. This screencap is used to depict someone struggling their evil subconscious.

My take: This meme is incredibly relatable, especially versions that pertain to procrastination. Students connect to this meme because often, we find ourselves knowing what the responsible action is, but still refusing to do it.



The gist: Yup, it is exactly what it sounds like. A major meme of 2016 was simply just making tweets about wanting to die.

My take: This is getting bleak, you guys. Full disclosure, I did not even realize how truly bleak this meme is until I began to write this, and realized I would have to explain that one of the things Twitter found hilarious in 2016 was the desire to die.



The gist: Two images side by side, with the caption “me at the beginning of 2016 vs me now.” In most cases, the first image is somebody composed, whereas the second picture (which takes place at the end of 2016) depicts somebody in distress.

My take: The internet has come to the consensus that 2016 is the worst year ever. 2016 being an awful year has basically become a meme in itself. On one hand, those who have had a terrible 2016 may feel comforted that the rest of the internet agrees. On the other hand, those who have had a good or neutral 2016 may pretend 2016 was miserable for them too, just to conform. The internet is very confusing.


The last two memes on this list are both fairly pessimistic, which is upsetting because memes are a reflection of our nation. 2016 was a great year for memes, but I hope 2017 brings some more uplifting memes.

One of 2016’s best memes was the desire to die, so the bar is set pretty low for improvement.

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