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Grumpy Cat, SpongeBob, Salt Bae … We tell you the stories of 10 memes that marked the years 2010

Grumpy Cat and his sulky pout, the Canadian singer Drake and his wobbly dance steps in the clip “Hotline Bling” or even the bewildered look of little Chloe are among the icons of the web selected by franceinfo.

They are blooming on the internet. We use it to react, to be indignant, to make fun (sometimes of ourselves), to express a victory (more or less big) or simply to have fun: memes have become essential on social networks and the web . Same ? This term of English-speaking origin, not to be confused with the word “same”, “is used to describe an element or phenomenon taken up and declined en masse on the internet”, as explained by franceinfo.

A meme, from the very serious Oxford English Dictionary, is an element of a culture or a set of behaviors which is transmitted from one individual to another by imitation or by some other non-genetic means. Generally, an element becomes a meme when it has gone viral, and has therefore been taken up and diverted. Franceinfo returns to the stories of ten memes that have marked the decade that is ending (and that you have most likely seen or used at least once).

1Man screaming into a woman's ear in a nightclub (2018)

Screen capture of a photograph showing a young man speaking into the ear of a young woman in a club in Edinburgh (Scotland, United Kingdom), in September 2018. (DR)

A young man yells into the ear of a young woman who looks as impassive as tired: a usual scene in a nightclub. Except that this photograph of a moment, a priori banal, seized in a club in Edinburgh (Scotland, United Kingdom), quickly went viral in 2018. Initially shared on Facebook, the snapshot recorded some 20,000 shares and won other social networks. Internet users' game: imagine what the young man says.

The two protagonists of this meme have been found. Lucia and Patrick are “very old school friends”, reveals the young woman at the Scottish site TheTab (in English). “But I would like to believe that by looking at the expression on my face, it would not seem at all that we know each other”, concedes the student at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. What is Patrick saying to him? “This is the question that everyone asks me, and I still cannot give you an answer. I would like to know, but honestly, at that time of the night, I believe that one could have told me whatever, it would come in through one ear and out through the other “she replies, saying that she was about to leave, exhausted.

Patrick tells the microphone of Scottish radio Capital Scotland (in English) that his cousin saw the image on an Australian Facebook page, “what's crazy”, he comments. “I am very surprised [par l’ampleur du phénomène] because it's just completely normal. What's the problem ?” if he asks. For her part, Lucia welcomes this episode “incredibly fun“which enabled him to gain followers on Instagram.

2Salt Bae (2017)

This story is an illustration of what makes all the salt on the internet. In 2017, the gesture of this Turkish restaurateur went around the world several times in record time. It all started on January 7 of that year, when Nusret Gökçe posted a 36-second video soberly titled “Ottoman steak” on Instagram. White T-shirt close to the body, sunglasses on his nose, he cuts a piece of sliced ​​meat on a board, outside, on a terrace of what you guess is his restaurant. But what makes it famous on the internet resides in the very particular, theatrical and almost sensual way in which the cook seasoned the whole salt. Here is the original video.

Nusret Gökçe is immediately worldwide nicknamed Salt Bae (“Salt” for salt, in English, and “Bae” being an English slang word to evoke a boyfriend, girlfriend, or even a husband). He becomes a popular culture figure. In April, the singer Rihanna even appears with a T-shirt bearing the effigy of the restaurateur.

In France, from February, the Brazilian footballer Doria, who then played at OM, caused a stir by imitating Salt Bae. He reproduces his gesture on the lawn of the Vélodrome by celebrating his goal. But he is not the first footballer to do so since two players from Bayer Leverkusen and the Englishman Danny Welbeck have outstripped him.

Salt Bae was even mentioned during the 2017 presidential campaign when Emmanuel Macron spoke of “perlimpinpin powder” during the inter-tower debate in front of Marine Le Pen.

The notoriety of Salt Bae did not stop there since he received stars such as the American actor Leonardo DiCaprio or the French footballer Franck Ribéry in his restaurant. The latter had also been violently criticized on social networks, in January 2019, for having spent 300 euros to eat a rib steak covered with a gold leaf prepared by Nusret Gökçe. No matter the controversy, the success story de Salt Bae continues: he was seen on the red carpet during the ascent of the steps of the Cannes Festival, in May 2019, reproducing his famous gesture.

3Distracted boyfriend (2017)

Example of using the Distracted boyfriend meme.
Example of using the Distracted boyfriend meme. (CD)

This image, dubbed The distracted boyfriend (Distracted boyfriend, in English), went viral in 2017. This photo shows a young man walking down the street, holding hands with his girlfriend. But he turns to look at another young woman going in the opposite direction while his companion stares at him with a face expressing at the same time disgust, incomprehension, terror and anger.

Hijacked countless times, the cliché is used to show or mock the change of interest of a person (or group of people) for another area (sometimes close, sometimes opposite or sometimes quite different).

The photo actually comes from a series of illustrative photos from the Getty-iStock agency. It was taken by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem, in 2015, in Girona, Spain. “I decided to organize this session by offering a relaxed way of representing the concept of infidelity. The scenarios were improvised due to lack of time. As I almost always work with the same models, it was quite easy to compose the picture”, he explains to the Spanish newspaper El Pais (in Spanish). But not everything was easy. “It was quite complicated to have credible facial expressions, tells the specialized site Wired (in English) the Barcelona photographer. Especially because we really worked in a good mood. Most of the time, one of the models was laughing while trying to take a picture of him. “

“I never thought that one of my images could be so popular, concedes Antonio Guillem. And to admit his ignorance of internet culture.

I didn’t even know what a meme was until recently when the models started talking to me about the hijackings people were doing with our work.Antonio Guillem, photographer of the Distracted boyfriendat Wired

The most amazing thing in the history of this photo is perhaps that it is not the biggest commercial success of Antonio Guillem. “Our best images make more than 5,000 to 6,000 sales a year, while the meme's photo is sold about 700 times a year”, he says. What he does not say in this interview is that he also made the mirror of this meme.

4“This is fine” (2016)

The meme called
The meme called “This is fine”, from a work by the American artist KC Green. (CD)

A dog wearing a hat is in a room devoured by the flames. There is no way out, even the door is blocked by fire. Despite everything, the dog remains seated at the table with a cup of coffee and declares “This is fine” (“It's good”). The scene is a concentrate of irony. Or the expression of resignation faced with a desperate situation.

This meme, also widely used in animated gif, can be applied in more or less serious situations and for problems (global or more personal).

The illustration has been widely used, for example, to describe the situation across the Channel after the Brexit vote or during the negotiations that followed.

Sometimes the whole meme is diverted, as one author did to comment on the situation in France in December 2018, at the start of the “yellow vests” movement.

The original images are from a work by the American author KC Green. They were originally published in January 2013 in an online comic called Gunshow. The latter was adapted into cartoons by the Adult Swim group in 2016. This is where it goes viral.

When he designed the famous scene, in 2013, KC Green explained to the specialized site The Verge (in English) that he was morally lowest. “I was still fighting with myself – with my antidepressants”, he says, evoking dark days when nothing is going well, but where “you try to ignore them”. For him, the popularity of the meme comes from the fact that “it's a feeling that we all have, apparently”.

We say to ourselves, 'Things are going up in smoke around me, but you have to smile sometimes.' It's a basic human feeling.KC Green, authorat The Verge

The two images of the dog in the burning room come from a larger board with six. For KC Green, if only the first two were massively shared, it is thanks to the “brevity” of the message. “Quick memes. That's all people want”, he comments. In August 2016, in response to the political climate in the United States (with the campaign for the presidential election and the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton), KC Green published an alternative version (in English) where the dog is throwing “This is not fine”, comes out of lethargy and ends up extinguishing the fire.

5Blinking White Guy (2015)

This gif is widely used on social networks to express surprise, astonishment, disbelief. According to the specialized site Know your meme (in English), it was first shared in 2015, but its popularity exploded in 2017 after being used in a tweet about a biology class. Very quickly, the gif was named, for lack of details, Blinking White Guy (“White man blinking”).

But the man who is filmed obviously has a name: his name is Drew Scanlon. He is an American journalist born in 1986. The images of the famous gif were shot in 2013 as part of a program broadcast live on the internet, called “Unprofessional Fridays”, for the Giant Bomb site, specializing in video games. . Here is the excerpt from this show where Drew Scanlon blinks. It is located at the top left of the image.

At this precise moment, his colleague is testing the game Starbound and Drew Scanlon reacts to one of his jokes. “It was just a joke on a two-hour show. At the time, it didn't come out as anything special.”, He explains to the American site Buzzfeed (article in English). “Giant Bomb fans are passionate and they were constantly making gifs of us. So it wasn't really new to me”, he specifies. But it was cooled by the very large number of shares:

When I started to feel the scale it was gaining, it was, honestly, a little scary because it was beyond my control.Drew Scanlon (Blinking White Guy)at Buzfeed

“One of the weirdest things is that four years passed between the shooting of the video and the moment when the meme was massively shared, says Drew Scanlon. I don't know why it happened. I always attribute it to internet chaos theory “, explains the thirty-something, who claims to have been recognized only once in the street.

6Drake in the clip for “Hotline Bling” (2015)

Canadian singer Drake doesn't just break the charts (he was the most popular artist on Spotify between 2010 and 2019 with 28 billion plays). He also used to “break the internet”. After being made fun of in the past, like in 2014 when he was filmed during an NBA game removing fluff from his pants, Drake takes the lead in 2015.

In the song clip Bling Hotline, released that year, he performs various dance steps that some deem more or less unsightly. The video lasts 4 minutes and 57 seconds. But two images were selected to be diverted. They are arranged in a montage and accompanied by text. The message is clear: the first line expresses a rejection and the second an approval.

A Drake meme comparing the films
A Drake meme comparing the movies “Stars Wars: The Last Jedi” and the series “The Mandalorian” (DR)

A Drake meme comparing movies to books.
A Drake meme comparing movies to books. (CD)

A Drake meme comparing going to school and watching Netflix all day.
A Drake meme comparing going to school and watching Netflix all day. (CD)

Drake was not upset by the phenomenon. He got exactly what he was looking for, estimates the New York Times, in 2015. “No celebrity understands the mechanisms of internet obsessions better than Drake”, writes the prestigious American daily.

The artist turned to his advantage the fact of being a meme, feeling the marketing blow to be drawn from it, analysis, in 2016, Les Inrocks (paying article). “He has a strong team around him, who understands memes and the importance of always being on the cutting edge, explains to Guardian Dirty South Joe, a DJ from Philadelphia (United States) who, once a month, is on the turntables at an evening where only Drake songs are broadcast. And to add: “It is not a dominance of culture with him, it is a dominance of popular culture.”

7“No but hello, what ?” (2013)

The universe of memes is dominated by American references (because they are in English and can be understood by a very large number of people around the world). But there are more local versions. In France, the reply “No but hello, what ?” is a must in the 2010s.

The sentence was launched in 2013 by Nabilla Benattia, then candidate for the program “The Angels of Telerality”, on NRJ12: “No but hello what, you're a girl and you have no shampoo? It's like I tell you, 'You're a girl and you have no hair.'”

Immediately, the sequence circulates on social networks. Nabilla relays on her Twitter account the avalanche of messages that refer to her (to greet her or mock her). The four words are used to express astonishment, consternation. Also in March 2013, opposition MPs (UMP) launch them in the National Assembly during questions to the government.

The video of his tirade made 10 million views in a month. The formula is quickly hijacked in advertisements by brands, such as Ikea, Oasis, Dia or the Sarenza shoe sales site.

The young woman reacts in April and deposits the mark at the National Institute of Intellectual Property (Inpi). But the formula continues to be used, especially by politicians. Christophe Castaner, who was not yet Minister of the Interior but a Socialist deputy, had tried it on Twitter.

In an autobiography published in 2016, entitled Too fast, Nabilla Benattia considers having reached the rank of celebrity in “22 seconds, at 22, one afternoon in March 2013, in Miami”.

Years later, the formula is still popular. In 2017, Nabilla launches it during a brief appearance in a trailer for the series Orange Is the New Black. Nabilla's expression has even taken hold. A college professor of letters and blogger for the magazine Télérama thus headlines a ticket in 2018: “You're a teacher, you don't have a cell phone, no, hello, what ?!” Within the majority LREM, the explanations are sometimes punctuated by the famous expression, as reported by Sunday newspaper.

8Side Eye Chloe (2013)

The dumbfounded face of this American girl, who is called Chloe, allows to express at the same time the interrogation, the incomprehension, the confusion even the embarrassment. It is now a staple of online discussions. The images come from a video shared by her mother on YouTube in 2013. At the time, Chloe was only 2 years old. She is in the back of a car, with her big sister, Lily, while their parents take them, by surprise, to Disneyland. Chloe looks sideways as her sister bursts into tears upon hearing the news. She “pouted, which she does all the time, every day. There was nothing new”, Their mother, Katie, tells the American site Buzzfeed in this video (in English).

That day, September 12, 2013, Katie posted the video on YouTube and the family went to the amusement park in stride. The success is immediate. “It really disrupted our trip, my phone kept ringing”says Katie. In the Disneyland alleys, tourists recognize Chloe, challenge her and ask for photos. A phenomenon that has grown over the years, according to Katie. Today, Chloe says she is always amused by the reaction of her friends when she tells them that she is the daughter of this meme.

Proof that Chloe has become a real internet star? In 2017, she went to Sao Paulo (Brazil) because the American giant Google was running an advertising campaign of which she is the muse.

She even signed a poster on which she appears.

9Spongebob and his rainbow

The cartoon Spongebob (Spongebob Squarepants, in English) arrived on television in 1999. But the characters of underwater fiction became an inexhaustible source of memes in the 2010s, as explained by the Mashable site (in English). The reason for such popularity? Mimics and grimaces largely exaggerated, very visual and therefore easy to identify, in a childish and sympathetic universe.

Among all the cartoon situations that have been diverted, Franceinfo has retained the one where the main character draws a rainbow by spreading his arms because he is one of the most striking, as confirmed to Vulture (in English) journalist Madison Malone Kircher, specialist in memes.

In the cartoon, when SpongeBob performs this gesture, he says at the same time “Imagination”. The image faithful to the meaning of the original version gives this result.

But internet users have hijacked it. They only kept the image and associated very different messages to it.

SpongeBob meme saying & nbsp;
SpongeBob meme saying “You're welcome”. (CD)

SpongeBob meme saying
SpongeBob meme saying “One year of procrastination”. (CD)

SpongeBob meme saying
SpongeBob meme saying “Nobody cares”. (CD)

The last image, with the message “Nobody Cares” (“Everyone doesn't care”) met with great success. A song with simply this image in illustration and a singing choir “Nobody cares” on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony air was published on YouTube, recording some 300,000 views.

Madison Malone Kircher judges, in 2018, in an article of New York magazine that it is a drift. The problem, she said, is not the diversion, but the fact that this rather negative and aggressive message is the opposite of the original episode from which the meme is extracted. Not sure that his opinion is shared and heard as the mockery (of oneself and others) is part of online exchanges.

10Grumpy Cat (2012)

Her sulky pout earned Tardar Sauce (yes, that's the name of this American cat) from being nicknamed Grumpy Cat, in French the grumpy cat. She became an internet star in 2012 when she was only 5 months old. According to the specialized site Know your meme (in English), all share of photos shared on Reddit, September 23, by the brother of Tabatha Bundesen, the mistress of the tomcat. The post is instantly acclaimed, the photos immediately diverted. The others have the same success. His discontented, jaded air, counterbalances the phenomenon, then in vogue, of lolcats (funny or cute cats).

Success is stratospheric. Grumpy Cat ends up being in many American television shows, like the “Morning show” or even “American Idol” with the singer Jennifer Lopez.

In 2013, Grumpy Cat finds himself on the front page of the very serious Wall street journal and made the cover of the magazine New York.

She even appeared, in 2016, on Broadway, in a representation of the musical Cats.

But in May 2019, the Grumpy Cat family announces his death. “In addition to having been our baby and a precious member of our family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people around the world to smile (…). His memory will continue to live thanks to his fans”, writes his family in a press release. His disappearance is relayed by many media around the world. It is not only mentioned in titles specializing in internet culture. Generalist publications, including Franceinfo, have spoken about it. The France-Presse agency even devotes a dispatch to him. “With Grumpy Cat the first generation of memes goes out”, title Slate. What will those of the 2020s look like? See you in ten years.

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