8 Majorly Viral Memes and Where They Came From

I have seen these memes over and over again and wondered how did they just decide to use that photo, or how did it become so popular. Have you ever wanted to know the stories behind the some of the Internet’s most popular memes?  I know I have. How some things go viral and how others don’t remains one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Internet today. And every meme truly does have its own story behind how it made it big. Today I have Maurine Anderson who shares with us 8 of the most viral memes and where they came from.

Grumpy Cat

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Grumpy Cat’s real name is ‘Tardar Sauce’, and she resides with her owner Tabatha Bundesen in Arizona. She has a disorder called feline dwarfism, causing her legs to be shorter than normal, as well as a distinctive underbite. Her constantly-pouting expression has made her the poster child of sarcasm and faux negativity all over the web. Grumpy Cat’s rapid rise to fame started in September 2012 when her owner’s brother posted a photo of her on Reddit.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

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This meme is easy to trace because it stems from a Dos Equis beer commercial campaign started back in 2006. The global marketing firm Euro RSCG Worldwide first created the ads, enlisting actor Jonathan Goldsmith to star as “the most interesting man in the world” and voice actor Will Lyman to narrate the ads. The ads all featured the tagline “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis” at the end, followed by “stay thirsty, my friends.” Soon the ads were traveling all over the Internet, and advertising blogs were labeling the campaign “a stroke of genius.” A Quickmeme page was created for The Most Interesting Man in the World in January of 2010, and the rest is history.

Condescending Willy Wonka

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This is another easy-to-trace meme, as it stems from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder. The iconic image was screencapped from the scene in the film where Willy Wonka asks the children if they would like to see a new candy he is working on called the “Everlasting Gobstopper.” Back in October 2011 the screencap first earned the nickname “Condescending Wonka” when it was paired with the caption “Oh, you just graduated? / you must know everything” and submitted to Quickmeme. The captioned image went to Reddit, and the trend shot up from there.

Success Kid

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Success Kid, also known as I Hate Sandcastles, holds an interesting place in the Internet meme realm because the image is paired with captions that express either success or frustration. The original image used in this meme was taken by photographer Laney Griner back in August 2007 of her then 11-month-old son Sammy. Griner subsequently posted the image to Flickr, and in January 2008, MySpace users began posting the image to their profiles with the caption “I hate sandcastles.” Fast forward to January of 2011, and Reddit users are starting to upload Success Kid advice animal style image macros featuring a color wheel background. Within a month there were over 66,000 instances of Success Kid on Quickmeme.

First World Problems Crying Woman

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This meme’s origins haven’t been quite as identified as those of other popular memes on the web. The image of a woman crying has been traced to the Flickr account of a Silvia Bittoni, and by March 2011, first world problems memes featuring this image were posted on Buzzfeed. This meme emerged as part of a larger “first world problems” meme phenomenon, which features various images of people crying, captioned with descriptions of common first world problems.


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Here’s another Reddit-initiated phenomenon—back in March of 2012, Reddit user xWavy submitted this photo along with the title “Just a book owners smile…” Redditor plantlife quickly commented with a link to a meme that read “Gersberms / Mah fravrit berks,” the words phonetically written to mimic the r-filled pronunciation associated with wearing an orthodontic retainer. The meme was soon submitted in a new post titled “BERKS!”, which climbed up 17,000 within two weeks. Now renditions of the meme travel with the hashtag #ermahgerd.

Hey Girl

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The famous “Hey Girl” Ryan Gosling phenomenon started back in December 2008 when Douglas Reinhardt created a Tumblr account titled F*** Yeah Ryan Gosling. The first two photos of Ryan Gosling posted had no caption, but on December 19 the first “hey girl” image emerged. Jezebel then featured the blog in January 2009. But the meme did not really take off until December 2010 when in an MTV interview Ryan Gosling was asked to read captions from various Hey Girl image macros. By the end of 2011, numerous spin-off blogs and Tumblrs had been created, covering a wide variety of academic and topical subjects including typography, film studies, Shakespearean literature, feminism, international development, and political science.

Skeptical Baby

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Skeptical baby made his Internet debut in January 2012 when dad Dave uploaded the image to Reddit. The image was reposted the very same day as a macro within the comments section of the image, first featuring a “most interesting man in the world” type of caption. The image then hit its niche when another Reddit user started a new thread under the Advice Animals subreddit and paired it with a caption of disbelief, titling it “Skeptical Baby.” It wasn’t long before a Quickmeme page was created, and the meme shot up from there.

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