Back when everything was less awful, the internet seemed a land of limitless potential – if we could connect people from around the globe, we could solve to world’s problems! There was optimism in the air, and way fewer dumpster fires than we’ve got burning now.
And what did we do with that golden age of online culture? We made memes, of course! We do it now, too, but I think it’s mostly to keep our eyes and brains of the imminent meltdown of the global world order…or maybe that’s just me?
Regardless, nowadays, any little snippet from Tumblr or whatever can be a meme, but in the good old days, a lot of memes were people (or penguins, or tigers, or bears…). And all those meme people we grew to love and cherish, well, they grew right on up, too:
15. Disaster Girl:
Zoe Roth‘s photo was actually first published in print in 2008, so you could say she was a proto-meme. But don’t, you sound like an ass.
14. Awkward Blinking White Guy:
Drew Scanlon is the rare meme who actually intended to put his face all over the internet – as a video producer at gaming website Giant Bomb, he put up dozens of hours of footage of himself on the web.
13. Bad Luck Brian:
Kyle Craven has been embodying young adult misfortune since 2012 – but the photo was always meant as a joke. He took it in high school on school picture day, but his principal, who knew he was the class clown, made him retake his portrait. The photo only exists because he and his friend scanned the original before it got thrown away.
12. First World Problem Woman:
Silvia Bottini is an Italian actress and sometime stock photo model – in fact, according to her Imdb, she is “the most sold Italian [stock photo] model in the world, with 25,000 images downloaded.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Maggie said what all memes must feel: “I just can’t believe this is my 15 minutes of fame—I was hoping it would come in another form. But I guess you have to take what you can get.”
10. Side Eye Chloe:
9. Overly Attached Girlfriend:
Laina translated her memehood into financial success – she now has a comedy youtube channel with over 1 million subscribers.
8. Success Kid:
Sammy Griner used his fame to successfully raise >$100,000 for his dad who needed a kidney transplant.
7. Guy Trying to Hold a Fart Next to a Cute Girl in Class:
This may be obvious, but Mike McGee didn’t really need to fart – a friend knew he could make the face, and wanted to tweet it with the breathtakingly funny caption: #bootyhadmelike.
6. Scumbag Steve:
Blake Boston’s hat is a “New Era Red Sox “A-TOOTH” brown fitted hat,” and there was only an original run of about 1000 of them made. Now it’s so famous that devoted netizens have spent a lot of time trying to track one down, to little avail. Also, Boston is purportedly a very nice dude IRL.
5. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy:
Zeddie Little‘s famous meme was captured just after he had waved to a friend. Little is a private person, and not much is known about him.
4. I Dunno Girl:
Mia Talerico was on Disney’s Good Luck Charlie from 2010-2014, and a still captured from the show took her totally viral. Now she’s about to go into 4th grade!
Doge became popular in 2013, and she even has a cryptocurrency named after her.
2. Hipster Barista:
Dustin Mattson gave a famous interview in Eater Magazine in 2011 that really blew this meme up. He came off like a bit of a jerk, but in later interviews it’s pretty clear that the dude just wants to live a normal life without pictures of himself online that people sh*t all over. Understandable, I think.