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The Best Memes of 2020 So Far

Here are the Internet's best jokes of the year.
IMAGE ELAINE CHUNG
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In a few centuries from now, as crazy as it is to believe, historians might be looking at our memes to suss out exactly why we are the way we are. When they come to 2020, the memes will say that we were in a bit of an existential crisis. They’ll speculate that the internet, this digital playground of ours, has made us so unable to communicate in person that we have to take weird images and pop culture to make sense of our times. But my goodness—just look at the mechanical deer below to understand just how jilted we are. Who could say it better?

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From serious news stories to frivolous celebrity drama, memes have given our daily assault of reality some much-needed moments of levity. They also have gotten really freaking weird this year. Be it politics or cake, the memes of 2020 have been a comfort in dark times. Long live the meme. May they forever reign.

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This is Where I'm At

By the time we've hit September, we're just looking for some new way to communicate that, Hey, we're in a tough spot right now. That's where the "This is Where I'm At" meme comes in. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. A video, presumably, is worth a million. So why try and vocalize the very strange place you're in when a photo of a deer head, a mechanical body, and prosthetic legs can do it for you?

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How the E-mail Found Me

Fire whomever came up with the phrase "I hope this email finds you well." I don't care what their job is. Fire them because when has an email—and I cannot stress this enough—ever found you well? Emails are the worst, and in this hellscape of a year, no email is finding me well. Do you think I'm sitting at my computer, joyously feasting on a salad and laughing for no reason? No, Debra. I'm not great. This meme was created to encapsulate that vibe. Let us all retire the sentiment.

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The Real Villain

The rare 2020 meme that isn't about total existential dread. Refreshing! This meme format is for the hindsight lovers out there. Voldemort? Maybe not as bad as we thought? Thanos? Perhaps there was another villain. Nate from The Devil Wears Prada? Human garbage. Sorry, it's canon.

The 2020 Challenge, AKA, Reese Witherspoon Challenge

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It's unclear who exactly started this challenge, but what became known as the "Reese Witherspoon" challenge is simply charting out your emotional journey over the past 8-9 months. A common through line is that after, say, May... it just doesn't get any better.

What is Cake?

Now this—this is existential dread, personified. One BuzzFeed video launched a whole craze of cake madness: what hyper realistic things around us are actually cake? Are we cake? The meme is strangely dark and a bit heady, but at least there's icing on the outside.

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Which _______ Are You?

Another weird meme that took off on Instagram is the "Which _______ are you?" meme, which ran the gamut from which cow you might be to which Moira Rose. They're niche and weird and, unsurprisingly, largely crafted by a bevy of Gen Z teens who then used a big portion of the profits to donate to charity. You love a success story.

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The Ana de Armas Fan Account That Ana de Armas Blocked

To be fair, @ArmasUpdates is less of a meme and more of an exemplary study in internet humor. The account, which posts photos of Ana de Armas and then captions them with fictional happenings, is an internet sensation. It has also been blocked by the actress, who seems to not think the joke is as funny as everyone else.

Nature is Healing

In late Spring, amid all the terrible news coming from Europe regarding COVID-19, one good thing seemed to be happening. Water quality hadn't been so good in Italy in decades. The internet then took good news and turned it into a meme. See something outside of the norm? "Nature is healing. We are the virus."

My Plans // 2020

Well. We tried it. This year has come along and derailed just about everything good we had going for us. From quarantine to everything else that happened in the Before Times, this year has decidedly not been the refresh we were hoping it would be. At least there's a good meme to follow. The format: what you thought your year was going to be in a photo, followed by how it turned out. Take this one: Mmmm whatcha say?

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X Æ A-12, now better known as X Æ A-xii

Leave it to Elon Musk and Grimes to make an easy task impossibly difficult. When their baby was born this Spring, they unveiled that their child's name was something akin to what happens when your cat walks across your keyboard. The full explanation, which you can explore on your own time, is prime Elon x Grimes content, but the internet when wild with the memes, prodding at the couple's bizarre naming technique.

Dear Men, What is Preventing You...

We love a tone deaf tweet that gets co-opted into something grander. After one Twitter user posted a picture of a man with abs and asked the question, "Dear men, what is preventing you from looking like this?" the internet had a field day with their own variations on what men are supposed to look like.

What Day Is It?

With the COVD-19 virus trapping the world at home, it’s scientifically proven that we’ve all lost grasp on exactly how time works. What day is it? Does it matter? While the virus itself is no laughing matter, it is pretty funny to take a step back and find ways to joke about how incredibly topsy turvy we’re all feeling about time. This particular take sparks quite a bit of joy. For reference, let’s just say that the day of the week is “Spring” for now.

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Wash Your Lyrics

As the COVID-19 virus spread, a revamped mandate to wash your hands came about. But washing your hands doesn’t mean briefly running them under a faucet and then simply showing them a bottle of soap. No, it’s 20 seconds of thorough scrubbing. Because we’re all children at heart, one website made it possible to chart the process out with the lyrics to your favorite song. Let the internet take control, and then you end up with a chart about washing your hands to Sylvia Plath poetry.

Gossip Girl Meme

The internet loves to drudge up an old show and make a new meme. In this one, the objective is simple. You have a Blake Lively up top. A Leighton Meester on the bottom. You pose a question with Blake, and with Leighton, you use those crude Photoshop skills that kept you from succeeding in graphic design school, and you rearrange the letters to spell something ridiculous. Boom, a meme is born.

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No One Has the Range

Sure, Joaquin Phoenix is an award-winning actor best known for playing unhinged characters, but could he high-kick his way through the “Dancing Queen” choreography in Mamma Mia? You bet your bottom dollar he couldn’t--but Christine Baranski could. This meme celebrates the range of actors and actresses who’ve made a career out of playing diverse characters, from the serious to the zany. Go ahead and try your hand at creating a “no one has the range” meme of your own while in quarantine--we bet you’re watching enough TV and movies to identify some good candidates.

Billie Eilish Oscars

Poor Billie. Seemingly unaware of anything that happened in pop culture before the year 2000, the Oscars and all the Olds threw the young woman for a loop. When Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph went into a musical medley, she seemed fully confused by all of their references. And don’t get us started on the face she made when Eminem performed “Lose Yourself.” In her defense, that performance has been 17 years in the making.

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Instagram Filter

If you’ve ever been curious which Harry Potter character you are or which Disney Prince you are most like or any other general question, chances are there’s an Instagram filter that will reveal it to you. Based on no science or discernible decision making criteria, the filters took off in 2020, continuing the tradition of Instagram being the lazy man’s TikTok.

The Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt Wrist Grab

Photo by EMMA MCINTYRE/ GETTY IMAGES.
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This is art. A captured exchange between former spouses Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston launched all kinds of memes and debate about the couple. Meeting backstage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the quick photo is likely just a strange shot as Aniston passed Pitt, but man if it didn't light the internet on fire.

Marriage Story Fight Meme

Marriage Story has had such an interesting trajectory. First it was beautiful. Then it was a bit overwrought, and then everyone realized just how much potential there was in using some of its most dramatic moments as a meme. Though there are other variations on this beautiful moment, how long has it been since you had "Chop Suey" stuck in your head? Welcome home, System of a Down fans.

Tom Hanks at the Globes

Ricky Gervais knows how to make a room cringe, but Tom Hanks, America's dad, encapsulated it perfectly with this cringe-worthy face... an expression that hasn't leant itself so perfect to meme-status since Chrissy Teigen's face a few years ago.

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Which is the Best Seat?

What started out as a debate about the best seat on the New York MTA system turned into a whole new meme. Applicable to... any place with seats, the more creative, the better.

Canceling Plans is OK

The best part of the "canceling plans" meme is that it starts out as self-care. Then it absolutely spirals into hyperbole, meaning that if you need a bit of space to relieve yourself from the anxieties of the world, you can do so by going as much in the opposite chaotic direction as possible. Stress, meet stress.

Get You a Woman Who Can Do It All

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Did Dolly Parton technically create this meme? We think not. But she did breathe life into it again, and when Dolly touches something, it turns to gold. Every timeline—Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook—was flooded with the #DollyPartonChallenge. And in case you're wondering, no one pulled it off better than the originator herself.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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