This post comes with a prelude: a semi-recent conversation with my friends unearthed some intriguing insights into internet meme culture.
Now, you might not be as meme-fluent as we are(Let’s face it, memes tend to be a weird millennial thing that people in “real” life sometimes have trouble understanding). But it’s okay: I’m gonna break it down for you.
So this conversation arose from a dialogue concerning frog memes. As in, more than one. As in, there are three very popular frogs in meme culture, and each signify different things.
They have been dubbed by some(meaning me) as the Meme Trinity.
First, we have the classic Pepe.
For those of you unfamiliar with meme history, let me further elaborate. Pepe is the creation of American artist Matt Furie; he appeared in Furie’s web comic titled “Boy’s Club” in 2005. Over the next few years, his Pepe character appeared in various forms, especially on 4chan. Pepe rose to even further popularity in 2015, when the concept of collecting “rare Pepes,” or rarely seen versions of the Pepe meme, spread across the internet.
Unfortunately, Pepe has also recently been adapted as a meme for some racist political views. It’s okay, Pepe; we know it’s not the real you.
Next, here comes Dat Boi.
This is another weird one. Dat Boi emerged from a short animation clip of, you guessed it, a frog riding a unicycle.
That’s literally it.
It’s a frog, riding a unicycle. No other context needed.
(Though, to be clear, the animation was developed for a physics textbook. Why can’t all textbooks have built-in memes?)
And the final piece, to complete the meme mythology: Kermit memes.
And really, Kermit the Frog represents two different mainstream memes, so this might almost be cheating. First, there’s the classic Kermit sipping tea meme, aka “But That’s None of My Business.”
And then, there’s Dark Kermit.
This is one of those unique cases where the subject of the meme, Kermit, is already known to us. We know he isn’t real; we know he’s a puppet. We even know that he’s in love with a pig. But none of our previous experiences with Kermit the Frog prepared us for his influence on meme culture.
Which naturally leads us into that overwhelming question: why? Why are there not one, not two, but three predominant memes featuring frogs? What’s it about? WHAT’S WITH THE FROGS?!
Simple answer: they’re freaking everywhere.
Here’s a map of the world’s distribution of frogs. Feast your eyes.
In other words, frogs are #relatable. They are on every major, habitable continent, and most islands(sorry, Greenland and Iceland). I don’t know about you, but I certainly have my share of frog stories. For instance, I once shoved a frog carcass the size of my arm down a storm drain to hide its dead body from a group of 4-11 year olds.
Good times. Good times.
But even more than that, these frogs represent another dimension of meme culture, one that you should know I’m quite fond of: absurdism.
First, we have the collection of rare Pepes. Some of us might save our favorite memes for later, maybe even print out a few for the sake of an inside joke, but for the most part, our “collections,” so to speak, are entirely theoretical. Memes are digital: they’re never going to disappear. How many times have we heard it said: “if it’s on the internet, it’s there forever.” Memes, it seems are here to stay.
Then there’s Dat Boi.
There is no reason why a frog needs a unicycle. Or would be on one in the first place. They hop, for goodness’s sake. Put them on a pogo stick or something. Why a unicycle?
But therein lies the humor. Dat Boi needs no unicycle, but there he is. All we can do is just accept him.
Which brings us full-circle, back to Kermit. He’s a puppet. He’s entirely controlled by the whims of others. The idea that he operates under his own volition, choosing to mind his own business, is beyond ridiculous; this is then tempered by the idea that Kermit can fall prey to the persuasion of others.
Of course he can.
He’s a puppet.
But we relate to him. We feel the same pull to the darkness. We spiral out of our own control. Or is it simply the pull of what we really want? Is it finally taking control?
To be honest, I don’t know.
But that’s a lot of subtext for a couple of frog memes.