In the past 12 months, many people online acknowledged their childhood behaviors by using the mini Keanu Reeves meme or recalled their own fumbled answers in Lady Gaga’s Golden Globes red carpet “We didn’t say that” moment-turned-meme.
Those were just two of dozens of moments that were immortalized through popular memes in 2019, a year in which viral moments also found an avenue via the app TikTok.
Through TikTok, meme formats were expanded to include homemade, quickly cut short-form videos. That still left plenty of room for traditional memes — in the form of images, text on images and straight text memes — to dominate the internet throughout the year. As in many years past, television, music videos and films, like “Marriage Story,” were easy fodder for the creation of memes.
However, only one was so pervasive that NBC News has declared it the “Meme of the Year.” Here’s our list of the best memes of 2019.
10. 30 to 50 Feral Hogs
This meme graced the internet in August, when country singer Jason Isbell posted this question on Twitter, “If you’re on here arguing the definition of ‘assault weapon’ today you are part of the problem. You know what an assault weapon is, and you know you don’t need one.”
Isbell’s post, which was written in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, got thousands of responses, but one caught the attention of many on Twitter. User Willie McNabb responded: “Legit question for rural Americans - How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”
The question was so baffling, with each word somehow more confounding than the last, that it went viral, racking up thousands of likes and replies. Experts later weighed in to explain the monetary damage caused by feral hogs across the country — CNBC reported that feral hogs cause up to $2.5 billion in damage each year — but Twitter in particular had already run wild with the idea of having to fend off scores of pigs.
9. TikTok’s Gummy Bear Challenge
Among the first major memes to come out of the short-form video app TikTok was a trend started with gummy bears. The first video to start this trend was posted by user @DavidKasprak in late 2018, but a different version of the trend, posted to the platform in January by user @4kaye expanded on the meme’s original premise and has been viewed more than 44.6 million times on TikTok and liked more than 5.2 million times.
In the video, singer Adele’s “Someone Like You” plays, showing a lone gummy bear. Adele sings, “Nevermind, I’ll find-” and then a crowd can be heard finishing the lyric, “someone like you.” As the second part plays, the camera pans across a kitchen to show what appears to be thousands of gummy bears placed perfectly upright across every single surface in the kitchen.
8. Kidz Bop Karen
The woman known as “Kidz Bop Karen” burst onto the internet in November, when a Lyft passenger filmed a confrontation with a mother whose strange behavior and declaration that her children were listening to “Kidz Bop” captured social media’s attention.
Chelsea Klein was riding in a Lyft in New York City, when her driver allegedly cut a woman off, which sparked the encounter. Kidz Bop Karen, who has yet to be identified, paws bizarrely at the air telling Klein to “calm down” before delivering the now infamous, “My kids can't hear me calling you a b---- ... they can't hear me because they're listening to 'Kidz Bop.'"
7. Storm Area 51
In June, a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us” was created by three anonymous users with a plan to storm the infamous government site Sept. 20. By July, more than a million people had RSVP’d to the event, according to meme cataloging and research site Know Your Meme.
A small group would eventually turn up on the proposed date, holding what appeared to be more of a protest than anything. But more than the turnout, the event’s legacy lies in the memes that spread far and wide.
6. Nancy Pelosi Clapping
It was the clapback heard ‘round the internet. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi birthed one of the year’s most ubiquitous memes during the 2019 State of the Union address in February. During President Donald Trump’s speech, he urged Americans to "reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good."
As Congress applauded the line, Pelosi stood, outstretched her arms, and clapped slowly and deliberately, as if the clap was more in jest than sincerity.
Pelosi was photoshopped into other political events and put side-by-side with images from movies. The lawmaker even embraced the moment with her office selling items dubbing her as “the patron saint of shade.”
A late entry into the 2019 meme hall of fame is the now-infamous Peloton ad, which was released in November but went viral in early December. In the ad, actress Monica Ruiz plays a wife whose husband gives her the gift of a $2,245 stationary cycling bike. Throughout the commercial, Ruiz's character documents her "fitness journey" in videos.
A subsequent commercial by actor Ryan Reynolds’ gin company Aviation Gin featured Ruiz as having escaped her situation from the Peloton ad.
One shot from the Peloton ad, in which Ruiz looks frightened with furrowed brows on the bike, was seized on and turned into a reaction meme.
4. Baby Yoda
Another late entry into this year’s memology was Baby Yoda. Named because it looks like the small beloved Jedi master from "Star Wars," Baby Yoda took social media by storm after debuting on the new Disney+ series "The Mandalorian."
A specific image of Baby Yoda holding a cup of soup was particularly widespread as a meme on Twitter. Users likened the image to moms on Christmas morning, the show Big Little Lies, and to another hall of fame meme, Kermit sipping tea.
3. Sorry to this man
Actress and singer Keke Palmer graced the internet with one of the greatest memes of the year during an interview with Vanity Fair, in which Palmer was shown taking a lie detector test.
During the interview, Palmer was shown a picture of former Vice President Dick Cheney to which she responded, “I hate to say it — I hope I don't sound ridiculous — I don't know who this man is. I mean, he could be walking down the street, I wouldn't, I wouldn’t know a thing. Sorry to this man."
The entire moment — and specifically the phrase “sorry to this man” — went massively viral and is now often used as a mememic response on sites such as Twitter and TikTok. Many also used the clip of Palmer as a reaction meme as well.
2. And I oop-
With the rise of VSCO girls in 2019 came a resurgence of the phrase “and I oop!” The phrase was everywhere to mean “oops!” or something similar to “Sorry, not sorry.”
But the phrase’s origin dates back well before 2019.
In the video, Masters is going on about a drunk friend when she abruptly says “and I — oop!” She pauses for a moment, blinks slowly and then explains: “I just hit my balls.”
But as is typical with the internet, what’s old is new, and young white women who identify as the scrunchie-wearing, turtle-loving VSCO girls have appropriated the phrase as their own. It became hard to escape “And I oop” on the internet in 2019.
1. NBC NEWS’ 2019 MEME OF THE YEAR: Woman Yelling at Cat
That’s right. NBC News’ 2019 Meme of the Year is the two-paneled meme showing two Real Housewives in the left panel, and a white cat at a dinner table on the right.
Know Your Meme’s editor-in-chief Don Caldwell said he agreed that the meme should earn 2019’s top spot.
“These days, it's pretty rare for a meme to remain popular for as long as it has. I think part of the reason it has remained relevant is its ability to be used in a wide variety of contexts,” Caldwell told NBC News via email.
The meme is a combination of a scene from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, in which housewife Taylor Armstrong cries during an argument. She’s seen in the panel pointing while housewife Kyle Richards attempts to calm her in the background. The second panel of the meme shows Smudge the cat sitting at a dinner table with a disgusted look on his face. The image originated on the website Tumblr.
The images were each used individually as reaction images, until May of 2019, when a Twitter user @MISSINGEGIRL put the two side-by-side.
The meme is typically used with the first frame being accusatory and the second frame reacting with offense. One notable example labels the housewives as “Me when I see a spider” and the cat as “the spider.”