Critical praise and awards are great, but in the Year of Gaga, it’s memes that are often the ultimate indicator that a song, film, or TV show has truly entered the pantheon of pop culture. Whether it’s from “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” or “A Star Is Born,” these moments from 2018 captured our attention, entered our own phrasebooks, and proved that Twitter can relate anything to “Shrek.” Here’s to 2019 and saying “thank u, next” for years to come.
Our list of the best pop culture memes of 2018:
Tech whiz Shuri (Letitia Wright) already proved her Vine IQ with her “What are those” quip in the film, but Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), the Marvel blockbuster’s resident villain/Instagram model spawned his own memes. As T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) falls during their face-off, Killmonger demands, “Is this your king?” Leave it to Twitter to turn this defiant challenge into a Lush employee’s battle cry.
When Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine asks to catch another glimpse of Gaga’s Ally in “A Star Is Born,” she turns around and makes a face that’s part Mona Lisa smile, part I-just-stole-napkins-from-Starbucks, with a dash of je ne sais quoi. It’s the indescribable yet universal quality of Ally’s smile that made this moment so ripe for meme making.
“thank u, next” – Ariana Grande
Grande’s use of social media cemented her status as the millennial’s queen this year, so when the singer shared her post-breakup self-love anthem, “thank u next,” the internet quickly galvanized to create their interpretations of the song. Users managed to turn the lyrics, “One taught me love. One taught me patience. One taught me pain,” originally about Grande’s ex-boyfriends, to apply to everything from the “Shrek” films to Cheetos.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” Season 3
In the episode, which aired January, Morgan McMichaels exhibits shock as fellow contestant Aja prepares to execute a death drop during a performance. Her expression, paired with Milk’s quote, “Is she gonna jump from there?” has now become a go-to reaction image to any literal or metaphorical leap.
The “In My Feelings”/Shiggy Challenge
Scores of people followed Instagram star Shiggy’s footsteps (literally) to do the “In My Feelings” Challenge, sometimes throwing safe driving practices to the wayside. But with “Do it for the gram” the unofficial motto of 2018, getting out of a moving car to dance in traffic seems to be par for the course. Celebrities like Odell Beckham, Jr and Will Smith following suit helped catapult this challenge to virality, with Shiggy and his moves even featured in the official music video. We approve of how wholesome and lighthearted this trend was, but we do recommend you stay in the car for your next Instagram challenge.
Since its February debut, “Queer Eye” has been a treasure trove for memes and Twitter jokes. So instead of picking one, we’ve declared a tie between two already-iconic quotes from the Netflix series (the runner-up being “gay fear”).
First, Twitter had no trouble coming up with future “Queer Eye” spinoffs that twist the format of five gay men doling out life and style advice, and even Dictionary.com hopped on the train.
Another surprised reaction image comes from Jonathan Van Ness, the grooming expert and sweetheart of the show. Whereas the “Drag Race” meme conveys pure disbelief, JVN’s face captures that feeling of hearing unexpectedly good news, like “Killing Eve” being added to Hulu in December.
“Selfie Kid” from Super Bowl LII
Listen, we don’t know what “sports” are, but it looked like this boy at the Super Bowl didn’t recognize Justin Timberlake right in front of him, which is technically worse. Although Ryan McKenna, 13, later said he was just pulling his camera out to get a selfie, social media still had a ball guessing what more pressing matters were on the teen’s mind.
The Academy Awards
At the 2018 Oscars, Meryl Streep proved that the only person who can upstage her is herself. A picture of her yelling in support went viral, topping the 2015 meme of when the acclaimed actress hollered for Debbie Reynolds during the SAG Awards. Streep also displayed fairy godmother chic this year, with many noting she resembled a character from “Shrek 2.”
A bonus Oscar shout-out goes to Jennifer Garner, who looked like she just realized she left her oven on.
Zendaya Is Meechee
Gabriel Gundacker already notched Vine fame for his offbeat humor, but his best work yet is just three words: “Zendaya is Meechee.” The video, posted in September, features Gundacker in front of posters for the animated film, “Smallfoot,” singing about Zendaya’s role in the flick with a passion that would match Barbra Streisand’s. We can’t quite articulate what makes the video hit the sweet spot, but one thing we do know? Zendaya is Meechee.
“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”
Lara Jean Covey may have written sweet letters to past loves, but Internet wordsmiths like Rachel Syme took the rom-com’s title as an opportunity to call out problematic boys, and we’re here for it.
Are there any we left out? Let us know!