Before offering my list of best memes of 2018, I thought it might be helpful to define the term. The word is now solidly embedded in our language and is often used when referring to popular culture phenomena; however, like the word irony, it can be a bit wooly. According to Google, a meme is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within the culture, often conveying a particular meaning or theme. While its derivation is from biology, meme has found service well beyond.
So, find below my list, lifted from a year that in so many ways is best captured with, well, a meme.
In searching for a meme that best captures the chaotic, scandalous, norm-breaking, Russia-saturated endless drama of the Trump administration, I pick the monolithic prototypes that stand silently on our southern border, referred to in the collective
as “the wall.” Look, this $5 billion, surreal, close-the-government-down imagined edifice has to be about something else. I mean, take that obscene amount of taxpayer money — Mexico said not ever — and use it to fix the superordinate problem of asylum at the border and include those undocumented immigrants across the nation (including DACA). That would achieve something profoundly humane, reflecting who we are: a nation of immigrants.
A meme for romantics: Harry and Meghan’s spectacular, Disneyesque wedding (cue the horse-drawn carriage, call the costume department for a glass slipper). Six hundred guests attended and 30 million Americans tuned in. Cost: $45 million.
Looking for an OMG, will this have a right ending meme? I pick the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach lost in a deep cave. The rescue took 18 days as the cave threated to flood, oxygen was depleted, and Thai SEALs, plus international volunteers, brought each one to breath-holding safety.
Best meme for “whoops, was that the wrong key stroke?” Hawaiians woke up to an all-island emergency alert signaling incoming ballistic missiles. “Take shelter!” Waikiki’s gnarly surfers shrugged and hung ten.
How about a best animal meme: A raccoon scaled the 25-story UBS plaza office tower in St. Paul, Minnesota. Crowds watched below; social media was breathless.
An inspirational meme for mind over matter came to mind with the passing of Stephen Hawking, 76, world-renowned physicist who had struggled with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and attendant paralysis since the age of 21. His was a profile in tenacious brilliance, while possessing an extraordinary spirit.
Best chameleon reveal meme: Lady Gaga in the film “A Star is Born.” Stunning voice, indeed. Surprise: she is also a fine actress.
Another wonderful reveal meme: Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits unveiled in the National Portrait Gallery. Like them, the two portraits are remarkable and they dazzle.
A soul-filled gift, first hers, then generously shared with us, and now a silent meme: Aretha Franklin.
Meme as metaphor: the Blue Wave that defined the 2018 mid-term election. Best voter turnout since 1914. And women stepped forward, ran for office and won.
The search for ultimate explanations that prove elusive meme: Congress studiously ignoring countless school mass shootings, e.g. Stoneman Douglas High School and its precursor, Sandy Hook Elementary School. Hauntingly tragic, each with an inherent plea to Congress by shattered parents: “gun control.” Or explain why not.
Trump’s favorite campaign meme: the Central American caravan, hyperbolically described as a “Mad Max: Fury Road” cohort of terrorist/MS-13 gang members cum disease-infested brown people. In the mix was the now infamous Zero Tolerance, kids-in-cages and parents-in-jail policy.
Paradise, California, once a town, now ash and solitary chimneys, a meme for scorched-earth global warming, made manifest by apocalyptic fires. The point of no return? We’re almost there.
Final message meme: First Lady Melania Trump visiting incarcerated migrant children wearing a Zara designer jacket. On the back, written in bold white letters, “I DON’T REALLY CARE. DO U?” Message received.
Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.