Isabella Hudziak, Special Assignments Reporter
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many things to the world. Whether it is being unable to smile at others because a mask now sits over the bottom half of your face or the scent of hand sanitizer wafting through the air, the pandemic’s impact has stretched far. Quarantine increased the amount of internet usage, a sentiment that can still be found in 2021.
January was a month rife with action. On Jan. 6, there was a riot at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. Later, the Presidential inauguration welcomed President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris to office. Also during the month, several trends and games such as Among Us grew in popularity. All of these events spurred an influx of media attention, which mainly took the form of memes.
1) When COVID is over…
We’ve all had dreams that may seem outrageous. When I was five years old I wanted to learn how to fly because I heard the phrase “when pigs fly” and thought that if pigs could do it, so could I. That did not pan out, but nothing captures the essence of an out-of-reach dream than the “When COVID is over…” memes.
This meme gained traction during the middle of January when people began to realize that it has almost been a complete year since the pandemic began. Despite vaccines being in the works and starting distribution, areas around the world are still in quarantine and wanted to find some levity in the situation. Some have equated the chances of “when COVID is over” to One Direction making a comeback, finally wanting to do the dishes, and even finding the sock your dog stole from you.
As THV11 reporter and journalist Jade Jackson said on Twitter, “‘Once COVID is over’ is starting to sound about as confident as ‘When I win the lotto..’”
In the same vein as the “when COVID is over” memes, there was a brief intermission of the “2020+” memes. Twitter users took the early events of January 2021, such as the Capitol riot, as a sign that 2020 did not end with Jan. 1. Renditions of this sentiment included a photo of The Shining twins as 2020 and 2021 alike and the Joker giving Pennywise a tour as 2020 showing 2021 around the workplace.
The verdict: 4/10. These memes are more exemplary than templates, but they sure are nice to laugh at.
2) The Sea Shanty TikTok Trend
On Dec. 27 last year, TikTok user Nathan Evans published a video of himself singing a sea shanty entitled “The Wellerman.” The monochrome filter, arranged with several snaps and beats from Evans as he sang, gained instant popularity. Throughout January, quite a few accounts started dueting with Evans and others took a more creative approach. One user imitated Kermit the Frog while dueting with the original TikTok.
Several TikTokers have created sea shanty versions of popular songs. This meme is more of a trend, but it popularized the melodic, acapella artform of sea shanties. Instead of eliciting a deep belly-laugh, it moves you to bop your head and go “yeah” several times at varying degrees of loudness.
The verdict: 5/10. Flex your vocal pipes and learn some sea shanties, because creativity is definitely an element here.
3) Driver’s License TikTok Trend
Ashley Trinh lip-synced the lyrics of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” before falling back on her bed at the chorus drop, which inspired the TikTok trend. This trend was inspired by a moment in Rodrigo’s music video where the camera focuses on her falling backward before switching to a shot of her lying on the hood of a car.
This TikTok trend became so popular that a commercial for TikTok, guest-starring Olivia Rodrigo herself, presented the audience with several versions of it. While this is another trend, I believe that is a feel-good moment for TikTokers. The drop of the chorus often cuts to the user dressed up and enjoying themselves, which I think is definitely necessary as we reach a full year of the pandemic. No giggles found here, but how can I not include a trend of people making themselves feel good?
The verdict: 5/10. This is more of a feel-yourself moment, and honestly, there should be more of that going around.
I am not an economics major, but I do enjoy video games. Imagine my shock when GameStop began trending on Twitter along with the word “Stonks.” Accompanying this statement, an intentional misspelling of “stocks”, was the figure Meme Man with his arms crossed and looking quite proud. Several users, myself included, were bewildered by the sudden skyrocketing profit of GameStop stocks, but also quite confused.
This image originated from a Facebook meme group. “Stonks” first entered the recent media sphere in March 2020 when Animal Crossing hit the Nintendo eShop. During January, the GameStop shares reached extreme heights because of Reddit investors. If this sounds confusing to you, several other people felt the same way. To embody the spirit of the situation with a lack of knowledge, Twitter users began to share the “Stonks” meme accompanying phrases like “When you sell a game back to GameStop for more money than you got it for”.
The verdict: 8/10. This meme can be applied to several situations, and that is the best part of a meme: versatility.
5) Bernie Sanders Meme
The best way to describe January 2021 is a pair of brown patterned mittens. Bernie Sanders made a physical appearance at Biden’s and Harris’s Inauguration. The pandemic did not prevent Sanders from making an appearance, so why would the cold weather? The cameras of Jan. 20 focused on Sanders sitting cross-legged, adorning a medical mask and arms crossed with those chunky gloves full-on display.
Bernie Sanders infiltrated several images following the Inauguration. In fact, Utica College organizations like WPNR took this meme and posted the caption: “Watch out Doug Croft! We may have found ourselves a new advisor!”
This meme inspired charity t-shirts, renditions of movie posters, and even crochet patterns. The election rendered several citizens nervous and uneasy. Jan. 6 witnessed the storming of the Capitol building by protestors. Several Americans were glued to the television screen in fear and confusion. When Jan. 20 took over the airwaves instead and we witnessed a man in his oversized mittens, we all could finally let our shoulders relax and laugh.
The verdict: 10/10. What makes an image better than a man sitting with his chunky mittens? He adds wholesome hilarity to almost everything. This is one I would definitely give a try.
6) Drake Pointing Meme
Some memes decided to make a reappearance during January 2021. The Drake pointing meme, which takes two screencaps from the “Hotline Bling” music video from 2015, shows two distinct emotions. In the first image, Drake is caught putting a hand barrier up with a face of disgust. The second image, meant to represent the better option, shows him happily pointing.
Over the years, this meme has come and gone into the media. I remember my Spanish teacher having a version that had to do with the pronunciation of “l”s in Spanish. Recently, Drake can be spotted lurking through Twitter and Instagram.
The verdict: 10/10. This meme is timeless. This template opens up several doors to creativity.
7) Among Us
The popular game Among Us is an online multiplayer platform based on the concept of murder, imposters and detective skills– in a space station. This game was initially released in June 2018, but gained popularity during quarantine and beyond. While it sounds violent on paper, it acts as a fun group activity with a healthy amount of suspicion directed at each other.
Some versions of this meme have the Among Us characters in certain situations or other memes representing moments of Among Us. However, there is a mechanic in the game that stands to be the most memeified: the imposter conversation.
After a murder has occurred, the players are thrown into a chat room to discuss who the imposter is. Whoever gets the most votes is kicked off the spaceship. A key example of this that made me laugh was a scene in Toy Story represented by the imposter trial.
The verdict: 8/10. The imposter hunt template can be the spot of several amusing conversations, but the chat format lacks the amount that can be done. The majority of amusement needs to be derived from the text, which is possible but creatively limiting.