an illustration depicting various memes of 2021
With so many great memes making their rounds throughout 2021, here are a few that have really stood the test of time that are sure to be referenced in 2022. (Illustration by Mack Niemietz, Southern New Hampshire University)
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an illustration depicting various memes of 2021

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember what made all of us laugh throughout this eventful year.

A lot happened this year — new coronavirus variants spread worldwide, celebrity couples broke up and got back together and as always, the internet kept us all very entertained with a plethora of new memes. As 2021 ends, it’s time we reflect on some of the sillier parts of the year.

January: “Bestie”

We started the year off strong with a viral video from TikToker @tiktoshh that has stood the test of time and has been referenced throughout the entirety of 2021. “Bestie, I’m afraid to ask you this …” and “Bestie vibes only!” have spread all over the internet, reaching every corner of TikTok, Twitter and Instagram. Some used the sound on TikTok to speak about an actual situation in their friendship while others applied it to other moments in their lives such as asking their manager a difficult question.

Honorable Mention: Bernie Sanders at the Inauguration

A photo of Sanders bundled up and donning mittens made by Vermont Teddy Bear quickly spread around the internet, and many were quick to photoshop this unintentionally iconic image into various scenarios or films.

February: Anything “WandaVision” related.

Marvel’s first show on Disney+ was an instant hit both on-screen and online, becoming a pandemic viewing phenomenon. Whether it was Agatha winking or “Vishawn,” the internet had a field day with the decades-spanning, superhero television show.

Honorable Mention: Stock Market BF / Astrology GF

Twitter came up with a basic way to sum up a modern relationship dynamic amid the 2021 GameStop stock market scandal.

March: The Boat Stuck in the Suez Canal

While there wasn’t much the general public could do to help the boat, they could definitely make jokes about it. People even went so far as to make parody infographics. This meme still pops up every now and then on Twitter, most recently being referred to as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Honorable Mention: “They understood the assignment.

Many used this trend to describe actors who have excellent performances throughout their filmographies. While it is certainly an actor’s job to embody the role they are cast in, some definitely do it way better than others.

April: Dream Blunt Rotation

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Twitter users began posting their dream blunt rotations, mainly consisting of celebrities and fictional characters. Some even began sharing their “nightmare blunt rotations” consisting of people they would absolutely never want to get high with.

Honorable Mention: “You wanna hear a story about how me and this bitch fell out? It’s kinda long but it’s full of suspense,” from “Zola.”

What started off trending on Twitter started trending all over again, with Twitter users applying the line to films such as “The Social Network.” One of the writers of “Zola,” Jeremy O. Harris, even joined in on the fun.

May: “Cheugy”

Whether you love the word or hate it, “cheugy” was all over the internet this past May. Created by software developer Gaby Rasson in 2013 and essentially meaning basic, it was hard to escape on any corner of the internet after going viral on TikTok.

Honorable Mention: “The CDC says…”

Coming after the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals would no longer be required to wear masks, this pandemic-inspired meme took a light-hearted spin on the advisory.

June: “The Backyardigans”

The Nick Jr. show blew up on TikTok after user @swagsurfff revisited her favorite tracks from the series. Soon after, no one could get enough of “The Backyardigans,” including Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins. “Castaways” even charted on Spotify, proving that you’re never too old to enjoy a childhood classic.

Honorable Mention: Anakin and Padme

A scene from “Attack of the Clones” went viral, many using Padme’s shocked expression to get their jokes across.

July: Vin Diesel Loves Family

While “The Fast & The Furious” franchise has changed tremendously since it was first released in 2001 (last I heard, they’re fighting battles in space now), one thing has remained the same — Dom Torreto’s (Vin Diesel) emphasis on the importance of family. People photoshopped Dom into a multitude of different movies, applying his philosophy in films from “Lady Bird” to “Home Alone.”

Honorable Mention: Another film-related meme, “the beach that makes you old” spawned from M. Night Shyamalan’s bizarre horror film about well, the beach that makes you old.

August: Milk Crate Challenge

This trend started off on TikTok, featuring people trying (and mostly failing) to climb stacks of milk crates resembling a podium. It was eventually banned on the platform for safety reasons as too many people were getting injured, but of course, that didn’t stop the internet from meme-ing it.

Honorable Mention: My Fall Plans vs. The Delta Variant

Many took climatic scenes from movies, such as this one from “Parasite,” and used them to explain how their plans for the latter half of the year were quickly foiled by constantly evolving COVID-19 variants.

September: The 2021 Met Gala

The theme this year was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” and no one really knew what to do with it; it thus spawned an amalgamation of wacky outfits to poke fun at, such as Kim Kardashian’s head-to-toe black ensemble. Keke Palmer’s Vogue interview with Megan Thee Stallion also went viral, with the sound receiving the remix treatment on TikTok.

Honorable Mention: Mary Jane Defending

This scene from 2002’s “Spider-Man” made its way around the internet in 2021, with many rewriting it to appear as though Mary Jane was defending Peter Parker instead of responding to her manager in the original scene.

October: Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly

The internet was unable to stop referencing the odd quotes about Fox and Kelly’s relationship pulled from their press tour, specifically, their first interaction that was detailed by both of them in a video with GQ, where they recall their earliest exchange being — “You smell like weed.” “I am weed.” A modern-day fairy tale in meme format.

Honorable Mention: Red flags

Twitter users began sharing what would be their red flags in a relationship, accompanying their statements with the appropriate emoji, ranging from somewhat valid to downright ridiculous.

November: Yassification

This meme encouraged many people to purchase FaceTune Premium and “yassify” their favorite celebrities or characters, oversaturating them with beauty filters. Nothing is above yassification. Not The Beatles. Not Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Not even Dobby.

Honorable Mention: Two Sides of the Bus

A simple yet effective meme format — the person on the right of the bus is happy, looking out on a beautiful sky while the person on the left is curled up in distress. The original art can be found here.

December: Spotify Wrapped

One of the few times the internet comes together is to share their Spotify Wrapped statistics. However, this year, some were inspired to parody the format, making things such as Zillow Wrapped. They also mocked the verbiage Spotify used when displaying statistics to their users as well as some of the strange graphic design choices that were made.

Honorable Mention: To soon to be determined.

With a couple of weeks left in 2021, it’s hard to say what other meme will take the cake here. Will it be related to the blockbuster hit “Spider-Man: No Way Home”? Will it harken back to a time when we were “a proper country”? Will it be a photo of Pete Davidson allegedly dating Queen Elizabeth? Only time will tell.

Writer Profile

Mai Senser

Virginia Commonwealth University
English major, Media Studies minor

Mai Senser is a film student turned English major based in Richmond, Virginia. A lover of pop culture, both past and present, she’s always ready to join the conversation.

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