man walking in front of shipping containers


‘Surprise mothafaka’—a meme history



Mike Hadge


‘Surprise mothafaka’ memes originated from the Showtime series Dexter and refer to a line delivered by character James Doakes (Erik King). The meme is used to signify an overly confrontational attitude, with images featuring Doakes’ notable moment utilized on imageboards, forums, and social media posts for over a decade.


Where did the ‘surprise mothafaka meme come from?

As stated above, the meme came from Showtime’s hit drama Dexter, which ran on the network from 2006-2013. The series was about a loveable serial killer (played by Michael C. Hall) and his misadventures in Miami on his way to his true calling of lumberjack. The series was revived in 2021 as Dexter: New Blood for a single season. 

As for the phrase itself, it was uttered by character James Doakes (Erik King) a sergeant with Miami Metro Homicide who regularly crossed Dexter’s path, often with much “surprise.” 

man walking in front of shipping containers

Which episode does Doakes say ‘surprise mothafaka’

Doakes utters the phrase during the episode “Born Free,” aired on December 17th, 2006, which was the first season’s finale. According to the official IMDB description of the episode, “Dexter follows the clues left for him by the Ice Truck Killer in an effort to rescue his kidnapped loved one, while Rita’s ex tries to convince her that Dexter is too dangerous to be around their children.” 

In the scene, Dexter has visited a shipping yard to investigate the possible site of his mother’s murder. That’s when Doakes enters with his now legendary catchphrase. 

Rise of the Surprise Mothafaka memes

The Surprise Mothafaka memes first became popular among fans of the show on LiveJournal, but eventually reached a broader audience in 2008, when the 5-second clip hit YouTube. By October 2010, the video had found its way to Reddit. At present, various versions of the original clip posted on YouTube have accumulated over 14 million views. 

The meme began to spread on the internet at large on December 28, 2008, when a You The Man Now Dog site was created featuring Doakes and the sound clip. A few years later in January 2011, the sadly now-defunct was created as a showcase of videos featuring the Doakes’ soundbite overlaid onto scenes from other media.

On January 29th, 2012, the first instance of a photoshopped Surprise Motherfucker appeared on Tumblr by user cranialabattoir, receiving 21,677 notes for its troubles. (It has since disappeared from existence.)

The following month, a dedicated Tumblr account was created, which curated countless images and videos based around the Surprise Mothafaka meme. This was a playground for variations on the structure, with images featuring alternate captions, visual additions, and other similar-sounding words to “surprise.” (“Supplies,” “bowties,” etc.)

The next month, on March 5th, 2012, Corey Branigan posted a set of Doakes images to his Tumblr which proved extremely popular, gaining 70,000 notes and featured on Uproxx on March 7th. The origins of the meme were already six years old at this point, but it continued to pick up steam. 

Meme examples 

Examples of the Surprise Mothafaka memes span image, video, and even reply comments.

Surprise mothafaka meme with Doakes saying 'surprise mother' under the caption 'Mother's Day' and 'surprise father' under the caption 'father's day'



More memes:

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