it's a trap meme

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What is the ‘It’s a Trap’ meme?

A memorable line from a 1983 Star Wars movie turned into an enduring meme.


Phil West


Posted on Dec 23, 2023   Updated on Dec 23, 2023, 9:53 am CST

A line first used in the 1983 Star Wars movie Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar’s “It’s a trap!” warning, has become the long-lasting “it’s a trap” meme. Though it’s had different uses along the years, it’s one of the more recognizable memes in the Star Wars meme pantheon.

How did the ‘It’s a trap’ meme start?

Before it became a meme, it was a line from the final movie in the original Star Wars trilogy. (It’s now Episode VI of nine.) Lando Calrissian is flying the Millennium Falcon toward the new Death Star under construction, flanked by a number of Rebel fighters, when it dawns on them that a number of Imperial ships and tie fighters are waiting for them.

Admiral Ackbar, assessing the situation from his ship, declares, “It’s a trap!” It is, however, too late to escape the ambush, and the Rebel forces must engage in a space battle.

If you’re looking for some plot summary in a melodic song, the 2019 upload of an “It’s a Trap” song from content creator RoyishGoodLooks should serve you well.

According to Know Your Meme, an administrator on the Something Awful forums in “the early 2000s” posted an image of Ackbar with the “It’s a trap” caption, and a meme was born.

How did it spread?

Know Your Meme notes that it “became adopted as a popular reaction image used to warn others of a potential bait-and-switch prank ahead” on other forums, and in the mid-2000s, YTMND popularized the saying. Users on 4chan also helped it spread; according to Know Your Meme, “the phrase became closely associated with traps, a slang term for a photograph of a model or illustration of an anime character wherein the gender of the subject seems to be ambiguous or androgynous in appearance.”

Around this time, the jokey misspelling of the slogan, “It’s a tarp!,” also circulated, eventually getting its own Urban Dictionary definition.

Family Guy helped it along as well, with a 2011 tribute episode called “It’s a Trap!” parodying Return of the Jedi. TBS shared a clip of the pivotal scene, with American Dad‘s talking goldfish Klaus Heisler crossing over into the Ackbar role.

How is it used today?

Over on the Reddit subreddit r/starwarsmemes, there’s a number of “it’s a trap” memes, typically using the Ackbar “it’s a trap” as the second in a two-panel sequence. One example actually crossed the streams by including a Star Trek spinoff series as the first panel, illustrating the “trap” when a significant other insists “you’re all I need” for Christmas and a gift’s not necessary.

Of course, the image can be coupled with text to point out any number of potential traps or pitfalls awaiting people. Meme generators have Ackbar at the ready, in both static image and animated GIF forms.

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*First Published: Dec 23, 2023, 2:00 pm CST