guard by wlop, knight protecting princess


‘Knight protecting princess’ meme is about the dumb things we try to keep safe

This fantasy painting is suddenly everywhere.


Jay Hathaway


Posted on Feb 28, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 11:15 pm CDT

A digital painting of an armored knight shielding a princess from an arena full of jeering spectators is becoming the internet’s metaphor of choice for representing precious things and the steps we take to protect them. Because this is meme culture, though, the precious things are less like “our children” and more like “our weird porn habits” or “our actual emotions”—and the shields we use to protect them are our feeble coping mechanisms.

The “knight protecting princess” image comes from a webcomic called Ghost Blade, by Chinese digital painter Wang Ling, a.k.a. “wlop.” It was posted in 2016, but became a meme in late February, likely thanks to this entry on r/dankmemes:

fbi porn knight princess meme

Since then, it’s taken off on Twitter and Reddit.

R/animemes, Reddit’s forum for anime-based memes, even used the image to celebrate reaching 90,000 subscribers.

animemes knight princess memea

“Object labeling” memes, where the figures in an image are labeled with text and used to represent other concepts, have grown increasingly popular over the past year or so. The Distracted Boyfriend meme is easily the best known of these, but the bullet and skeleton meme and Trumpet Boy also exemplify the form. PewDiePie, the gaming YouTuber who remains wildly popular despite making Nazi jokes and using the “N-word” in videos, helped to popularize images like these with a “meme review” video in late January.

Knight Protecting Princess isn’t even the first fantasy painting to become an object labeling meme—although it’s proving to be the most successful one. Here are some other versions of the meme:

minecraft invite from kevin
my phone on full brightness at 1am
the boogie man my foot hanging off the bed

Most of these paintings (sometimes called “Colossus Memes“) feature something giant or scary attacking a much smaller character, but they’re a clear inspiration for suddenly turning wlop’s “Guard” painting, which had been online for nearly two years, into a meme.

Object labeling is starting to come into its own. It’s more than a fad; it’s a staple meme genre like fill-in-the-blank “exploitable” images or “deep-fried” memes covered in Photoshop filters. Knight Protecting Princess probably won’t be the kind of blockbuster meme that major brands co-opt and ruin, but it’s a sign of a healthy new meme genre hitting its stride.

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*First Published: Feb 28, 2018, 3:45 pm CST