america invading for oil meme

Know Your Meme

American oil memes are the slickest new thing on the internet

We love this meme like America loves oil.


Jay Hathaway

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 21, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 9:02 pm CDT

Has there ever been a more iconic duo than the United States of America and oil? As the U.S. marks the 15th anniversary of the Iraq War, pointing out America’s historic hunger for the ol’ black gold has come back into vogue. Teens who were in Pull-Ups during the war are now gleefully making memes about the U.S. military springing into action at the merest mention of oil, whether it’s in the Middle East or on someone’s greasy face.

Let’s take a look at some oil memes in action:

In Body Image

soldier soilder oil meme
American Oil Memes/Facebook
aluminum foil oil meme
American Oil Memes/Facebook
oil into the pan meme

In these examples, you can see that the meme has two basic modes. On one hand, you can joke about literal oil, whether it’s baby oil, cooking oil, or sebaceous secretions on the skin.  On the other, you’ve got jokes about the word oil, typically found hiding inside other words (aluminum foil, Susan Boyle, and so on). Sometimes people go through extreme contortions to find oil. Bet you didn’t know there was oil in The Lion King, for example:

oil memes lion king
American Oil Memes/Facebook

or Harry Potter: 

Oil memes can also be combined with other memes, like the “I’m something of a scientist myself” meme from Spider-Man:

These memes originally took off on Reddit, but they’ve also become big on Facebook and Twitter over the past week. A dedicated Facebook page, American Oil Memes, racked up 115,000 followers after just a week. The internet’s hunger for oil memes seems to rival the hunger for oil itself. And, like oil, these memes are both rich and deep.

Through February and early March, meme enthusiasts had been starved for original content. They were surviving on the last scraps of huge January memes like Ugandan Knuckles and Tide Pods, hoping for something substantial to come along. American Oil Memes appear to be that thing. Not only are they funny and full of creative variations, they’re also a teenage commentary on America’s imperialism and aggressive foreign policy.

In 2002, an “internet meme” wasn’t a thing,  let alone a primary mode of online communication, or a tool of political warfare. Peace protestors at the time had “No Iraq War” and “Bush Lied, People Died” signs, but those didn’t connect with the kids the way a good meme can.

They may be too late for that chapter of history, but oil memes are still highly relevant as a new generation grows into political consciousness and learns about the conflicts of the recent past.

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*First Published: Mar 21, 2018, 6:03 pm CDT