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Emma Craig/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

Pour one out for the ASCII art that never got a chance

Looking back at the best meme of the year.


Cooper Fleishman

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 31, 2014   Updated on May 29, 2021, 9:09 pm CDT

The biggest meme of 2013 was Doge. The Shiba Inu’s earnest, stilted-English enthusiasm—”wow,” “such grammar”—became absurdly popular on Twitter toward the end of the year, spurred by Tumblr culture, a hot subreddit or two, and a paean to its easy humor on Gawker. Then, as quickly as it came, Doge faded when brands (and politicians) discovered it.

The year 2014 saw a different, more abstract type of meme bubble up on Twitter, ripple into various social networks, burn hot, explode, and expire. These were text-only cartoons made out of ASCII characters, cute little figures like the Shruggie (¯_(ツ)_/¯), the Look of Disapproval (ಠ_ಠ), the Donger (༼ຈل͜ຈ༽), and this happy dude, whatever his name is: ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ. In May, we called it “advanced Twitter punctuation.”


Then there’s the Sign Bunny, literally a bunny holding a sign, which gained popularity in Media Twitter and the One Direction fandom throughout the year before Tumblr’s Amber Gordon tweeted one (at me!) and saw it blow up, then die off, in a matter of days. (If you want to know what it’s like to watch a meme explode on Twitter, read our recap here.)

Sign Bunny hopped into the sunset. Then, all of a sudden, ASCII art seemed to disappear from Twitter. No thinkfluencer wants to be part of a trend whose ship has already sailed. It’s a shame: ASCII art (like my other favorite meme of 2014, “me irl“) had the unlimited creative potential and Web 1.0 retro cool to last. Once people started to think of ASCII cartoons as a meme, it was over. Memes aren’t cool.

Here are some other ASCII figures that could’ve been finessed into great tweets if the whole fad had never taken off. Let’s pour one out for them.

Sexy Butt Dude

Actually me IRL:

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Hot Take Man

I took this surfer bro (and most of these cartoons) from Japanese ASCII art bot @twitAA_bot. This one says “HOT TAKE,” personifying all the opinions men are never tired of sharing on the Internet.

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Use when butting into a conversation you were never invited to join.

Person Diving Into Ground

At the end of a long year of garbage, this is the only emotion that’s left.

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Rad Cig

It’s a tiny, ’70s-era cigarette mascot. Smoking is fun and cool.

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Sad Forest Friend

The Internet gets overwhelming, you know? Sometimes all you want to do is read a book and gnaw on a thing.

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Urinating Man

There sure was a lot of trash in 2014. Want a fun way to show your distaste for it? Just piss on it, figuratively, with some ASCII art.

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Take All My Favs Cat

“No, really,” you might write instead, “take them! That was a great tweet!”

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Not All Men

This fedora-clad gentlesir popping out of a jack-in-the-box has one purpose on the Internet: to derail your conversation and make it about him. As Jess Zimmerman explains, “Not All Men” is

a familiar kind of bad-faith argument, the one where a male interlocutor redirects a discussion about sexism, misogyny, rape culture, or women’s rights to instead be about how none of that is his fault.

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Fortunately, this guy can simply be blocked. Blocking is great!

Naked Dude Surfing on an Elephant

Useful when mocking prominent conservatives on Twitter, especially while they’re harassing women they suspect are alleged rape victims. Just pretend he’s got red hair and a beard! 

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Wilhelm Scream

The ear-splitting shriek of true despair.

(Sorry, this embed was not found.)

Content Cat

It’s an encouraging cat riding a dolphin made of online journalism. I tried to make Content Cat a thing, but media jokes depend on to-the-second timeliness and the person actually being funny. I couldn’t hack it. 

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Put Down That Tweet

You’re about to tweet something, right? You feel the urge building up inside you, a burning in your chest, an electrical current, a tingling sensation that trickles down your arms and into your fingers. Wait! Nothing good can come from it. Just never tweet.

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Better yet,

Too Hot to Handle

Sometimes a hot take is just too hot: too ill-informed, too poorly thought through, so furious as to be at odds with its professed objectivity—simply too toxic to risk a click. What’s the worst that could happen, you might think? Well, this. Your genitals may combust.

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Ban Men

My personal favorite. Just look at it.

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Use only in extreme circumstances.

Is It OK to Come Out Yet?

It’s almost 2015. Maybe. Just maybe.

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So long, 2014. 

Photo via Emma Craig/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Dec 31, 2014, 10:44 am CST