“He protec, but he also attac,” a meme that first emerged in 2016, is a humorous misspelling of “he protects, but he also attacks.” It’s always paired with two images of the same character, one in a defensive stance and the other taking an aggressive posture.
It’s a great meme, but it’s not enough merely to protec and attac in the year 2017. Now, you have to do more.
The updated version of the protec/attac meme, which became prominent in mid-July, adds a third panel. It’s another word that near-rhymes with protec and attac, and it’s specific to the character in question. President Obama, for example, protecs and attacs, “but most importantly, he Barrac.”
The addition of a third, character-specific panel has added new life and new creativity to a meme that seemed to have stagnated. Instead of finding two photos, a meme creator now has to choose three photos and a caption. It’s literally twice as much meme as it was before!
The expansion of the protec/attac format seems to have started with this meme of Pokémon character Pikachu, which modified the original meme by removing “attac” altogether:
But the fully-evolved form of the meme leaves “attac” in place and relies on a third panel for the punchline:
The possibilities for characters and verbs that end in -ct are virtually endless, which gives this meme plenty of legs. On Reddit‘s r/dankmemes, a useful barometer of which memes are about to break out into mainstream success, “he protect/he attac” has grown so popular that some posters are already sick of it. In fact, they’ve started using “protec/attac” to “attac” the meme itself:
Despite the cries that this is a “normie” meme, it actually started with a photo you’re not likely to see on Facebook, showing a naked guy with a lightsaber:
The original joke hinged entirely on the misspelling and the bizarre images, but now the meme is so much more: it’s all about wordplay and references. It protec, it attac, but most importantly, it connec with meme communities from Reddit to Instagram and beyond.