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As 4chan‘s notorious /b/ imageboard has changed over the years, memes and traditions have fallen by the wayside. Raids on other websites are rarer, and yesterday’s memes—like Rickrolling and lolcats—are today’s “cancer.” Through the past couple of years, though, one thing has persisted: this stock illustration of a naked banana suggestively holding its own peel.
Seemingly every “you laugh, you lose” (YLYL) thread, where posters bring out their funniest images, is beset by the banana, even though the banana is not actually funny. It’s gotten to the point where people will comment with relief if the banana doesn’t show up.
But where did this image come from, and how did it become the bane of every YLYL thread on /b/?
Know Your Meme reports that the banana started out as a stock image, shared by middle-aged normies—regular people who aren’t steeped in meme culture. They found it funny. In fact, they found it really, really, really funny:
Somehow—probably through a mutual Facebook friend or a younger relative of one of the three—this unintentionally hilarious conversation found its way to 4chan. The banana, which would not normally be funny, was suddenly funny.
So was the phrase “I really, really, really like this image,” which has become a common response to banana spammers.
The banana arrived on 4chan in earnest in 2014, with a number of posters repeating the meme ad nauseam until the community started to accept it. Of course, many were also annoyed and declared the meme cancerous, but that only egged on the pro-banana contingent.
According to Encyclopedia Dramatica, the homophobic and slur-filled Wikipedia of troll culture, “Naked banana is probably the most cancerous and most-posted meme of 4chan in 2014. 99% of YLYL thread OPs are this gay banana.”
This is still mostly true today. On Thursday, a poster declared a “ylyl thread no banana edition.” By some miracle, the famous banana image was not posted.
However, this was the first reply:
And further down the thread, this:
Banana Photoshops, while they’re no substitute for repeatedly posting the original image, have been around for almost as long as the banana itself. And, of course, you don’t have to post the whole banana at once:
There are a couple of canonical responses to the banana, beyond the typical plays of just ignoring it. One is to play along with the line “I really, really, really like this image.” The other is a copypasta—an elaborate, re-usable chunk of text—that obliterates the bananaposter down to their very core.
It’s crude, angry, and kind of an overreaction, but people on /b/ don’t take it any more seriously than they take the banana. Except for the person who wrote it in the first place—they might really have snapped.
Here it is:
There he is. There he goes again. Look, everyone! He posted it once again! Isn’t he just the funniest guy around?! Oh my God.
I can almost see your pathetic overweight frame glowing in the dark, lit by your computer screen which is the only source of light in your room, giggling like a like girl as you once again type your little Banana thread up and fill in the captcha. Or maybe you don’t even fill in the captcha. Maybe you’re such a disgusting NEET that you actually paid for a 4chan pass, so you just choose the picture. Oh, and we all know the picture. The “epic” Banana guy, isn’t it? I imagine you little shit laughing so hard as you click it that you drop your Doritos on the floor, but it’s ok, your mother will clean it up in the morning. Oh, that’s right. Did I fail to mention? You live with your mother. You are a fat fucking fuckup, she’s probably so sick of you already. So sick of having to do everything for you all goddamn day, every day, for a grown man who spends all his time on 4chan posting about a fucking banana. Just imagine this. She had you, and then she thought you were gonna be a scientist or an astronaut or something grand, and then you became a NEET. A pathetic Bananafag NEET. She probably cries herself to sleep everyday thinking about how bad it is and how she wishes she could just disappear. She can’t even try to talk with you because all you say is “I REALLY REALLY LIKE THIS PICTURE.” You’ve become a parody of your own self. And that’s all you are. A sad little man laughing in the dark by himself as he prepares to indulge in the same old dance that he’s done a million times now. And that’s all you’ll ever be.
Truly, the best play is to neither beat the bananas nor join them but to appreciate them for what they are: a dumb phenomenon that has enjoyed surprising longevity on a site known for creating and discarding memes at top speed.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.