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How the ‘T-pose’ became a meme

spyicup/Reddit

Stick your arms straight out.

Forget dabbing, the 2015 dance craze that had teens posing with their heads on their elbows. The new thing is “T-posing,” forming a T by standing with your feet close together and both arms out to your sides, held parallel to the ground. The T-pose is the default stance for characters in 3-D animation programs and many video games, and now meme teens are copying it in real life.

Every game character needs a default pose, something to do when they have no instructions or the code breaks. That’s where the T-pose comes in.

https://twitter.com/PriestOfGaming/status/995119856348377088

Characters getting stuck in this awkward, stiff position is pretty funny, and memers have long made a joke of it. The T-pose is an ancient shitposting tradition dating back to at least 2010, but it was modernized throughout 2017 as a “deep-fried” meme. This meme style features layers of grainy artifacts, bright colors, cartoon characters from the 2000s, glowing eyes, and lots of emoji. Here’s an example starring Hugh Neutron from the Jimmy Neutron movie and TV series:

hugh neutron tpose deep fried meme doctor_steve_gates/Reddit

Even kids who don’t know anything about creating 3-D models may have encountered the T-pose while gaming. Popular Nintendo games Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Odyssey both accidentally showed characters doing the pose:

In 2018, T-posing has become something kids do in real life. Like the dab before it, it’s often done ironically. The most pervasive T-pose joke is “T-pose to assert dominance,” which comes from a Photoshop edit of a WikiHow article called “How to Increase Your Social Standing at School,” which, as far as we can tell, doesn’t actually exist. The photo first appeared on the Instagram account @nonhomo in May but rose to prominence on Reddit’s tposememes forum, which has been around for nearly a year.

“T-posing will let other students know you are superior” is the fake Step 1. It’s not clear what happens after that, and it doesn’t really matter. The meme has seen a big spike in activity this month.

t pose wikihow assert dominance spyicup/Reddit

In the week or so since the T-pose took off, trolls have tried to convince the internet that T-posing is a white power symbol. It appears to be an attempt to rile liberals and make them look foolish, like previous fake hate symbols that arose from the pro-Trump, white supremacist axis of Reddit’s the_donald and 4chan’s /pol/. Thus far, it hasn’t really worked.

If you search for “T-pose” on Twitter, you’ll run into a handful of tweets like these, mostly from MAGA Pepe-style accounts with few followers:

For the most part, though, the campaign hasn’t tainted the T-pose. Teen tweets about it, and the posts at the Tposememes subreddit, are largely pretty wholesome.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to credit the Instagram account @nonhomo with the viral T-pose Wikihow photo and for context and clarity. 

Jay Hathaway

Jay Hathaway

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.