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The 10 worst memes of 2012

Memes fail for a variety of reasons: They can be tasteless, stale, convoluted, or embedded with misogynistic or racist stereotypes. More often than not, they're all of the above. 


Fidel Martinez


Posted on Dec 18, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 5:16 am CDT

Memes are an Internet byproduct that aim to bring joy and laughter. They offer reprieve to the millions of people stuck at work, a small dosage of humor taken before delving into whatever lifesucking, menial task you have to do.

But like most things, for every good meme there is a terrible other meme (or three) that makes you wish you never browsed Reddit or logged on to Facebook. A meme becomes terrible for a variety of reasons: It can tasteless, stale, convoluted, or embedded with misogynistic or racist stereotypes. More often than not, it’s all of the above. 

Below is a list of 10 memes—some old, most of them new—whose repulsiveness apexed in 2012. If they’re not dead already, they need to be. Soon. Now. 

1) “I can count to potato”

Although the “I can count to potato” meme predates 2012 by a couple of years—the folks over at Know Your Meme claim the first macro associated with it emerged in 2008—it came back with a vengeance in late April 2012 when Liz Cowter lashed out against the Internet after she discovered that her daughter Heidi, who has Down syndrome, was the subject of the meme’s cruelty.

“These trolls are cowardly, nasty people who should be punished for the damage they are doing to people with their comments,” Cowter told The Sun. “Heidi has told me she is very upset by the sites and she turns her head away when we have them on the computer screen.”

Instead of apologizing for making fun of Heidi, online communities like Canvas and the subreddit r/adviceanimals doubled down on their awfulness—turning Liz herself into a meme.

2) Good Girl Gina

Here’s another meme that was technically created before 2012 but reached online fever pitch in the last 12 months. Good Girl Gina is a spinoff of the Good Guy Greg meme, a macro depicting a man smoking a joint whose actions are selfless and beneficial to others. 

But whereas Greg’s goodness stems from how considerate he is, Gina’s stems from what Reddit user LaTex calls “her capacity to serve men.”

“A Good Girl is an object to be lusted after,” wrote LaTex in a lengthy post published on r/ShitRedditSays, a subsection of the site that often calls out fellow redditors on their sexism and racism. 

“A Good Girl makes sure you’re sexually satisfied, either by her or someone else. A Good Girl defies stereotypes, unless they play into your desires, like when she cooks for you. A Good Girl plays your video games and watches your movies, and she’ll bring you food and drinks and drugs, but a Good Girl won’t talk about any of those things, because she is a Good Girl. And a Good Girl keeps quiet and doesn’t rock the boat.”

3) Kony 2012

On March 5, the nonprofit organization Invisible Children published a 30-minute short film on YouTube and Vimeo with the intention of making Joseph Kony, head of the terrible African militia Lord’s Resistance Army, the most famous person in the world. The video, which kicked off the Kony2012 campaign, aimed at raising Kony’s profile worldwide so that he would eventually be arrested by the end of 2012.

It didn’t work.  

The video became a viral sensation. All of a sudden, people who had no idea Uganda was a country in Africa (much less locate it on a map) were talking about Kony’s atrocities and how he must be stopped. Celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, P. Diddy, Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian, and Oprah tweeted a link to the video to their millions of followers. Every single person in the world wanted to stop Joseph Kony at all costs. 

But then… nothing happened. Retweets and Facebook posts didn’t solve anything, so people just stopped caring. The meme became one of the better examples of slacktivism gone wrong—and was made worse by allegations of Invisible Children’s mismanagement of funds  and founder Jason Russell’s crazy naked breakdown.

But hey, millions of people felt like they did some good.

4) What people think I do/What I actually do

To me, this meme is the most offensive and annoying of the lot.

This locust of an Internet sensation is a series of panels—usually six of them—that shows different interpretations of a specific job. 

According to Know Your Meme, this Internet trend gained popularity after Garnet Hertz first posted one depicting what people think contemporary artists do. The post was shared more than 5,000 times on the social network. 

“What people think I do” was a clever one, prompting every nurse and social worker to make one for their given profession. But, naturally, the meme got stale faster than “Gangnam Style” parodies, bludgeoned to death by everyone with an Internet connection.

It became apparent that the meme had jumped the shark when my own mom sent me a link to an image about stay-at-home mothers. 

5) Trayvoning

On Feb. 26, 2012, George Zimmerman shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., while reportedly on patrol for his local neighborhood watch. The incident became national news thanks to Zimmerman’s racially charged language during a 911 emergency call prior to his shooting Martin.

People showed their support for Trayvon Martin by wearing a hoodie, which is what Martin was wearing the night he was murdered. Many snapped selfies and posted them to Facebook with messages of support.

Others took a different route. Insensitive jerkwads started “Trayvoning,” a photo trend inspired by “planking,” where individuals would lie on the ground wearing the aforementioned hoodie, playing dead and holding a can of Arizona iced tea and a bag of skittles—two items Martin had in his hands when he was shot. 

A Facebook group briefly appeared but was quickly taken down by the social network. The meme should have ended there, but instead, it jumped over to Tumblr, where it thrived until audiences got tired.

6) Bradying

Remember Tebowing? Yeah, we’re trying to forget the biggest sports trend of 2011 too. 

Unfortunately, 2012 had its own annoying fad: Bradying.

Bradying became popular after New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sat on the field with shoulders slumped and head down after throwing a crucial interception during Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots would go on to lose the game to the New York Giants.

Soon after, everyone was Bradying. The trend even got its own single-serving Tumblr. Bradying became yet another example of the Internet beating a dead horse.

7) The “12-year-old slut memes” Facebook page

I don’t even have to explain why this Facebook group is on this list. 

The page, created by two individuals named James and Dom in August 2012, aims at publicly shaming teenage girls who show signs of promiscuity.

“Our intent in building this Facebook page was to bring to light the fact that many young girls under the age of consent are sexualising themselves in provocative photographs that they themselves post on their own Facebook pages to be seen by the world,” they wrote in October 2012. 

“Yes, we may have used language and content (publicly available content) that shocked many, that being said though; we did at least bring widespread attention to the issue.”

How noble of these two. Even sadder than this page’s existence is the fact that it has more than 212,000 Facebook likes. 

Equally sad: A petition with close to 5,000 signatures asking that Facebook take down the page resulted in the social network adding a “Controversial Humor” tag to the title instead of, you know, taking it down.

8) Premature Peter

Premature Peter is another instance where the Internet had a mean-spirited laugh at the expense of an unsuspecting child.

Earlier this month, a school picture of young boy wearing a T-shirt with the words “I came” emblazoned on it was uploaded to the subreddit r/funny. The post garnered more than 20,000 upvotes (and more than 18,000 downvotes), which resulted in r/AdviceAnimals co-opting the image and running wild with it.

We reported on the trend but made the editorial decision to pull it because of the age of the subject (13) and because his parents wrote us asking us to. For those very reasons, this blurb contains no actual links to the meme.

9) Insanity Wolf

What started off in 2009 as a hilarious macro of a rabid-looking wolf doing crazy things—a canine version of Chuck Norris—devolved into a series of rape jokes in 2012.

“I probably realize that people will defend the meme as being an exaggeration,” wrote user katyblerg on the feminist-oriented r/femmit, “that its supposed to be outlandish and offensive because its ‘Insanity Wolf’… but as a woman, i see something like that thats supposed to be humorous and about rape, and i hate it. Am I alone?”

She wasn’t.

User Metaphoricalsimile agreed with her in yet another post, this time posted to r/ShitRedditSays, which highlighted more than 300 instances of Insanity Wolf murdering and raping women and children. Hilarious!

10) James Holmes

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes walked into a packed midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., and opened fire. The shooting resulted in the death of 12 people and the injury of 59 others. It was the worst and most fatal shooting of the year—until the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last week

Bizarrely, various pages celebrating and honoring Holmes popped up on Facebook. On Tumblr, the hashtag #holmies, used by self-identified Holmes worshippers, became a thing. 

See you in 2013, Internet. Let’s actually try to be funny next year, OK?

Art by Jason Reed for the Daily Dot

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*First Published: Dec 18, 2012, 4:06 pm CST