arthurs fist meme

Meme History: How a teachable moment in ‘Arthur’ morphed into a meme used under frustrating circumstances

And I say hey — what a wonderful kind of meme.


Kyle Calise


Posted on Jan 28, 2024   Updated on Jan 29, 2024, 9:45 pm CST

The connection between meme culture and children’s cartoons is unexpectedly strong, as evidenced by the meme history of PBS’s beloved show ‘Arthur.’

On September 1st, 1999, PBS aired an episode of Arthur titled ‘Arthur’s Big Hit,’ which featured a scene where Arthur punched his sister, D.W., for breaking his model airplane.

This moment, almost 17 years later, would spark a meme sensation.

In the summer of 2016, Twitter user @almostJT posted a screenshot from this episode, focusing on Arthur’s clenched fist, poised to strike.

The caption read, “This is just a pic of Arthur’s fist, but idk how I feel that is just so relatable. So many emotions in one fist.”

While Arthur had previously inspired memes like “Just Go on the Internet and Tell Lies” and “Arthur’s Headphones,” none had reached the heights that ‘Arthur’s Fist’ was about to achieve.

The day after the Twitter post, a Reddit user shared the ‘Arthur’s Fist’ image, captioning it “When people say Harambe was just a gorilla.”

In Body Image

It quickly gained over 4800 upvotes, fueled by the still-raw feelings about Harambe’s death two months earlier. The meme gained traction within the r/BlackPeopleTwitter community, spawning versions that mocked North Korea and claimed superiority over SpongeBob memes.

‘Arthur’s Fist’ memes drew criticism from WGBH, the network airing the show, but also received support from Marc Brown, the creator of Arthur. Amidst a tumultuous year, internet users found that ‘Arthur’s Fist’ was a humorous outlet for their frustrations, regardless of their nature.

The meme’s popularity extended to celebrities as well. In late 2017, LeBron James posted ‘Arthur’s Fist’ on social media with the caption “Mood…”

He later juxtaposed the meme with photos of himself making fists throughout his career, cryptically stating his affinity for Arthur. LeBron has also shown a penchant for other children’s show characters in memes, like Kermit the Frog’s “That’s None of My Business.”

Similarly, Chrissy Teigen tweeted ‘Arthur’s Fist’ in reference to people saying her husband, John Legend, resembles the character.

Her tweet was retweeted over 200,000 times and led to a Google Duo ad featuring Teigen and Legend reenacting the meme.

This adoption of a moment from a show about acceptance and personal growth into a symbol of dark humor and displeasure highlights the internet’s irreverent nature. While nothing is sacred online, the continual reliance on the internet for laughs suggests that maybe, in the world of memes, nothing has to be.

For more Meme History, watch this space and subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch new episodes as they become available.

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*First Published: Jan 28, 2024, 3:20 pm CST