Elmo on Fire meme

Meme History: Elmo On Fire

Tumblr called Elmo “our dark lord,” and at some level, we can all feel our world burning every day. 


Kyle Calise


Poor Elmo.

Whether he’s being attacked by aging comedianstrauma dumped on by all of Twitter, or repeatedly immolated for nothing more than the likes, it feels like we could all do better by the little guy

He was once appropriately dubbed “our dark lord of the internet.” His kingdom is the internet, and his power is his ability to be the muppet we all need, and not the one we deserve.

If you’ve never heard of cakewrecks.com, you really should go give it a look through sometime because there are some true gems on there. Perhaps none more so than what ultimately became one of the most popular Sesame Street memes ever—Hellmo.

On November 1st 2012, beside strange looking Dora the Explorer, Cookie Monster, and Scooby Doo-themed desserts, an Elmo 1st birthday cake was posted to the blog

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Shortly thereafter, he was reposted to Tumblr—twice. First simply as a reblog of the original image, then with Elmo superimposed on a gif of flames

The caption? “All hail Hellmo, our dark lord of the internet.”

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“Hellmo” aka “Elmo on Fire,” aka “Elmo Rise” is not the first time the muppet became a meme. Because of the inherent cartoonishness of the character, his meme fame extends through an array of other images.

Of note, we have Elmo sitting on the toilet,

Elmo dancing,

Elmo screaming,

and Elmo Shrugging—all with their own use cases.

But more than a decade after the original postings of Hellmo, this one specifically has been recreated everywhere, for many different reasons. 

TikTokers have recreated it on Fortnite, or as friendship bracelets, shoppers can buy Hellmo merch in any shape and size they want, and countless Elmo toys have actually been set on fire for all the internet to see. Someone on YouTube even crucified a Tickle Me Elmo doll and lit it up using a jet engine.

In the wake of the George Floyd murder, a Black Lives Matter protester in Philadelphia dressed as Elmo, apparently to underscore how insane things were getting.

But on a lighter note, we’ve also seen people simply carve him into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, or make dark—if ultimately just silly—songs posted to YouTube.

So, to state the obvious, this image could and often is used as a stand-in for any number of things—dark joy, pyrrhic triumph, plain old exhaustion, or any combination of the above. 

But if you want anything close to a definitive answer for what this meme actually means, a quick Google Trends search may be a good place to start.

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Search interest for “hellmo” peaked sharply on November 16th, 2020, after which the chart almost never dips back down to previously normal levels.

That was the day after Donald Trump finally acknowledged that Joe Biden won that year’s presidential election. It was also the same day that COVID-19 cases in the United States first surpassed 11 million.

So, therein might lie the real take: Tumblr called Elmo “our dark lord,” and at some level, we can all feel our world burning every day

If someone is going to have to preside over the charred remnants, it had better be someone we all love, or at least wouldn’t mind smashing into a pulp. 

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