Some feel that we as a society are sitting in a burning room calmly drinking a cup of coffee, telling ourselves this is fine. That’s not fine.
This is Fine: The History
On January 9th, 2013, a six-panel webcomic officially titled “On Fire,” but soon to be known ubiquitously by its opening line, “This is fine” was posted to webcomic Gunshow by cartoonist KC Green. You might know him from other popular memes, such as “Mother of God,” “I’m okay with this,” and “Staredad.”
In an interview, Green stated that at the time he created it, he’d been taking antidepressants for the first time and was trying to get the dosage right.
So, it was, at least in part, a commentary on the experience of feeling like everything was falling apart while trying to remain positive amidst chaos.
Path to Virality
The journey of this sentiment began when the first two panels were reposted on 4chan and then Reddit, quickly circulating with captions such as ‘Accurate Representation of me dealing with university stress.’
However, it wasn’t until about a year and a half later that the meme gained significant traction in mainstream culture. In a September 2014 Reddit post, user SPIDER_MAN captioned it as ‘basically how I’m handling life right now,’ which received over 1400 upvotes on Reddit and 4300 on Imgur. This marked the beginning of its widespread momentum in the meme world.
Over the following two years, the ‘This is fine’ meme increasingly became a popular internet shorthand to depict someone enduring chaotic or difficult situations despite things being decidedly not fine.
‘This is Fine’ and the 2016 election
The meme’s breakout moment came in the summer of 2016 when it burst onto the mainstream news stage. On July 25th, 2016, during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, the Republican National Committee’s official Twitter account, @GOP, posted the meme with a shrug emoticon and hashtags #DemsInPhilly and #EnoughClinton.
This usage prompted Casey Green to ask the GOP to delete their post, and the next day, he responded with an updated version on Twitter, created by political cartoon The Nib, featuring a cackling elephant instead of a dog.
Eight days later, Green and The Nib released a sequel to the original comic, reflecting a shift from willful ignorance to horrified realization. When asked about this change, Green commented to the Daily Dot, ‘Nothing specific. I mean, LOOK at 2016. The news is insane with weird and sad stories. The political climate with the upcoming election is BONKERS, and well, it’s just a lot to take in and ‘ignore’ like the original comic implies.’
The ‘This is Fine’ legacy
The meme continued to thrive, gaining an animated version aired on Adult Swim and being dubbed ‘The Meme This Year Deserves‘ by The New York Times. It was used to comment on a variety of viral news stories about disasters and even referenced by Senator Richard Burr during a Senate intelligence hearing on foreign influence in U.S. politics via social media.
The meme’s popularity peaked in March 2020, according to Google Trends. That year, Funko released a ‘This is fine’ dog bobblehead, adding to the meme’s merchandise which included plushies, Fortnite cosmetics, an 8-bit video game, and more.
In a 2023 ten-year anniversary retrospective, The Atlantic hailed it as the meme that defined a decade.
The sequel concludes with the main character sitting back, having extinguished the fire but at a great cost. His house may be burned down, but now we can buy t-shirts with his famous quote and cuddle with a soft teddy bear version of him. Truly, this is fine.