A Brief History of Memes in the Media

Recently the American airline Delta Airlines released their newest in-flight safety video. In potentially the most internet centric video to be unleashed to date the airline have employed numerous YouTube alumni to accompany the usual instructions on seatbelt, smoking and finding the nearest exit.

The airline provided a full list of who was involved which you can read below:

0:03 Keyboard Cat
0:18 Double Rainbow Guy
0:26 Annoying Orange
0:30 Roomba Cat
0:45 Rahat’s Prank
1:05 Evolution of Dance
1:25 Slow Mo Guy
1:43 Harlem Shake
1:51 Deltalina
1:52 Screaming Goat
2:02 Internet Browser
2:23 Peanut Butter Jelly Time
2:31 Dramatic Chipmunk
2:48 Charlie Bit My Finger
3:23 Clicking Finger
3:51 Overly Attached Girlfriend
4:02 Ice Bucket Challenge
4:09 Dancing Baby
4:15 Hamsters Eating Burritos
4:25 Nyan Cat
4:32 Doge
4:48 Mentos & Coke


The root of the meme

Merriam-Webster defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The fact that the word is even in the dictionary highlights that the internet is leaking into the real world. Memes have regularly featured in a number ofdifferent mediums to get people on the internet talking. In possibly the most 21st century version of recycling ever people are using an image or video a lot of people are talking about (or talked about five years ago) to make the same people talk about their product.

Of course this idea was a big hit with advertising companies. In 2012 you couldn’t pass a billboard without seeing the recognisable clenched fist of Success Kid shilling for Virgin Media. Billboards were also the medium chosen by the instant messaging service HipChat, who decided it was time for the ‘Y U NO Guy’ to get his time in the sun.

Possibly the most notable example of meme’s in advertising was created to promote the mass multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) phenomena World of Warcraft. They brought in everyone’s favourite Texas Ranger and star of Dodgeball, Chuck Norris and by utilising his general aura coupled with the almost infinite number of ‘facts’ that have surrounded him since seemingly the creation of the internet they fashioned the perfect equation of memorability and meme. Memerable if you will. 


As well as being used to sell you a product memes have been present in a host of artistic endeavours.

American alternative rock band Weezer decided to employ a number of YouTube celebrities to appear in the video for their 2008 song Pork and Beans.


Brooklyn based rapper OnCue decided to go one better in his video for his song ‘No Way’ as he plants himself into familiar images and videos including Condescending Wonka, I Like Turtles and even becomes the object of (a poor imitation) Overly Attached Girlfriend’s affections.


Welcome to the mainstream

In addition to music videos we’ve seen a number of TV shows attempt to use discussions of viral videos as a way to fill out the 30 minutes slots between companies trying to sell you something. Take your pick of Tosh.0, Rude Tube and Virtually Famous, without the audience fascination of viral videos and memes the stars of these shows would fade even further into obscurity. Any mention of TV shows based around the success of viral videos can’t ignore the misogynistic elephant in the room otherwise known as Dapper Laughs. The controversy that surrounded him and his brief run as a star on ITV2 highlighted that sometimes somethings are best left on the internet.

As well as human depictions of memes we’ve also seen them branch into the world of animation thanks to four young boys who live in Colorado. South Park parodied a number of YouTubers who eventually reached a grisly and rather graphic end in the episode ‘Canada on Strike.’


The true example of when memes really leak into the outside world is when everyone in an area is aware of them and talk about them. Sounds like hell on earth to some but this is exactly what happens at ROFLCon. ROFLCon saw a number of internet memes meet their fans to discuss their life outside of the cyberworld. Unfortunately for all you memeheads (trademark pending) out there after the last convention in 2012 it was decided by higher powers (the overlords of the internet I assume) that there wasn’t going to be another convention.

As this world is such a crazy place and as memes become even more integrated into the mainstream we could maybe one day see ROFLCon back up and running in the future. When that glorious day is announced maybe we can all ride Delta Airlines – the world’s most meme-friendly airline to next meme mecca.

What do you think about memes? Have your say in the comments section below.