The internet is a famously fickle place – “One day you’re in, the next you’re out” (to use Heidi Klum’s catchphrase from Project Runway completely out of context). Many memes came and went in 2018, most now lying forgotten in the dusty archives of the world wide web, but a triumphant few infused new meaning into a still from a 1991 anime show.
The still, from the Japanese series The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird, is from a sequence in which a robot tries to convince a policeman that he is a human, failing comically at the task. At one point, he points to a butterfly and asks if it is a pigeon.
The screenshot has for years been making the rounds on Tumblr, the beating heart of meme culture, but in 2018 it had its moment in the mainstream sun on Twitter and Instagram. The scene ticked all the boxes – it could be altered to any situation, had a delicious element of mockery, could help make sense of the bizarre ups and downs of the world with sarcasm and humour, and most importantly, pointed out instantly recognisable scenarios of oblivion. It was destined to go viral.
Every corner of the internet was soon using the meme to give vent to their personal struggles.
It was used to point out the problems of gender and privilege:
It morphed into hilarious and goofy pop culture references:
And scathing comments on just about everything imaginable:
Of course, as with all things popular, brands soon got in on the action, signalling the inevitable end:
The meme hit peak saturation even before mid-2018, slowly disappearing from Twitter timelines and Instagram grids, but we’ll always have the memories of scrolling, nodding and chortling.
2019, you have a tough act to follow.