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Top 10 Memes of 2013 - and What We Can Learn From Them

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2013 was the year of the grumpy cat, even if the grumpy meme officially debuted last September on Reddit. The grumpy expression -- one that conveys a casual sense of disgust for not being sufficiently entertained by the humans set before it -- inspired millions of internet-using humans to share in the cat’s grumpiness, launching so many celebrity appearances for the cat that its owner had to take a leave of absence from her job at the Red Lobster.

Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, made an appearance at SXSW, sold its life rights for a Garfield-like movie deal, and made the front page of the Wall Street Journal - all in 2013. Such is the life of a meme: appear on Reddit one day and get a movie deal the next.

So given that Grumpy Cat was 2013’s number one meme hands-down, let’s take a look at the next nine top memes of the year to see what it says about us and our terrible Internet habits.

1. What Does the Fox Say?

Released officially as “The Fox” in September, the parody of a synth-pop club dance track made by two Norwegian brothers who double as a Norwegian comedy duo, “What Does the Fox Say?” is as ridiculous as memes can get. Whatever the fox says, “The Fox” has been viewed more than 276 million times on YouTube since September 3. What we learned from this meme is that in Norway, foxes sound like car alarms, apparently.

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2. Cat Dressed as a Shark Chasing a Duck on a Roomba

Just describing this two-minute YouTube video is cuteness SEO overload. It’s a cat, dressed as a shark, chasing a ducking, while riding on a Roomba, which in case you don’t know, is a robot vacuum cleaner. Although it was uploaded late last year, this meme’s viral liftoff occurred in the summer of 2013 during Shark Week, obviously. Which brings us to the next crazy meme of 2013...

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3. Sharknado

Perhaps the result of the producers of “Snakes on a Plane” taking over the Sci-Fi Network by way of the Weather Channel, this pre-planned disaster of a cut-rate TV movie that gives TV movies a bad name on purpose somehow transcended its terribleness when it aired on Sci-Fi in July, prompting everyone on Twitter to say “Omg omg OMG #sharknado,” and by everyone, we mean even Mia Farrow.

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4. Harlem Shake

Just think it was only a year ago that we were declaring how we were “con los terroristas” with their jump-cut edits and NSFW dancing. If you can handle a 16-minute epic super-cut of various Harlem Shake versions, you can find it here, where it has been viewed over 5.7 million times. What does this say about us, besides the fact that we are obviously con los terroristas? Maybe that we love Harlem, even though most of us have never been there.

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5. The Super Bowl Blackout

While not a meme itself, the 33-minute blackout to start the second half of the Super Bowl in February gave the entire national television audience a half hour to play on the Internet. Beyonce was the loser, and Oreo was the winner. The lesson we learned here is that if you are the star of the halftime show that directly precedes a blackout, you are going to get blamed for it and BuzzFeed is going to post unflattering photographs of you. And if you are a delicious cookie with a quick-draw social media manager, you can win the internet.

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6. Hot Dog Legs

When you need a good brain eraser, head on over to the Hot Dog Legs Tumblr, where you can see all sorts of people who discovered in 2013 that taking a selfie of your own legs makes them look like hot dogs. This is a convergence of the internet’s collective obsessions with selfies, sex and food.

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7. Selfies at Funerals

While Hot Dog Legs combines selfies with food, the Tumblr account Selfies at Funerals combines the self-made photograph with mourning the loss of someone you love. And apparently, 2013 was all the rage for it because President Obama took a selfie at the Nelson Mandela funeral, so that ties a pretty red bow on this. Take selfies at funerals, people. It would be rude not to.

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8. Doge

Since cats usually rule the meme world, it is noteworthy that one of the best memes of 2013 was Doge, a dog-themed meme that earned its own subreddit this year by being so viral and doge-like. And no, not the Doge of Venice. Just Doge, as in a purposeful misspelling of “dog” or “doggie.” It surprised Gawker as being an actual funny meme when everyone at Gawker had just dismissed all memes as so 2012. And it became so popular that this Seamless ad was OK’ed by someone there. Much viral. So meme.

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9. Twerking

As truly sorry as its makes us to say it: the only thing that stopped 2013 from being the Year of the Twerk was Grumpy Cat. Without Tardar Sauce the Grumpy Cat, this year would have been dominated by whatever it was that Miley Cyrus did at whichever awards show it was where she did that nasty thing with what’s-his-name. According to Google Trends, we reached “peak twerk” in August 2013. Hopefully, our long dark twerking hour is behind us.

Feeling nostalgic for simpler times? These were the top memes of 2012.

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