The Most Impactful Memes of 2020

You don’t need us to tell you that 2020 was a rollercoaster of intense emotions, from frustration to boredom to sadness to anger. You also don’t need us to tell you that memes helped many cope with this long, long year.
Memes were a force in 2020. A force to vent, a force to call for change, a force to find normalcy, a force for finding connection, more than ever, memes became a shared language that bridged gaps during lockdown, but also widened partisan splits. The Cheezburger Cat and Success Kid memes of a younger internet has matured into waves of jokes that betray a more biting, more cynical online community. The memes of 2020 reflected an internet that has become desensitized to the burning house around it and the phrase “this is fine” is more of a plea than a resignation. Memes, and the internet which spawns them, have been sharpened to a fine, sometimes desperate, point.

At the same time, memes continue to exist as they always have: inclusive inside jokes and an entertaining shorthand for life’s very specific experiences. They still spark recognition and even community, whether people connect over COVID-19’s impact on mental health or about waiting to order coffee.
They also continue to be joyfully, immeasurably dumb. Look no further than when a picture of a carp blanketed most of Twitter earlier this month.
Through group chats, social media, oversharing coworkers and so many other ways, memes brought many together, pushed many apart and brought levity to extended crisis after extended crisis. So as 2020 comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some of the memes that captured the true essence of this unprecedented year—and left an indelible impression on the internet in their wake.
 
Bernie Sanders is once again asking
It seems safe to say that no one on the Bernie 2020 campaign team could’ve predicted that a December 2019 video of the then-Democratic presidential candidate candidly requesting donations while strolling down a snowy street would result in the screengrab that launched a thousand memes. But that’s exactly what became of a still from a fundraising ad featuring Sanders bundled up against the cold, asking his supporters for financial aid.
So many people were left wanting this year. And a snug Bernie, chapped in the winter cold, provided the perfect avatar to ask for help.

I am once again asking for approximately (1) molecule of serotonin pic.twitter.com/kLpJADq6Lv
— clodagh (@clopotle) February 2, 2020

someone: *tells me their name*
me 7 seconds later: pic.twitter.com/ZnC0fR63GT
— lucy,, (@curledbitch) February 2, 2020

pic.twitter.com/r7sYI7zjMj
— permanent secretary for paul mccartney (@GraceSpelman) January 30, 2020

when u don’t wanna talk to anyone at a party pic.twitter.com/fOCeApgJCY
— gary from teen mom (@garyfromteenmom) January 30, 2020

Going full Sue Sylvester mode
Glee‘s six-season run may have ended in 2015, but you’d never know that from online memes. While it felt like someone was working to sabotage all our lives from behind the scenes, it’s easy to see why Sue Sylvester—McKinley High’s ultimate saboteur and played by the legendary Jane Lynch—enjoyed a resurgence in meme popularity.
The ruthless cheer coach striving to create the most toxic environment possible was a full 2020 mood in itself, but it wasn’t always an accusation. While many used Sue’s threat as a way to vilify those seeking destruction, the meme was also often used in the first person by those gleefully bringing a bit more chaos into the world.

The sun clocking out every day at 3 pm pic.twitter.com/fseKSEWTb3
— quinta brunson (@quintabrunson) November 24, 2020

shakespeare writing all of his plays pic.twitter.com/Ge02ogduWo
— sippin on that (@vivafalastin) November 28, 2020

me every single day pic.twitter.com/O7nx11Q8CB
— Reece on earth (pa-rum-pum-pum-pum)🎄⛄️ (@connolly_reece) November 28, 2020

my mom telling a story pic.twitter.com/nNjL0jyXY2
— Matt Bellassai (@MattBellassai) November 27, 2020

The President of Disney Channel pic.twitter.com/qx100mVmpq
— AVAVAVAVAVADAM (@the_av_club__) November 24, 2020

psychologists in the 70s pic.twitter.com/vEkbh2uF5d
— Omone (@LoriBeth570) October 5, 2020

Animal Crossing to the rescue
Weeks after New York City shut down, Nintendo released the perfect game to play in the middle of a pandemic. Animal Crossing is a game that relies on players to have ample time to spend collecting, decorating and personalizing things only to show them to other people who have collected, decorated and personalized their own life away. The game is a deeply relaxing, pleasant experience, full of cute characters and charming moments. Millions of people, many of whom claimed not to be regular video game players, dug into crafting their island and learned what it feels like to be deeply in debt to a tanuki.
Though there was no single meme that swept the internet, Animal Crossing inspired multiple riffs, one offs, subgenres and fandoms based around the game. This lovely game allowed an escape in the game and in the memes it helped create.

Everyone this week pic.twitter.com/12VbyomIP2
— Hales (@haleiga) March 28, 2020

 

pic.twitter.com/2xZoV8gTWc
— potch (@potch) March 25, 2020

pic.twitter.com/XoJjuQWrSA
— Olivia| BLM (@idobealysosome) March 22, 2020

 

 

late to the kk slider bandwagon but here’s k.k. stardust pic.twitter.com/tcmzLu0BKp
— amelia h (@txepvi) April 21, 2020

 

KK slider one more time pic.twitter.com/dCgKgt0jax
— Dami Lee (@dami_lee) April 22, 2020

 

My contribution to the K.K. meme pic.twitter.com/pihrOi7Lkn
— Bonnie🌱 (@DestroyerBonnie) April 22, 2020

 
 
Pope Francis gives his blessing
On the internet, nothing is sacred. So it’s no surprise that the concept of Photoshopping the Pope offering up a communion wafer in religious reverence took off on Twitter. Even though people have been editing this particular picture since it first appeared online in 2013, Twitter users put a new spin on the meme by employing the social media site’s tiled image format to make it look like Pope Francis was holding everything from Simba to the Twilight DVDs to an Auntie Anne’s pretzel.

Me at the mall pic.twitter.com/unexHpd9gG
— Garrett Williams (@badboygargar) October 16, 2020

can’t talk right now, im doing hot girl shit pic.twitter.com/KUi9UOSwU4
— αℓу ♥ (@alyxsistexass) December 13, 2020

pic.twitter.com/bXX9Y9bZjB
— alicia (@nerdjpg) October 16, 2020

Hmm pic.twitter.com/XDFTS34Tba
— Jennifer Harrison⁷ (@GeneticJen) October 16, 2020

Recursive Pope pic.twitter.com/9PrsChBAWZ
— Alasdair Beckett-King (@MisterABK) October 16, 2020

BREAKING: Jason Derulo is falling into the Pope’s hands pic.twitter.com/iu4UhkNGLF
— zach silberberg (@zachsilberberg) October 16, 2020

pic.twitter.com/Bn7qlNajMP
— hot girl morg (@morgan_sung) October 16, 2020

How it started vs. how it’s going
No matter what you thought 2020 would bring when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, it probably wasn’t a global pandemic that would send the world into lockdown for months on end. Of course, that’s why a meme format making fun of scenarios where things don’t quite work out how you expect was pretty much universally relatable this year—even if it did start out as a cutesy way to brag about your relationship.
Though this meme can be seen a riff on My Plans vs. 2020, it wasn’t only used to denounce the year. In a refreshingly positive twist, for many this meme became a way to showcase how far they had come in learning skills, achieving goals, sharing childhood pictures or even proudly showing off their identity.

How it started: How it’s going:
I’m gonna write I have a novel during forgotten howquarantine to read
— Randall Otis (@RandallOtisTV) October 13, 2020

how it started how it’s going pic.twitter.com/1YvbfVxylW
— jp (@excesstential) October 9, 2020

How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/gANZuAI0At
— Adz (@adnannhussainn) October 29, 2020

How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/ciVb924eQR
— Tanko 🇨🇲🇬🇭 (@desmondtanko) October 11, 2020

me in 2020:how it started how it’s going pic.twitter.com/gdT4DvdUtu
— Mellon Collie and the Infinite Zadness ⛰☕️ 🧙‍♂️ (@perlhack) December 17, 2020

How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/2M7MiSzxsQ
— Jail the War Criminals (@ZackKopplin) October 16, 2020

Am I doing this right…How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/4YsPXsxmli
— Dr Amber Josephine 🏳️‍⚧️ (@amberjay85) November 27, 2020

The trolley problem
It may be grim, but so is 2020. The trolley problem is a famous thought experiment that asks people to weigh in on the ethical dilemma of whether it’s better to let a runaway trolley take its course and kill a group of people, or divert the trolley and kill only one to save the others. Finding new ways to frame this problem, with the height of internet gallows humor, became a staple of online coronavirus discourse this year.
The meme was often used to highlight binary choices that many believed were not binary choices at all. Can the world’s richest country afford to help keep the economy afloat, or should businesses stay open even if hundreds of thousands of people die? Is wearing a face mask protecting people, those they love and their community, or is it a complete loss of personal liberty?
Trolly problem memes questioned the very nature of these choices, and are meant to highlight the absurdity of limited thinking.

This one’s a real head-scratcher. pic.twitter.com/f0mUAvCk1K
— Juhana Leinonen (@JuhanaIF) March 24, 2020

pic.twitter.com/yZgiF7hnec
— ☕️ Pumpkin Spice Lesbian 🎄 (@zenalbatross) March 24, 2020

2020 as trolley problem pic.twitter.com/KcDHxOeVzW
— objet petit alex (@Alex__1789) December 16, 2020

PLEASE let this be a normal field trip… pic.twitter.com/m4Wg2y3DIa
— cleb (@clebdotcom) December 14, 2020

gingerbread trolley problem pic.twitter.com/EhIC9eR4zH
— Clara R (@ramencult) December 21, 2020

I may have collected too many trolley problem memes pic.twitter.com/FX8BGcaa35
— dave (@davebrarian) December 16, 2020

Nature is healing
As carbon emissions dropped in the early part of the year as COVID-19 brought much of the world to a screeching halt, people began posting heartwarming photos and videos of animals supposedly returning to urban areas. Many of those viral posts turned out to be misleading. But on the bright side, they did set Twitter users up for one of the best parody-driven meme formats of the year: “nature is healing, we are the virus.”

the crocs are finally returning to rivers, nature is healing. we are the virus pic.twitter.com/bXWuJG5PyQ
— CapriCornyCait♑️ (@CapriCornyCait) April 27, 2020

with everyone on lockdown, the lime scooters are finally returning to the river. nature is healing, we are the virus. pic.twitter.com/I0IbCfiMnj
— ron ronson (@taladorei) March 26, 2020

Wildlife finally returning to Thames. Nature is healing🌷 pic.twitter.com/d6uBxSaIAx
— ruby 🐊 (@roobeekeane) March 29, 2020

With everyone on lockdown, the furbies are returning to the forests & the earth is healing. 💜 Nature is amazing. pic.twitter.com/SQv5hPOgG2
— Roxi Horror 💀🌸 (@roxiqt) April 5, 2020

the yodel boys are returning to their natural habitat. nature is healing, we are the virus pic.twitter.com/JX1xyBBigz
— ben wasserman (@benwassertweet) April 6, 2020

This photo of the Hudson River was taken yesterday. The earth is healing. We are the virus. pic.twitter.com/QDTizi2i6Q
— Mark Lee (@meesterleesir) April 12, 2020

D.W. through the fence
Where summer 2016 gave us the Arthur clenching his fist meme, spring 2020 gave us a resurgence in popularity of the D.W. peering longingly through a fence meme.
Scenes from the beloved ’90s PBS children’s show Arthur have long been fodder for relatable online jokes, but perhaps never more so than when people began missing the everyday outings—from getting their nails done to grabbing margs with friends—that make life enjoyable while staying home amid coronavirus. The FOMO is so, so real and, in the simplicity of the image, many immediately recognized their own yearning.

pic.twitter.com/9VXxE2En2G
— savannah gossett (@savgossett) March 31, 2020

pic.twitter.com/ZhzXUJ0LT0
— Ny (@Ny_The_Creator) March 29, 2020

pic.twitter.com/CQRElMZ3TH
— artbylitzy 🔪 (@artbylitzy) March 31, 2020

pic.twitter.com/KUxHdJIw2n
— Sketel 🇯🇲 (@rieslingbeauty) March 29, 2020

Everything is cake
In July, BuzzFeed’s food website Tasty shared a video compilation of a chef cutting into a number of hyper-realistic cakes decorated to look like everyday objects, including a Croc shoe, roll of toilet paper and potted plant. The internet quickly arrived at the conclusion that, in a year when nothing else made sense, it was entirely possible for anything at all to actually to turn out to be cake.
Collective “everything is cake” anxiety took over, and nothing has been the same online since. This post is probably cake.

These Are All Cakes pic.twitter.com/ejArkJHaid
— Tasty (@tasty) July 8, 2020

I sob in despair as I eat my cake wife. She is delicious.
— MehGyver (@TheAndrewNadeau) July 9, 2020

127 hours but when he finally cuts his arm it’s a cake
— 𝕤𝕦𝕟𝕗𝕝𝕠𝕨𝕖𝕣 (@spinubzilla) July 11, 2020

they put u to sleep during surgery bc the government doesn’t want u to know that ur actually a cake
— asiya (@ossiyuh) July 12, 2020

🎶 cut my life into pieces/ my life is actually cake🎶
— Yassir Lester (@Yassir_Lester) July 12, 2020

i have chained my roommate to the kitchen table. i will be cutting him open to see if he’s a cake. he says he isn’t, but that’s exactly something a cake would say https://t.co/DdBFYGmHVg
— royse (@Roysenotes) July 10, 2020

We’re actually living in a world where the person sitting beside you could be a cake https://t.co/ZlR1K8yVts
— 🧚🏾ashleyy (@kanyinsola111) July 11, 2020

i’m so paranoid i thought it was gonna be a cake https://t.co/B3BimEPVkk
— 🌈🌼🌵☁️ SHOP RESTOCKED🕺🏻🍄🛸🌟 (@unhingedpeach) July 12, 2020

Play how you feel
At the end of the summer, Nathan Apodaca reflected our own collective vibe with nothing but a skateboard, some cranberry juice and “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. A short TikTok showed him skating down the street, taking a swig of juice and singing the words “it’s only right for you to play the way you feel.” It was one of the most beautiful moments in 2020.
On TikTok alone, the video received over 77 million views. It caught the attention of Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood. It sent “Dreams” to the very top of iTunes. It spawned a “Dreams” challenge. And gave us all a few seconds to chill this year.

@mickfleetwood
@420doggface208 had it right. Dreams and Cranberry just hits different. #Dreams #CranberryDreams #FleetwoodMac
♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

The Army is weighing-in on the Fleetwood Mac “Dreams” challenge.
Fantastic…pic.twitter.com/VJjG0yXccC
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) October 5, 2020

 
 
Four Seasons Total Landscaping
One of the most bizarre stories that played out on the national stage, which is saying something, happened on Nov. 7, the day most major news networks called Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election. That morning, Rudy Giuliani held a press conference in the parking lot of the Four Seasons Total Landscaping company, located in Northeast Philadelphia between a sex shop and a crematorium.
At 9:35 a.m. that day, President Trump tweeted that there would be a meeting held at the Four Seasons, which many took to be the hotel chain. Ten minutes later, he tweeted again, saying “Big press conference today in Philadelphia at Four Seasons Total Landscaping,” which, no offense to the business, many in the press had never heard of.
Thanks to a tweet from Philly’s Four Seasons hotel, it seemingly came to light that someone in the Trump camp had mistaken the family-owned landscaping business, for the luxury downtown hotel. While the Trump campaign denied there was a mistake, that stopped few people from assuming that the whole press conference, bafflingly held adjacent to a busy, noisy highway, was a huge self-own.

on at least ten separate occasions i have thought about four seasons total landscaping and i laugh harder each time. this thing will get me through the winter
— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) November 8, 2020

I work at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in PA pic.twitter.com/cX6bIMkag8
— Christine Nangle (@nanglish) November 8, 2020

the moral arc of the universe is long but bends toward four seasons total landscaping between the sex shop and the crematorium
— JP (@jpbrammer) November 8, 2020

Sometimes the angel gets it right. 💙💙💙 pic.twitter.com/a524CAhYOb
— lize mo petey (@eliza_morey) November 8, 2020

this is like seeing a celebrity in real life pic.twitter.com/RuK8UkDtV4
— four seasons total zach (@zschutzy) November 13, 2020

Unfortunately, I accidentally bought stock in Pfizer Total Landscaping
— wolf (@hungry_cap) November 9, 2020

Philly’s hottest club is Four Seasons Total Landscaping. They’ve got everything: a crematorium, a dildo store, Rudy Giuliani pic.twitter.com/rFvBlCJi8B
— Drivont (@Drivont) November 8, 2020

guys be like “i know a spot” and take you to four seasons total landscaping
— gary from teen mom (@garyfromteenmom) November 9, 2020

After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a FOUR SEASONS TOTAL LANDSCAPING where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time. pic.twitter.com/BB1IVnPxN6
— ufischiugiate (@nodmcfall) November 7, 2020

Don’t worry about what’s in the vaccine
As misinformation surrounding the recently introduced COVID-19 vaccines has ramped up—a development that’s led to increased vaccine hesitancy among Americans—some pro-vaxxers have turned to memes to comfort those afraid to get vaccinated.
One increasingly popular online bit asks people to reconsider their thoughts on the vaccine if they’ve ever participated in a number of common experiences that could potentially have more worrisome side effects.

If you’ve ever used the same sponge to wash your dishes for more than a few days, don’t worry about what’s in the vaccine.
— Half An Onion (@HalfOnionInABag) December 8, 2020

If you ate public school lunch in america, don’t worry about what’s in the vaccine.
— Whacktose Intolerant (@MillyTamarez) December 7, 2020

if u have stepped into this station do not worry about what’s in the coronavirus vaccine pic.twitter.com/uKG0PBF12r
— 𝓉𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃 𝓉𝓇𝑜𝓁𝓁𝑜𝓅 🚂🌹🚡 (@mta_bitch) December 14, 2020

if you ever used a straight man’s towel don’t worry about what’s in the vaccine
— giabuchi lastrassi (@jaboukie) December 14, 2020

if your mom let you play on the jungle gym inside a mcdonald’s don’t worry about what’s in the vaccine
— Rachel (@femaleredhead) December 12, 2020

If you have ever used a Warped Tour porta potty, don’t worry about what’s in the Covid-19 vaccine.
— Kellie! (@Kellie_McCarthy) December 6, 2020

If you’ve ever kissed Mickey Mouse on the nose, don’t worry about what’s in the COVID-19 vaccine
— shanta baby 🌟🎄 ❄️ (@shannbon) December 7, 2020

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