9 Regular People Who Became Memes
1. College Freshman
As a first-semester freshman, Griffin Kiritsy agreed to do an interview for Reader’s Digest, complete with a photo shoot on the UNH campus. “No big deal,” he said. “I can pose for a few snapshots.” The images ended up in other articles (mostly boring) about freshman life and college finances. Then the Reddit community got their hands on the one that will forever be known as College Freshman, the inept and ill-informed young adult who is almost always killed while attempting new things. In a recent Reddit chat, Kiritsy admits that many of the memes mimicked his first year of college, saying “the laundry jokes, the bragging about parties I went to, and all of the dying ones happened to me.” He also reports that being a meme hasn’t had any real negative effects on his life: “I plan on being the College Freshman until... I die.”
2. Suburban Mom
Carly Phillips is a romance novelist and mother of two (and a few pets). In May 2011, her author photo was appropriated for the Sheltering Suburban Mom series… a fact she learned just recently, thanks to a Redditor who posted a link on her Facebook fan page. When someone explained to her that her image was used to make jokes about uptight, hypocritical and sometimes racist mothers, Philips says her “initial reaction was horror and fury and hurt.” After she was told that the joke wasn’t about her, but about overly protective moms who don’t practice what they preach, Phillips said she felt a bit better about the whole thing. “I never want anyone who sees it to think that I, the real mom/person ... believes any of that stuff, especially the derogatory, inflammatory, prejudiced things in there.” Especially since she’s the ‘cool mom’ who let her kids watch R-rated movies and stay up too late.
3. Skeptical Baby
In November 2011, Dave, Rhiannon and their son Mason took a trip to the Museum of Natural Sciences, where they had some family photos taken by photographer Jarod Knoten. They came out so well that Dave posted one to Reddit. Within hours, Dave’s son Mason was the star of his very own meme. Skeptical Baby just can’t believe the things people with object permanence have to say about anything. The joke usually follows the “You mean to tell me…” format, but there are a few variations.
4. Sheltered College Freshman
Kerin Portillo is a model who lives in Bogota, Colombia. She was featured in a series of iStockphoto images portraying students in a library. A crop of one of these original pictures is the template for Sheltered College Freshman, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
Generally the captions are based on misunderstood slang and sexual innuendo, but occasionally they just reflect the surprise a sheltered college freshman might have at finding out how life actually works. A counter series called Sheltered No More features another shot of Portillo, this time seated at a bar in a red dress, which portray her as SCF’s polar opposite. From all we can tell, Portillo has been completely silent about her viral fame.
5. Scumbag Steve
No one has embraced memedom like Blake Boston. His mom took a picture of him wearing a fur coat and brown Red Sox hat when he was 16 and posted it to her MySpace page. A few years later, in January 2011, the first Scumbag Steve series reached the front page of Reddit. The images portrayed Boston as a generic scumbag who borrows things permanently and goes out of his way to be a jerk. In that initial post, a commenter identified Boston and another verified that Boston was Weezy B from the rap group Beantown Mafia. Since then, Boston has mostly embraced his fame, giving interviews, filming a video Q&A, sharing Scumbag info on Twitter, and even reblogging his favorite Scumbag Steve images on Tumblr. When asked whether he wants to do a reality show, Boston says, “Ha, ppl ask me that all the time man. Idk tho.”
6. Senior Freshman
Nola Ochs graduated from Fort Hays State University at the age of 95, setting a Guinness World Record and earning herself some coverage on most major media outlets. She went on to earn a masters in Liberal Studies at the age of 98, graduating alongside her own granddaughter. A picture of Ochs in class (captioned “Raises hand / ‘As a mother…’”) appeared on Quickmeme in July 2011. Since then, the world’s oldest college graduate has been Senior Freshman, an elderly woman who’s eager to learn but also intimately familiar with the last couple hundred years of history. (Like College Freshman, she often dies while participating in class.) To date, Ochs has not commented on her Internet stardom and she is (probably) not on Twitter.
7. Success Kid
Little Sammy Griner wasn’t yet a year old in August 2007 when his mother, photographer Laney Griner, snapped a picture of him on the beach with a handful of sand. She titled it “Why I oughta…” on Flickr, and by January 2008 the picture was making the rounds on MySpace with the caption I Hate Sandcastles. It traveled all the way to a Russian Photoshop thread before finding its way to Advice Animals as Success Kid in January 2011. (For Success Kid, everything goes better than expected.) The image of Sammy is so popular that Virgin Media purchased rights to use it on billboards in the UK, and according to Laney Griner, Sammy will be featured on Vitamin Water bottles later this year. Here he is at age 5:
8. Too Damn High
If your rent is too damn high, Jimmy McMillan is your guy. Or he would be, if you were a voting resident of New York in 2010, when McMillan was running for governor. His appearance at the Gubernatorial Debate that year was uploaded to YouTube, and that’s when the innerwebz discovered Rent is Too Damn High, the name of McMillan’s political party and meme, based on his oft-repeated catchphrase. Captions almost always follow the “X is too damn high!” format, but variations featuring words which rhyme with “high” tend to be popular, as well -- “The end is too damn nigh,” for example.
Since becoming Reddit famous and bolstered by his presidential run (currently still underway!), McMillan has spent his time singing with Occupy protesters, hanging out on campuses, and being parodied on Saturday Night Live. Sometimes he reminds people that rent is too damn high.
9. Hipster Barista
Dustin Mattson has placed in both regional and national barista competitions. He’s also the face of Hipster Barista, the haughty connoisseur of java and things that are not yet cool. Because it comes at the expense of respect for his career, Mattson isn’t exactly excited about his minor internet celebrity, as he reveals in an interview with Eater.com: “If anyone were to see me and my coworkers' work in the café, they'd see that it doesn't quite match up to most of the jokes made against the ‘Hipster Barista.’”