"2012 will forever be known as the year the meme went mega-mainstream," declares Dave Stopera at BuzzFeed. As the internet becomes an increasingly integral part of our lives, these silly meditations on everything from political gaffes to orthodontic retainers have claimed a serious hold on our attention. Here, a look at 11 of the best memes from the past year, in rough chronological order:
1. Etch A Sketch
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has one of his top aides to thank for uttering the words that would secure his place in memedom. When asked how the Romney campaign could succeed after moving so far right in the primaries, aide Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that Romney was "like an Etch A Sketch. You kind of shake it up and restart all over again." The comment went viral, and was immortalized with the help of websites like etchasketchmittromney.com.
2. Angelina Jolie's leg
While the 2012 Oscars lost viewers over previous years' telecasts, Angelina Jolie made sure that those who were watching got a good look at her shining white leg, which she insistently thrust through her black dress' dramatic slit in what seemed like a strange bid for attention. Naturally, the internet took to photoshopping Angie's leg into nearly everything.
What started as a funny photo on Reddit of an awkward teenager with orthodontics excitedly displaying her Goosebumps books quickly became inescapable on the internet. The image's first caption, which read "Gerseberms / Mah fravrit berks," opened the floodgates, ultimately creating "a language game akin to Pig Latin or Verlan," says The Economist.
4. Texts from Hillary
After a photo of Hillary Clinton wearing sunglasses and checking her cellphone went viral, two D.C. PR professionals created Texts From Hillary, a blog that juxtaposed the photo with shots of other famous people texting, accompanied by witty captions in which "Hillary" tersely rains on various parades.
5. "Call Me Maybe"
The infectious song of the summer began its rush to ubiquity after Justin Bieber tweeted that it was the "catchiest" song he'd ever heard and proceeded to upload a lib-dub video of him and his friends dancing to it to YouTube. Countless YouTube parodies and shameless sing-a-longs later, the rest is history.
6. McKayla Maroney is not impressed
The star gymnast was the favorite to win gold in the vault competition during the 2012 London Olympics, but a surprise fall left her with a silver medal. The photo of her looking less-than-pleased on the podium — duly inserted into countless other scenarios — was basically a gift from the Internet Gods.
7. The botched fresco
An elderly Spanish woman was just trying to help when she decided to take on the restoration of a centuries-old Ecce Homo fresco. Her amateur brushwork prompted snickers from around the web, and many began photoshopping the sub-par restoration of Jesus' likeness into a variety of scenes.
8. Big Bird
In the first of two meme-able debate comments, Mitt Romney suggested during the first presidential showdown that if he became president, he would cut funding to educational television channel PBS to reduce the deficit. "I'm going to stop other things," he said. "I like PBS, I love Big Bird… but I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for [it]." Sesame Street fans everywhere were immediately up in arms.
9. Binders full of women
During the second presidential debate, Mitt Romney attempted to explain how his company had taken pains to hire women. "I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," the GOP nominee said. Before the debate ended, @Romneysbinder Twitter handles and a "Binders Full of Women" Tumblr hit the internet to poke fun at his all-too-easy-to-take-literally gaffe.
10. Drunk Nate Silver
The New York Times' statistical prognosticator Nate Silver caught a lot of flak from Republican commentators during the campaign for pushing his in-depth poll analyses with extreme confidence. But once the results came in, Silver got the last laugh, having correctly predicted how all 50 states would vote. Silver's astounding accuracy unleashed a barrage of Twitter jokes that roasted him as a soothsayer of all sorts of odds.
Drunk Nate Silver is riding the subway, telling strangers the day they will die
— Dan Levitan (@levitandan) November 8, 2012
11. Grumpy cat
No post on memes would be complete without a cat-humor palate-cleanser, and this profoundly sad-looking cat does the trick.