On Memes

In “The Language of Internet Memes” (2012), Patrick Davidson states, “an internet meme is a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission” (122). He continues by explaining the three components of the meme: the manifestation (how the meme is conveyed), the behavior (how the manifestation is created), and the ideal (the idea expressed) (123). Presented above is the “Bad Luck Brian” meme, an image macro. In this case, the manifestation is the picture of the boy with the braces, while the behavior is the person who created it, utilizing the picture. The ideal, or joke, the actual meme, is something along the lines of, “unlucky outcomes are funny.” This meme is usually formulated as follows, the manifestation, the picture of the boy is employed,  a situation in which he does something or something happens to him etc. is described in the first line, and the unlucky outcome is described in the second line. While these two lines serve the same person across variations of the meme, they sometimes refer to specific facets of culture. For example, there are some that refer to movies such as The Hunger Games.

“Bad Luck Brian” succeeds as an internet meme, for it reflects the culture in which it was created; Americans often find misfortune comical. This reflection of culture is crucial to the success of an internet meme because without it, one would not be prompted to transmit the meme. And after all, transmission is how they become popular. For this reason, one may only be popular in its own culture, or cultures like it. I found this article regarding popular internet memes in China. It also succeeds in its manifestation, the image of the boy with the braces. Because the boy looks very prude, the magnitude of the meme is multiplied; misfortune is comical, but especially so when it happens to someone so prude. Perhaps this may also be culturally reflective.

For some of the best variations of the “Bad Luck Brian” meme, check out “The 50 Funniest Bad Luck Brian Memes.”



Davidson, P. (2012). “The Language of Internet Memes.” In Mandiberg, M. (Ed.). The Social Media Reader
(pp. 120-136). NYU Press


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