The 2018 Internet Moments That Made Being Online Worth It
The internet, as recent Senate reports have shown, can be an awful and confusing place. Hate speech, election meddling, PewDiePie—and we still can't get Twitter to let us edit posts. But every now and then, the garbage fire calms down just a bit and some joy creeps in. This post is for those moments, the times when things are OK and everyone is reminded why we spend so much time on these damn machines in the first place.
BBQ Becky Joins the Ranks of All-Time Great Memes
In the pantheon of all-time memes—Crying Jordan, Ermahgerd, Success Kid, and Kermit’s “But That’s None of My Business” among them—BBQ Becky registers as an instant classic. In April, a white woman called the cops on two black men for grilling in an Oakland park. No arrests were made—no laws had actually been broken—but the emotionally heated exchange was caught on video and uploaded to YouTube, quickly propelling itself across social feeds. Bullish with dark sunglasses reminiscent of Terminator, the now-notorious image of the woman speaking into the phone became an immediate calling card for the kind of common, predatory racism that black people face daily in America: selling lemonade while black; driving while black, mowing the grass while black; sitting in Starbucks while black. On and on and on. What made the BBQ Becky meme so delicious, though, was its mutability: She was Photoshopped into Wakanda and placed behind Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington. There she was again, idling in the ocean in Moonlight, and again at Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Her presence was a reminder of how often black people are racially targeted in America, and how laughably absurd buying into racist beliefs ultimately is. —Jason Parham
Adam Pally Goes Long on the Shortys
It was the sort of unfiltered, unscripted state-of-the-media meltdown that would have made the late Howard Beale proud. In April, actor Adam Pally took the stage at the 11th annual Shorty Awards in New York City with a blinkered expression on his face, as though he'd just realized he was at an event honoring achievements in categories like "Native Advertising" and "Twitter Presence." Pally's response was less savage than it was self-loathingly honest: "Why are people getting awards?" he asked to a room full of Instagram celebs and marketing execs. "What qualifies you to get an award?" He then noted, with stinging disbelief: "I'm giving an award to a company. I'm 36." Pally's nearly 11-minute-long appearance—during which he presented Best Overall Instagram—ended with him being escorted offstage, but the clip of his spiel went online itself (so great for the actor's brand!). Pally later said he didn't mean to offend: "I'm not the anti-brand guy." But for those who've grown exhausted by constant selling out and corporate co-opting of modern online life, his speech seemed relatably mad as hell. —Brian Raftery
Grace Spelman Creates the Ultimate Cure For a Terrible Day
Comedy is a vast and glorious field; whether you like stand-up or improv, scripted shows or podcasts, there's something to bring you to joy. But real life has a way of kicking the crap out of everything else. Comic and writer Grace Spelman discovered this in early 2017 when she trawled Twitter for a BuzzFeed list she was writing—and she discovered it all over again when she put out the call in October for people's funniest real-life stories.
Normally, when you see that a tweet has thousands of replies, you think to yourself, "not a chance in hell I'm reading those!" and you keep it moving. Not with this tweet. With this tweet, you read them all. The woman whose widowed grandmother was trying to respond to Facebook condolences, but kept posting images of a CGI bird falling off a boat. The guy who bailed on going on Splash Mountain with his wife, only for her to get sweet photographic revenge. Self-made childhood Halloween costumes; mangled texts. Five minutes of reading made up for whatever the hell else was ruining your day. (Unless you were the widowed grandmother in question.) —Peter Rubin
Want more? Read all of WIRED’s year-end coverage
Yanny vs. Laurel Divides (and Unites) Everyone
Perhaps there ought to be one every year: a thing that's utterly inconsequential, yet splits the internet into two divergent camps. In 2015, it was "the dress" that seemed to change color. This year, though, it was "Yanny or Laurel?" The argument, if we can call it that, was over an audio recording—a clip that to some people sounded like a person saying "yanny" and to others sounded like "laurel." No one agreed; everyone was frustrated; it was an awfully good time. It also had an incredible backstory in which the recording in question came from an opera singer making audio for Vocabulary.com in 2007 and a bunch of teens sharing the sound on Instagram. The fact that it found its way onto Reddit and became an international obsession is just the icing on the cake. (And perhaps one of the more internet-y things to happen all year.) There are a few explanations for why people hear different things in the recording, and ultimately there is no "right" way to hear it, but we have to ask: Did your ears deceive you? —Angela Watercutter
A Star Is Born Gives Twitter Life
A Star Is Born was a rare bird: a critically-acclaimed, heartfelt, wrenching musical that also happened be beloved on the internet, which opts to love-hate earnest things—if it acknowledges them at all. With the Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga love story, though, the sincerity was just right. Twitter delighted in creating their own twists on Cooper (as Jackson Maine) telling Gaga (as Ally) "I just wanted to take another look at you." Others riffed on Gaga's howling "HAaaAhhhaOhhhhAAAHHhhhh" from the song "Shallow." (Personal fave: this McSweeney's list on the topic.) But even more than that, A Star Is Born became a thing on the internet people could get excited about and rally around. And frankly, this year, the internet needed a few of those. —A.W.
Vogue Releases the Ultimate Rihanna Makeup Video
On May 3, just as the sun sat somewhere high in the afternoon sky, an uncontainable amount of joy washed over my Twitter timeline. To say it was unexpected would be a celestial understatement: the social platform, in most ways, has become a cesspool of cynicism and endless in-fighting. The source of the joy's cause, though: Vogue had released a video clip of Rihanna. But it wasn't just any video clip; it was 10 minutes of the singer offering makeup tips and casually sharing beauty routines. It may seem odd that millions of people would find joy in a video of Rihanna applying makeup and talking about life, but the doomsdayish reality of 2018 is such that the poetry of life springs from the most unexpected passageways. The video's pull—Rihanna's magnetism, really—is evident and inescapable. Stars are quick to erect partitions around their private lives, and platforms like Instagram only make the curation and choreography that much easier, but Rihanna opens up in a way that makes you feel like an old friend. She's honest and genuine and refreshingly funny. It was the perfect slice of internet goodness in a year besieged by all manner of gloom. Or, as one Twitter user put it: "Rihanna's makeup tutorial video for Vogue just cured my depression and das all imma say bout dattt." —J.P.
One Genius Creates the Ultimate Marvel/Obama Mashup
When Key & Peele's fourth season kicked off in 2014—remember the time?—it did so with a sketch that lampooned Barack Obama's effortless code-switching. From person to person the then-president walked, perfectly calibrating his handshake/dap/pound/hug to fit whoever he was greeting. Almost exactly four years later, an enterprising Portlander with the Twitter handle @matte_bIack (that's an uppercase i), created perhaps the only thing that could heal this divided nation of ours.
What is it that makes the remix so perfect? Is it the bare cordality accorded to the Thor movies? How eerily the Captain America mini-franchise hews to "started from the bottom now we here"? How Ghost Rider manages to be the only possible movie that could map to a chilly handshake with a toddler? We're not claiming to have the answers; we're just glad this video exists. —P.R.
The 'In My Feelings' Challenge Beats All Other Drake Memes
It's long been argued that no artist currently working today is better at providing meme fodder than Drake. The Views album cover meme. The "Hotline Bling" meme. There are more than most people can count. But the "In My Feelings" challenge might end up being the Drake Meme to Rule Them All. It started in July when comedian Shiggy posted a video of himself dancing to the song and thus launching the #InMyFeelingsChallenge. Soon, everyone from Ciara to Will Smith was posting videos of themselves replicating Shiggy's moves while listening to Drake's earworm bounce track. Drake being Drake, he immediately tapped into the viral phenomenon and brought the challenge to New Orleans for the song's official video and brought on Shiggy for a cameo. The video went on to get more than 160 million views, going viral all on its own—and proving that, yes, everyone was riding. —A.W.
Zendaya Is Meechee
Innumerable musicians have labored years, even decades, to write a song that might have lasting resonance. Imagine their feelings when "Zendaya Is Meechee" racked up more than 4 million views in a matter of hours. It started on September 22, when comedian Gabriel Gundacker uploaded a 50-second masterpiece to Twitter. In the video, Gundacker passes by a row of promotional posters featuring the characters of Smallfoot, an animated kids movie about a band of Yetis, and begins singing their names set to a soaring orchestral soundtrack, complete with backing vocals. It's a simple premise, but the irresistible earworm's real appeal is how, as Vox put it, Gundacker "homed in on the essence of [the movie's] marketing appeal: big-name actors playing ridiculously named characters." Gundacker's silly-yet-heartfelt delivery also provided welcome relief from a vicious news cycle that included sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reportedly invoking the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. When the world is on fire, sometimes it's good to remember that Zendaya is Meechee—and LeBron James is Gwangi. —Andrea Valdez