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Top 10: Memes of 2018, Honorable Mention #4: Surprised Pikachu

In this top 10, our writer breaks down their favourite memes that came out of 2018. Pray for them and their sanity.


Surprised Pikachu has become something of a universal symbol over the course of 2018.

There’s a few reasons as to why: Pikachu is cute as heck, a nostalgic icon for many young internet users, and plays into the current meme zeitgeist by expertly reflecting experiences of self-sabotage.

Joking about self-sabotage has found itself a welcome medium in memes; take a look at Kermit versus Dark Kermit, or any of these memes in particular.

By cloaking our own folly in ironic self-critique, we can bond with strangers on the internet over how much we fuck ourselves over. We’re all a little imperfect, sometimes in really silly ways. Surprised Pikachu reflects this.

Unlike memes like Kermit versus Dark Kermit, Surprised Pikachu doesn’t demonstrate these fuck-ups as the result of some evil side of ourselves actively trying to convince us to go against our best interests, like some Freudian death drive. Surprised Pikachu reflects you reacting to a bad outcome you already knew full-well was going to happen. You’re not justified in your surprise. You did this to yourself; no separate evil side of you exists. Your good and evil side are one and the same.

For me, this notion brought up by Surprised Pikachu is a reassuring one. It means I can work on myself, tangibly recognize when I’m fucking myself over, and begin to control those urges to screw myself over. I don’t have to reconcile with some externalized, evil version of me.

Some people prefer the good versus evil model, and I respect that. But the popularity of Surprised Pikachu, I think, speaks to an appeal of recognizing the everyday evil and irrationality within ourselves. Who knew such a simple meme could say so much about our cultural condition?

Andrew McWhinney

Andrew McWhinney is a fifth-year English and political science combined honors student, as well as The Gateway's 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief. He was previously The Gateway's 2018-19 Opinion Editor. An aspiring journalist with too many opinions, he's a big fan of political theory, hip-hop, and being alive.

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