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The memes of 2012


Expose yourself to 10 of the year's viral superstars. From Gangnam Style to Angelina Jolie's right leg, these memes are truly infectious.

Let us know your favourites from the past 12 months in the comments section or tweet @StylistMagazine.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Images: Rex Features, Time Magazine

Gangnam Style

Korean rapper Psy's Gangnam Style video has been watched almost a billion times since he rode his invisible horse onto YouTube in July. He's duetted with Madonna and everyone from Britney Spears to Ban Ki-moon has gone Gangnam Style in public. Between Psy and YouTube success story Justin Bieber, it makes you wonder why the X Factor is still bothering.

The ditty - mocking Korea's affluent Gangnam area - has everything needed for a viral monster; a catchy hook, natty outfits and a ridiculous, temptingly imitable dance. Psy performs those equestrian-inspired moves deadpan. He's got the clothes of 50s Elvis and the attitude of Freddie Mercury. The meme potential is seemingly endless - 'Gandalf Style' being a popular parody.

Ikea Monkey

Like many an Ikea visitor before him, this seven-month-old monkey got lost on a trip to one of the Swedish furniture stores. Whether it was a winter coat-related tantrum or simple wanderlust, Darwin gave his owner the slip earlier this month and took his chances inside a Toronto branch. Shoppers managed to veer off the coloured floor arrows to gawp at the well-dressed Macaque and an image of him looking wistfully out of the window went viral. An excellent post that fuelled the meme came courtesy of Reddit user go4.

Call Me Maybe

"Your stare was holdin', Ripped jeans, skin was showin'"

Pop ingénue Carly Rae Jepsen's horrifyingly catchy musical plea "Here's my number, call me maybe" to her broody, flesh-flashing neighbour reached Number One in umpteen countries, was endorsed by the likes of swag king Justin Bieber and parodied on everything from business cards to dog videos.

Mo Farah Running Away From Things

First there was Kim Jong Il looking at things. Now comes the slightly more athletic version, based on Mo Farah's priceless victory moment. From Jurassic Park dinosaurs to Pamplona bulls, there’s not much the double Olympic champion can’t run away from in Luke Harvey's tumblr.

Overly Attached Girlfriend

Justin Bieber set his Beliebers a challenge - to compose a Girlfriend song to match his Boyfriend single. With Bieber's lyrics including the arguably creepy "If I was your boyfriend, never let you go, Keep you on my arm girl, you'd never be alone" one fan decided to create a parody entry, complete with manic comedy smile and purposeful staring eyes. Cue a million and one Overly Attached Girlfriend image macros.

Kony 2012

In March US charity Invisible Children released a half hour video on the continuing atrocities of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. It formed part of the idealistic Kony 2012 campaign to oust the LRA leader by the end of the year. The initiative attracted critics as well as supporters and is unlikely to succeed in its ultimate aim. Nonetheless, the viral campaign was a success in drawing attention to the mass murderer's crimes, as well as the wider issues at play in Uganda.

Nick Clegg Apology

In the first ever televised debate between the political party leaders, the most common phrase was “I’m with Nick”. Fast forward to 2012 and the phrase “I’m mocking Nick” seems more suitable. In something of a departure from usual political behaviour Nick Clegg actually apologised to the electorate for failing to deliver on his tuition fee promises. And the response? This pop song and, if you believe the opinion polls, a 10% drop in support.

Angelina Jolie's Leg

"If you’ve got it, flaunt it" as the saying goes. Angelina Jolie certainly took it on board for her Academy Award appearance in February. But we guess that even she didn’t know how far that leg could go on for. First the Oscars, then the world.

Texts From Hillary

Hillary for President in 2016? Who knows, but we wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Time photographer Diana Walker's badass black and white photograph of the US Secretary of State gets the ball rolling for a Hillary candidate campaign team.

It inspired the Texts From Hillary Clinton tumblr, showing the hilariously cutting comments "Hillz" texts to a range of famous faces clamouring for her attention. One of our favourites is this cheeky response to Republican rival Condi.


No it’s not the latest protest by militant farmers over the supermarket squeeze on milk prices. The craze of pouring a pint of milk over your head in public was started by students from Newcastle. It’s like Geordie Shore meets Cleopatra. A happy offshoot that's developed from milking is the entirely more Christmas-related trend of ‘porting’.



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