In September 2012, the world was introduced to a very grumpy-looking cat named Tard (short for Tardar/Tartar Sauce) in this Reddit post. It was the brother of Grumpy Cat's owner, Arizona resident Tabatha Bundesen, who made that fateful Reddit post and catapulted Tard into super-stardom. Redditors immediately began Photoshopping images of Tard with wry and decidedly grumpy captions, and soon the Grumpy Cat meme was everywhere.
Since becoming web-famous in September, Tard has gone on to make television appearances, has visited the offices of BuzzFeed in New York City, and has infiltrated web sites near and far. Tard, who is a girl cat, by the way, even has her own Twitter account, @GrumpyCatTard.
2. Drunk Baby
In June of 2012, Reddit user MaryjaneBrewington uploaded a funny photo of her baby sitting next to a pint of beer, along with the caption, "She tells the worst jokes." Within hours of hitting the internet, the photo became an advice image macro. Internet users added their own witty catchphrases to the image, causing Drunk Baby to go viral in a matter of days.
This is another example of an advice image macro turning into a viral meme. In June of 2012, Justin Bieber super-fan Laina Walker uploaded a song parody called 'JB Fanvideo" to YouTube. In the video, Walker jokes about stalking her boyfriend and never letting him leave her side, leading the funny people of the internet to take a freeze frame from her video (at a moment when she looked particularly crazy and wild-eyed) and add text about how overly-attached she is.
For her part, Walker has been a completely good sport about her newfound internet fame, posing for pictures with Imgur users, raising money for charity, and starting her own OAG website, Facebook fan pages, and Twitter feeds. The OAG wa also one of the 10 best web humor videos of the year here on About Web Humor.
At the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London, United States gymnast McKayla Maroney won a silver medal in spite of turning in a nearly flawless vault perfomrance. As Maroney stood on the podium, receiving her medal, a photographer captured her scowling and looking, well, not impressed. The image quickly spread around the web, with BuzzFeed pointing out that Maroney looks a bit like a "mean girl," with her sour expression. Within days, a new advice meme macro was born, and McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed was born.
Web users started Photoshopping the scowling Maroney into as many funny scenarios as possible. This meme had staying power; several months after hitting the web, Maroney found herself in the Oval Office, displaying her now-signature smirk with President Barack Obama in an official White House photo.
In October of 2011, Reuters photographer Kevin Lamarque took a photo of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while she was wearing sunglasses and checking her mobile phone, aboard a military C-17 Globemaster III flight. The photograph was featured on Reuters and in a TIME magazine photo article. Two friends, Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe, who both work in Public Relations in the Washington D.C. area, saw the image and created a Tumblr blog called Texts From Hillary, effectively creating a new viral meme sensation.