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Everything's Still Quite Bad, So Here Are the Best Memes of 2021

Tom Nicholson
·7 min read
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From Esquire

So here we go: 2021. The plague year is gone. We emerge, blinking blearily, into a brave new dawn. We keep blinking, then start squinting. This looks... very similar to that old, crap year we just got rid of. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Wake me up if the Euros ends up happening.

Yes, we're sick of it all, but one of the few bright spots of the last year was that all the extra time we had to devote to pottering around online led to some truly choice memes. With most of us likely to spend the early part of this year in a tier numbered between three and nine, we're going to have to meme our way through the dark winter months until everything gets brighter again.

So, we've collected the best memes of 2021 here for you. The best memes from 2020 are right here, though we understand if you don't want to put yourself through all that again.

That Texas lawyer with the cat filter on Zoom

In the future, the pandemic's equivalent of 'What's the deal with airline food?' will be unfortunate Zoom backgrounds and face filter. But just because you've seen it before, it doesn't mean you'll be in any way immune to Texas lawyer Rod Ponton's panicked explanation to Judge Roy Ferguson of Texas’s 394th judicial district: "I’m here live, I am not a cat". Ponton, who seems to be genuinely trapped inside a baby kitten's face, is commendably professional about the whole thing.

Jackie Weaver and the Handforth Parish Council

Up until February 2021, the sleepy parish of Handforth in Wilmslow, Cheshire was best known for its easy access to Manchester airport and the M6. But all that changed when Shaan Ali, a 17-year-old from East London, tweeted out two minutes of highlights from a Zoom parish council meeting in December.

Jackie Weaver, parachuted in to help keep the beleaguered parish council moving after councillors kept bickering among themselves, bore the brunt of even more bickering. But instead of bowing to pressure, Weaver started kicking councillors out: first Brian Tolver, who questioned Weaver's authority; then vice-chair Aled Brewerton (and unidentified friend) and Barry Burkill felt the full force of Weaver's boot.

(Speaking as a Cheshire expat, the mixture of bureaucratic glibness and foaming indignation at anything going wrong is a pretty solid map of my home county's personality.)

Every single moment of the meeting's been memed or quoted in some way: "You have no authority here, Jackie Weaver!"; "Read the standing orders! Read them, and understand them!"; Weaver declaring herself Britney Spears; Julie's I pad. It's the This is Spinal Tap of viral videos right now.

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And then Iain Duncan Smith made a joke about it in Parliament and ruined it. Still, if you're at a loss as to what to watch tonight, the Handforth parish council meeting is on YouTube in its entirety and runs to a tight 90 minutes.

Bernie Sanders and his mittens

The first genuine mega-meme of 2021 came, as you might have expected, from Joe Biden's inauguration. It wasn't Joe himself, though, with his air of steady competence and stable boringness. It was meme machine Bernie, and the mittens he was gifted on the campaign trail in Vermont. As soon as that picture of him sat like a cat, with his mitts crossed, was turned into a background-free PNG file, all bets were off. Bernie went on a road trip around the internet.

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After that it started getting a bit silly.

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I mean, really. We've since found out that those mittens were a gift from teacher Jen Ellis and that they're made of recycled materials and are technically 'smittens', an amalgam of mittens and a sweater. Ellis has since run out of said smittens, so don't both trying and track any down.

"Thanks for all the interest in Bernie's mittens!" she wrote on Twitter. "I'm so flattered that Bernie wore them to the inauguration. Sadly, I have no more mittens for sale. There are a lot of great crafters on Etsy who make them."

There's no chance of Ellis chucking in the day job to go full time on the smittens. "I hate to disappoint people, but the mittens, they're one of a kind and they're unique and, sometimes in this world, you just can't get everything you want," she told Jewish Insider.

If you're after more Bernie memes – and why on earth wouldn't you be – we collected some of our favourites in a Twitter Moment right here.

Sea shanty TikTok

Right back in July last year, Scottish postman Nathan Evans began putting up a TikToks of himself singing sea shanties. Just after Christmas, he put up a very nice one in which he harmonised with himself a 19th century seafaring ditty called Soon May the Wellerman Come.

Which is lovely on its own, and it's racked up 4.3 million views. But early in January, the world realised that TikTok had done its Ratatouille: the Musical thing with it, and turned it into a swoon-worthy piece of folk vocalising.

That was the point at which it went properly overground. As in, the New York Times did a piece on it and Evans got roped in to explain himself on the Today programme.

"I did a sea shanty back in July 2020, just because someone had asked in a comment under one of my videos," Evans told Radio 4. "So I uploaded that and it reached 1.1m views. I thought there must have been a demand.

“People were looking forward to more and they were commenting underneath every video after that saying can you sing this one, can you sing that one – it was just requests from people for me to sing them."

Evans reckons that despite how tricky that alto line sounds, the simplicity of the sea shanty is its strength, as well as the communal sing-along aspect.

"I think its the fact you can get everyone involved, everyone can join in, you don’t need to necessarily be able to sing, the words are simple and it is just the beat and the voices. I think it’s a bit of everything that appeals to everyone."

Well, not quite everything and everyone. The missing ingredient was, it turns out, an absolutely belting bassline.

Don't worry about what's in the vaccine

As you've probably seen, there's a bit of resistance to the newly (and speedily) developed vaccines going around, and a lot of misinformation. Claims that the various different jabs aren't safe (they are) or are part of some conspiracy to monitor you (they aren't) or could make your feet turn into a mass of purple sores (they can't) have been flying around since early December, and there are a lot of other baseless, unscientific ideas floating on the breeze too.

Obviously, you're not automatically an idiot if scare stories scare you. That's rather the point. But, as many people pointed out, all of the vaccines are a lot safer than many of the things you do and ingest on a fairly regular basis.

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The outside world is full of far more potentially dangerous fluids than a rigorously tested vaccine.

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And especially if you're in North London, just walking to get the bus could potentially land you with Legionnaires' disease.

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There's been a dead pigeon hanging from that bridge for months now. When will it drop? And who will the pigeon of Damocles drop on? For others, perspective came in the form of harrowing post-rave milling around come dawn in central Manchester's transport hubs.

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The sheer concentration of complete gibberish and bad vibes around the Piccadilly concourse branch of Upper Crust come 5.30am has to have some kind of immunosuppressant effect.

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