Facebook is radicalizing our moms. Instagram is exploiting children. YouTube is a nightmare. Twitter is the “hell site.” And TikTok is “a potential counterintelligence threat.” Yet we keep coming back.
Why? Not for the trolls or the discourse or the dog-piling, but because there’s gold buried in these digital hills. Yes, you often have to dig to find it, but, if you curate your timeline just right, you’ll be greeted every morning with some bit of hilarious or touching or provocative oddball content that could never have existed in the pre-internet age. Is that enough for us not to quietly long for all the computers to combust simultaneously? No, but it makes being glued to our screens a bit more enjoyable.
Below, you’ll find 10 of our favorite things we saw on the internet in 2019. Yes, there are feral hogs, but there’s also alligators, aliens, remixes, and plenty of schadenfreude hop-hop-hoppin’ onto that timeline.
10. Celebrities who use social media for good
Social media can be, to put it frankly, goddamn insufferable. At times it seems like an endless wasteland of artifice and #ads, carefully constructed personalities in which even the quirks are manufactured—and that’s especially true when it comes to celebrities. Perhaps that’s why the odd moments of genuine authenticity can prove so delightful, as they often did this year. In that arena, Sophie Turner reigned supreme (and not just as Queen in the North), from her unguarded reactions to Game Of Thrones episodes to her completely natural response to being shown on the jumbotron at a hockey game. But she wasn’t alone. Glenn Close shared her “spirit guardian” and some thoughts on Notre Dame. Sir Anthony Hopkins played piano with a kitty-cat in his lap. Sam Neill introduced us to his pet duck. Chrissy Teigen, Twitter master, coined the phrase “pussy ass bitch president” and managed to use it in a kid-going-back-to-school tweet, which is next-level shit. And never forget: Ice-T supports you (and The Irishman). [Allison Shoemaker]
9. The animals prepare to overthrow humanity
Even as we’ve run our natural world down to the point of near collapse, humanity has grown complacent around the animals we so foolishly consider beneath us. In 2019, though—perhaps sensing that the time had come to reclaim the Earth through a great rebellion—small acts of defiance began popping up all over the place. The internet documented a wave of blanket-annihilating dogs and witnessed the powerful alliance of a toddler and warrior bird; it also showed a chimp, the species best positioned to overthrow all of us, learning to use social media and a capuchin, probably having read some simian revolutionary manifesto, breaking out of a zoo enclosure.
Each one of these examples shows that the animals have finally had enough of our shit. Knowing that humans can no longer be trusted to reign over the planet, they’ve come together to smash apart our rule with paws and talons, weird little hands and gnashing teeth. In light of this, maybe we were too quick to mock the guy who defended the right to own assault rifles as the most appropriate way to fend off the 30 to 50 feral hogs just waiting to swarm into backyards across the globe, abducting children to raise within their ascendant piggy societies. [Reid McCarter]
8. Trump repeatedly gets owned for using copyrighted material
If Donald Trump proved anything in 2019, it’s that, while he apparently can’t be held accountable by our institutional checks and balances, he at least can be consistently burned by our copyright laws. A small consolation prize, we know, although seeing as how Trump craves any and all celebrity affirmation, it was still pretty satisfying to see just how many people—from R.E.M. to Warner Bros. to freakin’ Nickelback—want absolutely, positively (not to mention legally) nothing to do with our craven, soulless jackass-in-chief. What’s more, telling Trump to get his spray-tanned hands off one’s original content appears to be a pretty damn good business strategy, so in some ways, profiteering off his gutless attempts to co-opt someone else’s work is a cherry on top of the whole thing.
Of course, it’s never a total loss for Trump: HBO only issued a couple “tsk-tsk” statements after Team Trump made Game Of Thrones-finale-weak use of some Westeros memes. And, after all, who needs Michael Stipe’s balladry when you can get the star of Death Stalkers And The Warriors From Hell to make on offer on Greenland? [Andrew Paul]
7. Succession’s theme song gets remixed, meme’d
Memes invariably boost a piece of art’s popularity, even if they don’t always frame that art in a light that suits it (just look at the Marriage Story memes). Consider HBO’s Succession lucky, then, that its defining meme didn’t pervert the characters or story so much as it celebrated its stately, mischievous theme song. In concert with the show’s incredible second season, fans flexed the big mood of composer Nicholas Britell’s piano-and-string-forward theme by grafting it onto the opening credits of several iconic series, as well as clips from Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison, which, if you think about it, shares more than a few themes with the show.
Even better, though, were the remixes. HBO sponsored its own from Pusha T, but we were more taken by Demi Adejuyigbe’s hilarious riff, as well as this dude who recreated it in Mario Paint. Britell even enjoyed a victory lap with “L-to-the-O-G,” the transcendently embarrassing rap song Kendall performs for his pops, but it’s that original theme we can’t stop looping. Like Kermit, we’re still dancing. [Randall Colburn]
6. The internet unites in a shared desire to uncover Area 51’s secrets
Generally speaking, everyone on the internet seems to absolutely hate each other. And yet, in rare moments that reinforce our bonds as a species, we sometimes manage to put our squabbles to the side in order to share in the sorts of missions that require a truly united front: Like, for example, figuring out exactly what the fuck’s been going on in Area 51 for decades. The idea, which started as a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop Us All,” gained incredible traction very quickly both for the potency of its message (“If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets,” the original post reads. “Lets see them aliens.”) and for the inspirational spirit of overcoming the state through the strength of mass action.
Sure, the whole thing fizzled out due to warnings not to actually go through with the plan and the inevitable transformation of a good joke into a shitty corporatized party, but for a few short months the internet came together as a sort of gestalt Mulder, just wanting to believe. Even though Area 51 has managed to hold onto its secrets for yet another year, 2019 showed the first cracks in its alien-alloy armor and reinforced what we can accomplish as a people when we come together to enact great change (or spread alien memes). [Reid McCarter]
5. The New York Times’ Bret Stephens snaps after being called a “bedbug”
Hopefully New York Times columnist Bret Stephens had his fainting couch handy back in August, because the writer absolutely gave himself the vapors after learning he had been called a “bedbug” on Twitter, in one of the most entertaining self-owns of the year. A little tweet from a mostly unknown university professor, Dave Karpf, involved a light joke about a bedbug infestation in the Times’ newsroom—Karpf suggested it was a metaphorical reference to Stephens, ha ha—received nine likes and zero retweets, and would have quickly been swallowed up by the ever-moving scrum of Twitter. But Stephens, confirming he is 100% that guy who goes searching for any mention of his own name online, sent an email to Karpf and his university provost, trying to get him in trouble for daring to make the slightest of insults impugning the aristocratic name of Bret Stephens.
And it just kept getting better: Stephens quit Twitter in a huff, saying the insult was the “worst of humanity,” comparing Karpf to a Nazi, and even going on TV to bemoan his victimization. All this from a man who makes a living railing against “PC culture” and the silencing of controversial voices. Pot, meet world’s thinnest-skinned kettle. [Alex McLevy]
4. Chance The Snapper
In a far distant future, the bards will sing songs of Chance The Snapper. We have Block Club Chicago to thank for the name of the five-foot alligator who set up residence in the the city’s Humboldt Park Lagoon over the summer. Chicagoans followed his exploits breathlessly—swimming, further swimming, evading capture by Chicago Herpetological Society member Alligator Bob, further evading capture, being captured, and looking adorable—for one perfect week.
It all came to a heady end when Florida animal control expert Frank Robb swooped in to nab the little guy, an accomplishment that earned Robb the chance to throw out the first pitch at a Cubs game, presumably because the reptilian Chance isn’t much of a baseball player. Then our little friend was off to a new home in Florida, a much better home for him, save the one he’ll always have in our hearts. Granted, he should never have been there in the first place—don’t keep alligators as pets, you morons—but we’ll nevertheless treasure the time we had with him in our lives. Though not perhaps as much as his namesake. [Allison Shoemaker]
3. Man crosses legs, crushes balls
Sometimes it’s that simple: A man swings one leg over the other, then silently cries out in pain as, through some physiological miscalculation, his thighs crush his testicles. It’s relatable, honestly; the man’s profane grimace, as well the way he swiftly pulls himself together, is funny because this happens and we’re just so grateful that, this time at least, it didn’t happen to us. Is it lowbrow to giggle at such misfortune? Of course, but there’s no shame in admitting that sometimes we’re all Homer watching Hans Moleman’s “Man Getting Hit By Football.” [Randall Colburn]
2. Amazing high school production of Alien finds national audience
No offense to the people putting in good, hard work on the stage of every other high school in the world, but none of them are doing anything as audaciously awesome as North Bergen High School’s theatrical adaptation of Alien. Over the course of a weekend in March, photos and videos of the show—and its phenomenal homemade sets and costumes—took the internet by storm and eventually attracted the attention of original Alien star Sigourney Weaver, who revealed that both director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Walter Hill had given the show their respective stamps of approval. Scott later donated $5,000 to the school, and Weaver visited New Jersey to meet the young cast and help introduce an encore performance of the show. Eventually, a full video of the production was posted online, giving all of us a chance to see just how ridiculously cool the whole thing was. Seriously, the lo-fi chest-burster scene and the eventual reveal of the alien itself may be some of the best things a high school drama club has ever done (again, no offense to the people whose otherwise solid productions don’t go viral). [Sam Barsanti]
1. Cameo pranksters
Cameo got off to a rough start. The service, which allows the unwashed masses to pay celebrities for shout-outs and birthday messages, was the subject of much controversy when the likes of Brett Favre and Andy Dick were tricked into spewing coded anti-semitism late last year. Thankfully, the app seems to have gotten a handle on that kind of behavior, making room for an altogether less odious band of pranksters. Just a few weeks ago, for example, the world watched Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath deliver a breakup message to “Brayden” from his soon-to-be-ex Cheyenne. The whole thing turned out to be a prank, but that doesn’t diminish the daffy sweetness of McGrath’s clip, in which McGrath tells Brayden that Cheyenne just “wants to be friends right now, bro” and that “hopefully I can see you backstage, give you a high-five someday.”
The innate humor of paying relatively irrelevant celebrities to say strange, offbeat things for which they most assuredly aren’t suited isn’t lost on the internet. Comedian Brandon Wardell, for example, was the first to show us how Chris Hansen will call people a pedophile for $50 when he bought a shout-out from the former To Catch A Predator host.
More rambunctious are Stefan Heck and John Cullen, who’ve devoted an entire segment on their Blocked Party podcast to Cameo hijinks. Not only did they hire Pauly Shore to record an anti-circumcision PSA, but they got O.J. Simpson pal Kato Kaelin to issue an apology for it. Comedians Nick Ciarelli and Bradford Evans, meanwhile, hired Arli$$ star Robert Wuhl to provide some kind words for a 10-year who they say is bullied for “loving Arli$$,” then paid a bodybuilder to pretend to be that bully. (Full disclosure: Ciarelli has written for our sister site, Clickhole.)
Truly, this is the golden age of Cameo, and it won’t last forever. As Heck and Cullen noted in a recent Blocked Party episode, the celebs are getting wiser to what’s a bit and what isn’t, noting in their profiles that they’ll be sticking to “positive messages” only. As such, now is the time to bend a C-list celebrity to your own chaotic (but good-natured!) devices. [Randall Colburn]