History of Memes — “One Does Not Simply…”

Disclaimer: if you have never heard of the word “meme” or know what it means, this article may not be right for you. Please talk to your doctor about sufficient internet usage rates.

Speaking of which, remember when none of us knew what a meme was? Or even how to pronounce the word? Simpler times, back then.

Along came social media websites — thriving on Web 2.0’s ability which allows users to also be publishers. While social media has its fair share of academic purposes, it is increasingly being used for humour and amateur creation. Websites such as 9gag.com have become blockbuster hubs sharing the latest and greatest memes. In terms of the origins of memes in general, well…


We can, however, explain this meme history.

The “one does not simply…” meme is a fairly old meme (relatively speaking). It originates from the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, the fellowship, including Frodo, Gandalf, and the rest of the gang, must destroy an evil ring using the fiery depths of Mordor. The pictured character — Boromir — tries to explain to the rest of the fellowship that Mordor cannot be penetrated easily. This scene spawned the original version of the meme:


What followed were memes with direct references to the film, often changing the verb or the location. Early examples looked like this:


Following its increase in popularity, users started to become more creative with their usage of the meme:


Many of the more creative iterations involved references to other online phenomena, such as a music video about Friday (somehow viewed over 105 million times) and an impossibly hard Olympics game.

As viewed on Google Trends, this meme gained heavy interest in late 2011, 10 years after the release of the film. Many memes with pop culture references don’t exactly coincide with the pop culture release itself.

Often times, the popularity of memes can be entirely random. This randomness, however, is the beauty of the Web 2.0. Self-publishing not only allows users to share their own creative content, but encourages re-sharing and the possibility of viral content. In the modern, interconnected landscape, content can go viral in a matter of hours or even minutes; and while this allows for premium content to be shared easily, many times users are just looking for the laughs.