Ten Unforgettable Web Memes
Cats and failures highlight this list of the memes that have gone mainstream. Which ones did we miss?
- By Megan Gambino, Ryan R. Reed, Jesse Rhodes and Brian Wolly
- Smithsonian.com, April 18, 2011
In a 1977 episode of Happy Days, Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli strapped on a pair of water skis and went up a ramp to jump over a shark. A decade later, University of Michigan student and future radio personality Jon Hein and some of his friends began debating the point at which their favorite television programs began to decline in quality, deciding that the shark episode epitomized the point when all shows enter a downward spiral. In 1997, Hein launched the website www.jumptheshark.com where online readers were invited to continue that same conversation. Fred Fox, the writer of that episode posted a passionate defense of the scene, pointing out that the series had continued success for a few more seasons. But the term “jump the shark” was quickly popularized and evolved to describe events in music, politics and sports. In 2006, “jump the shark” was admitted into the Oxford English Dictionary. When Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal hit theaters in 2008, a spin-off of the meme was coined, “nuking the fridge,” describing the moment when Jones implausibly survives an atomic blast by hiding in a refrigerator. -- JR