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Covfefe kerfuffles, partisan dogs, and Wonder Woman wars: the week in memes, explained

Plus: Twitter yearns for romance between Stanley Tucci and Jeff Goldblum, and other internet hijinks.

We ship it.
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

The internet is an increasingly hyper, increasingly instantaneous, and increasingly politicized place, and nowhere have we seen these trends converge as neatly as they did this week around the massive hilarity surrounding President Donald Trump’s apparent typo in a now-deleted tweet.

But if you thought #covfefe was the only thing happening on the web this week, think again. While you were off covfefe-ing, here’s what else you may have missed. — including a few covfefe-related covfallouts.

The president tweets a typo, breaks the internet with #covfefe

“Covfefe” may go down in history as a vanishingly rare moment for the internet — a moment in which the entire world appeared to be universally laughing at the same thing, though not, of course, for the same reasons.


As far as internet memes go, #covfefe may have already surpassed megahits like the Dress or Harambe in its sheer spread and universality. What did it mean? It was probably a typo of the word “coverage” — presumably because Trump intended to type “constant negative press coverage” and instead wrote “constant negative press covfefe” in a late-night tweet. But the president apparently didn’t notice his mistake before hitting “send” during the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning wee hours.

The tweet remained up for the rest of the night and into the morning, while social media, Twitter in particular, ran rampant with jokes.

Discussions about how to pronounce the word ensued, jokes about various Trumpian scandals were made, and coffee was imbibed. The Daily Show even used the meme as inspiration for a short film:

But is covfefe Good or Bad? (Or just entertaining fodder for linguists?) The world may never know, but moral objections clearly won’t stop its legacy. Even after many thought its moment had passed, the meme persisted.

As for the official White House response to the hubbub, it was, well, about as muddled as #covfefe itself.

Everyone’s favorite dog rater, @dog_rates, was involved in a partisan covfefe kerfuffle

If you’re not familiar with the Twitter account @dog_rates, just know that its wunderkind owner Matt Nelson rates dogs well and often, and is pretty much universally beloved — or was until #covfefe happened, at which point Nelson found himself unexpectedly embroiled in a partisan spat.

As the #covfefe meme raged, Nelson tweeted about the latest addition to his popular merchandise store: a hat bearing the word. Then he added that all proceeds from sales of the hat would be donated to Planned Parenthood. This inspired a bout of partisan rage from pro-life @dog_rates fans. The phrase “they’re good babies, brent” (a reference to a famous @dog_rates joke) was briefly deployed.

Apparently shaken by the outrage, Nelson issued a rather ham-fisted apology in a now-deleted tweet in which he stated that “dogs are bipartisan” and that “I let my personal beliefs infiltrate an account that’s not meant to share them.” He added that “alienating a portion of my audience is stupid and unnecessary” and that he had “jeopardized” an account that “brings people together.”

However, Nelson also stated that he would continue donating the funds to Planned Parenthood and would match funds to dog shelters as a compromise. This apology satisfied no one, as pro-lifers remained upset about the donations to Planned Parenthood and liberals were subsequently upset by Nelson’s capitulation to the right. (Some even suggested that disgruntled @dog_rates followers seek solace in the Facebook account Dogspotting as a non-problematic fave.)

The whole incident seemed to exasperate Nelson, as he ultimately deleted his apology and went right back to inserting politicized statements in his Twitter, coinciding with the news about the US exiting the Paris climate agreement:

They’re good tweets, Matt.

Alamo Drafthouse’s women-only Wonder Woman screenings have ignited and delighted different factions of geek moviegoers

On May 24, the popular dine-in cinema franchise Alamo Drafthouse announced that it would be hosting women-only screenings of Wonder Woman at its flagship Austin location. Social media exploded with complaints from angry men who felt they were being discriminated against, and the Alamo promptly clapped back by adding a second screening in Austin and extending the concept to its Brooklyn location. By that point, the incident had gone viral and jokes were flying.

“We at the Alamo Drafthouse would like to officially apologize for our role in the end of mankind as we knew it, and the ascendant Gynocracy that followed,” wrote humorist Bethy Squires (who to our knowledge isn’t at all affiliated with the theater chain) in a Medium spoof. “We didn’t know our women-only screening of Wonder Woman would result in the overthrow of all world governments and the total subjugation of men, but in hindsight we probably should have seen it coming.”

Sadly, the uproar just seemed to exacerbate the issue for some men, including one who claimed he’d lodged a formal human rights complaint against Alamo Drafthouse, asserting that his civil rights had been violated.

Meanwhile, Reductress had, if not the last word, the best word on the subject of male entitlement at the movies.

mOcKiNg sPoNgEbOb continues to let people express frustration over anything by channeling their inner 6-year-old

Yeah, we thought this meme would have died down by now too, but it’s still going strong. In case you’ve missed this one, or have only seen the now-famous image without really getting it, let’s recap.

The meme’s origin is a 2012 episode of Spongebob Squarepants that yielded an image of Spongebob clucking like a chicken. The image, in context, has nothing to do with the meme, which started out as the visual equivalent of a jeering second-grader mockingly repeating back every naively heartfelt phrase you say, like so:


But it also doubles easily as a way to express frustration with people who are lying to you, people with Bad Opinions, social systems that mock you, and, you know, politics.


The meme’s surprise longevity throughout the month of May makes sense; there are, after all, innumerable contexts in which you feel the need to virtually yell at someone on the internet like an obnoxious 6-year-old. Go on, let it out.

That awesome meme-rific RC Cola account was a lie

Another #covfefe-related casualty this week was a briefly terrific fake Twitter account that no one realized was fake. The account named @officialRCCola drew a smattering of attention after the #covfefe tweet screencapped in the embedded tweet above went viral.

Looking back at the account’s previous tweets — Google cache offers a glimpse — unearthed a treasure trove of funny, meme-rich marketing and tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating wit about how RC Cola is a floundering soda business no one knows about. Some people began to marvel at how this somewhat obscure brand of soda had a surprisingly strong social media game.

Alas, it was too good to be true. RC Cola is an actual brand of soda; it’s especially popular in the Southern US and has a devout cult following throughout the rest of the country. But the Twitter account turned out to be a hoax; after the #covfefe tweet took off, the people behind the real RC Cola must have taken notice, and the fake account was suspended.

At least we still have @MoonPie Twitter.

Twitter Film Concepts are a trend now, even if not all of them will go on to become real movies

At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, one of the most high-profile film deals centered on a heist movie starring Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o, directed by Ava DuVernay and scripted by Insecure’s Issa Rae. If that all-black-women dream team of a creative assembly wasn’t enough to turn heads, the kicker was that the movie actually began as a film concept dreamed up by someone on Tumblr in 2014, based on a photo of Rihanna and Nyong’o. It then jumped to Twitter in April of this year, where it went viral, circulated for less than a month, and caught the attention of its subjects, who made it happen.

Naturally, Twitter’s next move was to see “badass black women starring together in a heist movie” and up the ante with “middle-aged gay romance.” (Because let’s face it, on the internet, no concept has reached its full potential until it’s become substantially gayer.)

In the aftermath of the heist movie success story, we’re seeing the “film concept” idea popping up frequently:

It’s worth noting that so far these film concepts have emphasized diversity and representation. Be the change you want to see in Hollywood, Twitter.

Yearbook photo collage memes have become a funny way to make a sharp point about the company we keep

This one is probably best explained visually.

Exhibit A: Lots of fans hated the recently revealed poster for Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, lambasting it for its “busy” design and the appearance of having been awkwardly and hastily photoshopped together:

So New York magazine editor Kyle Buchanan tried to, er, “improve” it by adding a few embellishments, from an older Leonardo DiCaprio meme to the recent viral photo of Trump and the orb.

Exhibit B: While that was happening, film writer Peter S. Hall turned a viral photo of Trump posing with the pope into a gothic class reunion and shared it in a now-locked Tweet:


Others quickly glommed onto the idea:

Exhibit C: Mark Zuckerberg's recent Harvard commencement speech yielded a lot of mockery, both due to the trollish related hacking of the Harvard Crimson with Zuckerberg memes and to the stodgy straight-faced men posing in the background as Zuckerberg (a Harvard dropout) spoke. The latter detail in particular yielded yet another entertaining photo collage:

You get the idea — the meme works when it’s a random assortment of characters but is most effective when the grouping makes a point. Heck, you don’t even need people:

Memes provide a glimpse into the way internet culture spreads ideas within — as well as shapes and responds to — the broader culture. Though most memes these days are highly and arguably politicized by default, covfefe and many of the other memes currently on our radar have a softer edge. Perhaps that’s a natural result of a world wanting a break from intense political controversies, but whatever the reason, it’s been a good week to be online.