Hello. Chances are good that you have been linked to this article because you’ve been fawning over an image of a cat with a caption on it. It seems like clever, harmless fun, right?
Be prepared; I am about to piss on your parade something fierce.
This page is intended to disambiguate your infraction, for your own benefit and the benefit of whoever it is you’re pissing off with your goddamn LOLCATS.
If you don’t emerge from this agreeing with me, I hope you’ll at least have a better appreciation for why I, and so many others, find the LOLCAT phenomenon and ICanHasCheezburger.com so stupid and infuriating.
I urge you to read this entire page in one go. There’s a lot of information presented over the course of it, and you’ll probably miss something vital if you try to skim. It’s really not as looooong as it looks.
Let’s start off here by setting something straight. The term “LOLCAT” is fucking stupid, and I am not going to tolerate it! The term is cat macro (or, less specifically, image macro). This proper, accepted term is a neologism coined to describe an image with text superimposed over it, typically for comedic purposes. It’s boring and technical sounding, but it’s also effective and exponentially less retarded than LOLCAT. So, henceforth in this article, I will use “cat macro” to refer to these innocuous images, and I will use “LOLCAT” to refer to the vile evil generated by ICanHasCheezburger.
Well, nothing is innately wrong with cat macros. They’re old and tired but there are still a few notable classics worth a laugh or two.
GIVE ME A CHANCE TO EXPLAIN, ASSHOLE. Okay. A history lesson is in order here…
A long, long time ago (like, 2001) in a galaxy far, far away (Japan) an Internet phenomenon was born. A community called Futaba Channel.
Futaba Channel was unique, in that it was the first proper imageboard. Aptly named, imageboards focus on posting images by requiring you to attach an image of some sort to every new thread, unlike typical Internet discussion forums, which tend to focus primarily on text.
Futaba Channel soon became insanely popular, creating its own unique sort of culture, and generating loads of memes.
(Briefly, to clarify, the sociocultural evolution concept of the meme is the foundation of memetics, which is a study of how culture propagates through society. It has to do with actual things of consequence and importance, like how the Holocaust happened, and why your grandparents hate black people but you [hopefully] don’t [disregard this if you are black]. The term “meme” has become colloquially associated with “stupid annoying Internet fad,” which is rather a shame as it dilutes the whole idea somewhat and massively oversimplifies what it’s about. Regardless, I will continue to use the term as such.)
Being that Futaba Channel was so massively popular, it’s not surprising that some Wapanese guy would want to bring this sort of thing to the English speaking otaku audience. Thus, Moot, a Something Awful forum goon, begat 4chan.
Much like Futaba Channel that preceded it, 4chan’s cliquish nerdy underground culture gave birth to a ton of its own unique memes. One such meme was the practice of everyone posting a ton of cat related images on Saturdays, which became known as “Caturday.”
It should be noted that cat macros are not synonymous with Caturday. Many of the images posted on Caturday are just plain old pictures of cats with no comedic intent and no captions. Cat macros kind of slowly evolved and accumulated as a natural extension of the Caturday concept.
Two StarCraft players had an exchange that inspired this meme many years ago (some time in the 2001-2003 range). It first got legs on Something Awful’s FYAD forum. An approximation of the infamous exchange (stolen from here) is as follows:
<omgwtf> dude, where are you?
<1337h4x> i’m in ur base, killing ur d00ds
Aside from Caturday, this is the meme from which LOLCATS derive (steal) the most.
Along with the popularity of things like Jeff K’s website, there was a trend of mocking people and cracking jokes using this cryptic, “newbie” style of Internet shorthand. This was all clever, fresh and funny. Half a decade ago. These days, typing poorly for derisive or ironic purposes is really, really worn out. As it happens, very few of the original Caturday cat macros featured this! Of course, “LOLSPEAK,” as it has since been dubbed by the heathens at ICanHasCheezburger, is pretty much inseparable from LOLCATS.
Most of the subtle running gags in LOLCAT images are stolen wholesale from other memes. Here are just a few examples.
All of these things were stolen from Something Awful, 4chan, YTMND, et al. They’ve been around forever and ever. A lot of macro conventions were established with these memes. For example, someone made a fairly retarded post on 4chan in response to Longcat, saying “longcat is looooong,” which has been repeated endlessly for ages and adapted to fit other images.
A classic image macro caption. There are tons of these, but apparently the motorcycle one was the true original (thanks to Stuart Parker for pointing this out). The concept is pretty straight forward: this caption would state the obvious by being affixed to images depicting something or someone fucking up in a spectacular fashion.
These macros also seem to have started on FYAD at Something Awful ages ago, long before Caturday became an established ritual. O RLY is one of the definitive and original image macros. Aside from “in ur base, killing ur d00ds,” this was probably the main inspiration behind the LOLSPEAK idiocy associated with LOLCATS.
I’ve seen this meme copied a few times on ICanHasCheezburger, but it’s not a terribly noteworthy example. I just wanted to include it because I think the picture is still pretty fucking funny. What the hell is on that guy’s monitor?
Apparently, it comes from a small, now defunct (?) community called “ThreePointStance.” The guy who took the original photo caught an awkward bit of video featuring the infamous RAM upgrading specialist. (Thanks, “Astaroth,” for filling me in on this!)
I think this one is only a few years old, but it was still passed around 4chan for ages before ICanHasCheezburger came along and stole it and dubbed it the “LOLRUS.” Which, you know, would have been clever if not for the fact that it’s a FUCKING SEAL, not a walrus.
To give you the opportunity to see first hand just how much of the stuff from ICanHasCheezburger has been shamelessly pilfered, I’ve hastily assembled a small collection of classic macros (mostly cat macros, but also a few others) that you can click through at your leisure.
Please note, however, that I am not providing these images as a service to enable you to repost them until the end of time. If they are on this page, they are already stale. Even if they are new to you, they are old to plenty of people on the Internet. Be original and stop reposting this shit.
A huge, steaming pile of bullshit. It’s imperative that you realize that all of these images and the concepts surrounding them had been floating around the Internet for years before ICanHasCheezburger came into existence. There’s not a single fucking thing on ICanHasCheezburger that hasn’t been shamelessly ripped off of prominent Internet communities. Keep in mind, the people of these communities that came up with these once clever gags and jokes selflessly released their work into the public domain with no method or intent of collecting royalties.
ICanHasCheezburger has exploited this, with much success. The founder of the website has turned this amalgamation of tired old memes into a lucrative business. A business that generates revenues that are “more than enough to pay [his] bills.”
No! Not at all, really. I think it’s brilliant that some guy has been able to capitalize on something like this, and I have to say that I respect his ability to make money from stupid people.
I do not take (much) issue with Eric Nakagawa’s new found source of income. I take issue with the people generating it for him. You have unwittingly hooked yourself up to a form of The Matrix, where you are being spoonfed shitty, watered down versions of once funny memes. The byproduct of your mindless cattle-like clicking is the generation of cash monies that go directly into the pockets of some guy that had nothing to do with the creation of the thing you find so hilarious.
Now I shall try to predict and preemptively answer some of the questions and counterarguments that might be brewing in your mind right now
It’s different because the members of these communities were responsible for generating the content in first place. Nothing original has come from ICanHasCheezburger. Why should they be profiting from something that they didn’t have any sort of involvement in?
Yes, that is exactly it. I am totally despondent over the fact that my indie humor is now popular. HAVEN’T YOU READ A SINGLE FUCKING THING I WROTE? My nerd rage is entirely justified, and, apparently, my views are just too alternative for your philistine mind! Be gone from my sight, you despicable pleb.
But, in all seriousness, this is somewhat true! It’s not so much the attention given to LOLCATS that bothers me, it’s the fact that the original concept has been totally bastardized to make it appeal to a wider audience. If you look at a bunch of the old cat macros from 4chan (which I urged you to do above), you’ll find that, while they aren't exactly brilliant, they feature much edgier, more clever dialogue, with references to pop culture, Internet culture, and other more obscure memes. With LOLCATS, you get cutting-edge hilarity like “LOL HAI PLZ 2 LICK UR FACE.”
Well, whatever to you, too! You have every right to find worn out unfunny bullshit hilarious. But, could you please keep it to yourself? When people are constantly sending this shit to me … via email, via message boards, via instant message, via chat rooms, via social networking sites … it’s really fucking annoying. If you’re going to sit and browse ICanHasCheezburger for hours on end, I can’t stop you. But, I would prefer if you do it in private, turn off all your lights, close your windows and blinds, and lock your doors. Then kill yourself when you are finished.
Shut the fuck up, newfag. The cat (and the LOLCAT) has been out of the bag for ages now. The whole “pissing in an ocean of piss” mantra has come to pass in a more depressing way than we could have expected, and at this point I think the least of anyone’s concerns should be letting a few more people know about 4chan’s existence. If you care about preserving the sanctity of 4chan so much, maybe you should spend your effort defending what tiny bit of culture 4chan has/had rather than sitting there crying how the people who joined the community one week after you did RUINED IT ALL.
If you’re not affiliated with 4chan, then, lol, disregard that last paragraph, I suck cocks.
I think that basically covers it all. Thanks for reading this in its entirety. I know it was kind of wordy, but hopefully you enjoyed it. If you want to email me corrections, suggestions, questions, insults, or love letters, by all means do. I’ve really enjoyed the feedback people have sent me about this article. Even the hate mail!
PS: It might be worth noting that much of the preceding text is written in a bombastic, melodramatic tone just for fun. It seemed like an interesting topic that hadn’t been adequately addressed by those who bore firsthand witness to the evolution of this situation, so I decided to take on the task, and wanted to make sure it was an entertaining read. The majority of the email I’ve received in response to this article has been from people who seemed to miss the tongue-in-cheek stylistic intent at play. Perhaps that’s my fault for being a shitty writer, but rest assured, I’ve yet to lose any sleep over LOLCATS. Maybe the fact that I’ve only updated this article a single time since initially publishing it years ago should prove that…?