The strange truth about deep fried memes

What are deep-fried memes? Are they here to stay, or just another transient manifestation of meme culture? Is there perhaps more to deep-fried memes than meets the eye?

‘The mind loves the unknown,’ said noted surrealist painter Rene Magritte. ‘It loves images whose meaning is unknown – since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.’

Magritte died in the 1960s, so he never got to see the rise of meme culture. Which is obviously a pity. Because Magritte’s bonkers, mind-bending output, re-ordering familiar objects in unfamiliar ways to confound audiences, had a surprising amount in common with deep-fried meme culture. 

What Are Deep-Fried Memes?

Deep-fried memes are conventional image-macro-based memes that have passed through a number of filters, such that their original sharp lines and colours have become distorted and exaggerated. 

The idea is to simulate what happens when boomers or normies – anybody who doesn’t know how to save an image, basically – screenshots and repost a meme on social media. 

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Most social media sites, in particular Facebook, compresses images when you upload them in order to run a bit quicker. 

So what started as an inadvertent, ugly side effect of careless internet hygiene has, with a little bit of meme magic, become a coherent aesthetic in its own right. 

Deep Fried Meme Groups

Although deep-friend memes are generally believed to have originated on Tumblr sometime back in the dim and distant mid-2010s, today’s spiciest deep-friend content is (as ever) on Reddit. 

r/deepfriedmemes has recently been made private (sorry normies) but you can still get a reasonably good overview of the scene at /r/deepfriedsurrealmemes.

These communities delight in taking fairly standard meme fayre – your rage comics, your Spongebob screengrabs, your Peter Griffins – and putting them through the compression mill. Often accompanied by a deliberately surreal and/or off-putting caption. 

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The really meta thing is, every time you share a deep-fried meme, if gets even more fried. Oh, the hilarity. 

What’s Up With Deep Fried Memes?

Certain chin-stroking intellectual types have compared the rise of deep-fried memes to the ascendancy of the punk music in the 1970s. 

Punk emerged as a reaction to the glossy sheen of post-Beatles rock music in the US and especially UK. Punk was crunchy, distorted, lo-fi. Any idiot could make it. It didn’t matter that it sounded bad. Sounding crap, and getting on older people’s nerves, was basically the whole point. 

And in much the same way the corporate establishment eventually colonised the punk movement, corporate meme culture has moved into the world of deep-fried memes

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Culture is eating itself, people. 

Deep-fried Dadaism

Even cleverer chin-stroking intellectual types (hello) reckon the deep-fried movement has more in common with Dadaism. 

What’s Dadaism? Dadaism was an artistic movement that all kicked off in Europe around the time of the First World War. The main idea was just to be silly – the name ‘dada’ is literally a reference to how babies talk.

The reason the founders of Dadaism adored silliness so much, was that the world around them basically sucked ass. The Great War was the first properly industrialised conflict, with countless young men fed into the meat grinder of modernity.

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Suddenly, in the Dadaists eyes, the industrial revolution and all its shiny new tech didn’t seem such a great idea after all. Sound familiar?

Rage Against The Machine

Flash forward to today, and deep-friend memes can be interpreted as a reaction against our very 21-st century tech-addled malaise. The manner in which algorithms, in particular, are hell-bent on providing us with an endless, relentless conveyor belt of glossy perfect images of glossy perfect people. 

Your phone has how many pixels? Deep-fried memes don’t care. 

As it happens, ‘deep-frying’ can also, sometimes, trick the social media algorithms into missing certain content ‘red flags’.

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So the modern punks, or Dadaists, of the deep-fried movement, can truly stick it to the man. 

Plus they’re just really, really funny. Which is the whole point of memes, probably.

Best not to over-think these things.

Ever wondered if you could GET RICH MAKING MEMES?

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Also, while we’re here, IS STEALING MEMES ILLEGAL?

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