Who is Wojak, anyway?
Who is that meme face guy? You know, the bald outline meme dude? Kind of like a rage comic, but also not really? The forlorn-looking chap in those ‘wish I was at home’ party memes? And also those weird brain memes, I think?
The meme universe can be a fickle place. New formats and characters emerge seemingly at random, and vanish just as quickly from the scene. When’s the last time you unironically shared a Ugandan Knuckles, or a gif of the Catch Me Outside chick?
On the other hand, certain memes persist. And none moreso than our subject today, Wojak.
Wojak is a crude line drawing of a bald, unkempt man. The archetypal regular Joe. His expression is… hard to pin down. Neutral. A touch melancholic, sure, but with an edge of courage and determination.
So why has this seemingly unremarkable figure made such a gigantic impact on meme culture?
Brilliantly, it turns out nobody actually has any idea who first drew Wojak. Determined sleuths (ie nerds with nothing better to do) have traced it back to a Polish message board called vichan, back in 2009.
Figures that Wojak would be Polish – the name translates to ‘warrior’ or ‘soldier’ (kinda), and exhibits that classic Polish fondness for awkward consonants.
The following year, 2010, a poster – named Wojak, as it happens – posed the image on krautchan, a now-defunct German forum. Wojak’s meme debut was that format where all the beautiful people are having a lovely dance at a house party, as our rueful hero stands alone in a daft party hat, wishing he wasn’t there.
Something about his bland expression struck a chord, and Wojak quickly became an all-purpose cipher for discussions involving, pretty much, normal men.
Lads who aren’t blessed with Chad’s strong hairline or chiseled features. Average blokes. Blokes like you and me, probably.
As a work of art – because memes are totally an art form – Wojak recalls the versatile emotional resonance of, say, the Mona Lisa. What is he thinking?
This malleability makes Wojak the perfect meme substrate, and explains why there’s so many versions of Wojak out there.
Doomer Wojak might be my favourite – the cigarette-huffing 20-something who tries, mostly unsuccessfully, to chat up girls. In certain territories, he’s hooked on opiates. In others, he’s hanging out at a punk gig.
There’s also ‘Coomer’ Wojak, who you often see popping up around No-Nut November, complete with onanistic red eyes and a lone, comically-enlarged bicep.
Soyjak is a whole meme in himself – representing ‘soyboys’ and other over-excitable man-children. Withered Wojak stands for bleak irreversible emotional crisis.
Brainlet Wojak – and his clever antithesis, Big-Brain Wojak – do what socially inadequate men on the internet have always dreamed they’d one day be able to do. Turn intelligence into a dick-measuring contest.
Still, that’s nowhere near the most sinister manifestation of Wojak.
Around 2018, when President Donald Trump was fighting his first (and only, lol) mid-term election, a straight-up fascist trend emerged.
Probably first cropping up on 4chan (where else) the ‘NPC Wojak’ meme set out to make the point that American liberals were empty-headed drones incapable of independent thought.
Like an NPC – Non-Player Character – in a video game, they served only to make the background interesting. But should not be relied on to make important decisions.
This outright dismissal of other folks’ agency is not cool, even if it is sometimes funny.
WOJAK & MENTAL HEALTH
In the final analysis, it seems Wojak is a cipher for discussions about male mental health. He’s an avatar, a tabula rasa, onto which dudes can project their uncertainties and anxieties.
His very averageness – nowhere near sexy enough to be of interest to Stacey, nowhere near high-functioning enough to be a normie – is both a damning indictment of 21st century manhood, and at the same time curiously comforting.
He’s nothing special, and that’s okay, because most of us are nothing special too. There’s a little bit of Wojak, perhaps, in all of us.
Can you get rich making memes?