Alex George Pickering
AGP’s Greatest Memes
AGP shares some of his favorite personally created memes to date.
Most people know me from both my screenwriting career and the film/video production classes that I have taught for the past decade or so. What I don’t always advertise in this categorically-inclined world is that I also have a background in graphic arts/design. Yes—owing to an Inter-Arts minor from Georgetown University and some independent study in Adobe software, I came to learn graphic design, and even teach it too. On occasion, I even took on freelance digital art gigs with production companies—holiday business cards, storyboard inking, logo design and so on. I also built the digital assets for many of my own independent film projects: logos, film posters and social media banners. In another life, I could imagine an entire career devoted to digital design, but storytelling was always my first passion, and you can only wear so many hats before you tip yourself over from the sheer weight.
Still, I dip my toe in the digital art space now and then. And while there are certainly artists who draw on the same skills sets more regularly and professionally than me (my cousin “Psycho” Andy Costello and friend Karina Ramos Young come to mind), I find playing around in Photoshop or Illustrator to be one of my favorite pastimes, especially when it comes to meme building.
In the interest of appealing to the widest audience possible, let me begin by defining a meme as “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media” (Merriam-Webster). When something happens in the news or in a popular movie or TV show, it’s often satirized in such a way. Sometimes the image or video clip is recycled again and again and spread rapidly across the web, a phenomenon known as "going viral.” One such example is the Distracted Boyfriend Meme (pictured below), of which there are countless iterations, often tackling any number of trending topics (heck, I’ve even done one!).
Image provided by https://www.moderntreatise.com/science/tag/Memes
In short, memes are simply the social media generation’s version of one-liners. At their best, they make others smile and create connections. At worst, they can punch down or ridicule those who don’t deserve it, and so I would caution anyone trafficking in memes to ask yourself before you post, “Could anyone be hurt by the humor here?” In hindsight, I’ve probably skated that very line at times. As we grow as artists, so too do our sensibilities.
Now that we’ve caught everyone up to the century we’re living in (sorry, but if you needed those last two paragraphs, it’s probably true), I wanted to invite you to enjoy some of the many memes I’ve generated over the years, a select few of which have achieved some measure of virality.
So, in no particular order, please enjoy my showcase of the fun, trendy and just outright inane! AGP’s Greatest Memes:
Force Ghost Obama
This might be one of my earliest memes. It was lampooning that moment at the 2012 RNC when Clint Eastwood began arguing with an empty chair on stage that he imagined to be occupied by then President Obama. Truth be told, I wasn’t trying to even make a political point with this one. The concept of a force ghost from Star Wars just came to mind, and I thought I’d have a little fun adding not just Obama to the image, but Obi-Wan and Yoda to really sell it. In hindsight, I don’t think the banner at the bottom was necessary. The image could have stood alone, but again, it was one of my first memes. Sometimes less is indeed more.
CM Punk – True Detective
Following his controversial departure from WWE in 2014, professional wrestler (and later MMA fighter) CM Punk went into a period of media blackout. At the time, I had heard he was a fan of the show True Detective, and so I photoshopped CM Punk’s head onto Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle character and tweeted it out with the comment “Finally figured out where CM Punk went” from our Balcony web series twitter account. Within seconds, Punk retweeted it, and the meme went instantly viral. I remember seeing my Twitter notifications explode for the next 24 hours and thinking that I probably should have used my personal Twitter account rather than the web series. Oh, well! Not only did the tweet gain traction on social media, but a few wrestling news sites even mentioned it in their articles. It was deemed one of the rare times Punk reacted to something at least cursorily related to his career departure. For more on this tweet or the history of CM Punk, check out my recent blog The Catcher in the Ring.
Darth Nick Viall
Full disclosure, my writing partner Matt is an editor on the Bachelor franchise, and though I created this meme long before that was the case, he would probably shake his head at this one. Not just because of his ties to the show, but because Bachelorette Andi Dorfman would later reject Nick Viall and choose Josh Murray to win the rose of that season. Nevertheless, prior to the finale, Nick seemed to have an unsettling influence over Andi, which many viewers picked up on. So, naturally, I made him into Darth Sideous/Emperor Palpatine, equating the ease with which Nick seemed to be winning over Andi to that of old man Palps and Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The comparison was evidently on target, as one of the rejected male contestants from that season, Brian Osborne, actually retweeted it. Nick Viall would go on to become a sort of antihero of the Bachelor franchise, and Andi Dorfman would write a popular memoir titled It's Not Okay detailing her breakup from Murray.
Distracted Joker Fan
As I mentioned above, I did repurpose the Distracted Boyfriend Meme one time following the release of the 2019 Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix. The punchline here is pretty straightforward: the fan is turning away from the DCEU’s previous Joker, played by Jared Leto in the 2016 action-comedy Suicide Squad, and marveling at the Phoenix version.
Talk to the Hand
Truthfully, I have no idea why I decided to take Michelangelo’s famous “Creation of Adam” and change the position of his hand. Whatever the case, I have to commend myself for taking what was probably a disembodied hang belonging to someone else and seamlessly attaching it to Adam—even matching the skin tone and adding some highlight and shadow. Nerdy Photoshop stuff at its best!
The Best Dad in the Galaxy
Though there was no photoshopping in this case, I did add the caption above the image of the Mandalorian flying with little Grogu. Posting it on Father’s Day 2021 in a Star Wars Facebook forum, among other places, it quickly garnered thousands of likes, shares and replies. Following two seasons of their growing heartfelt relationship, Mando and Grogu had become such a beloved surrogate father-son duo for audiences worldwide that I knew a Father’s Day shoutout for them would make some noise. Sometimes timing is everything!
Integration Test Email
In June 2021, HBO Max sent some of its subscribers a strange email with the subject line “Integration Test Email #1” and the body stating “This template is used by integration tests only.” So, I joined a number of others on the web to post ridiculous theories behind the email, mine suggesting the message alluded to a subtitle for the long-awaited Justice League sequel. A few articles online even mentioned my tweet, among them: https://www.cordcuttersnews.com/what-was-that-hbo-max-integration-test-email-about.
Emerging Screenwriter Costume
This past Halloween 2022, I joined the hundreds of other memesters (is that a word?) by lampooning the iconic cover to Spirit costumes. In my case, I poked a little fun at myself this time, a writer who finds himself in the very same overzealous state of mind whenever a positive screenwriting email lands in my inbox. After all, the best comedy comes from a personal place, right?
Game of Thrones Memes
As a longtime Game of Thrones fan, I frequently created comical memes based on plot events in the show. Here are a few of my favorites:
When questioned by Archmaester Ebrose Citidel as to how he cured Jorah of the terminal illness of greyscale, Samwell Tarly gives a very simple explanation: he read the books and followed the instructions.
Jon Snow and his enclave go to enormous and deadly lengths to capture and transport a White Walker from the north to King’s Landing to prove its existence. It’s amusing to think how the technology of today could have made that process a whole lot easier.
This meme, which borrows from a common Lannister line, was meant to tease friends of mine who hadn’t yet RSVPed for one of my parties. Compelling, right?
And here are just a few other fun GOT-related memes:
Wedding Posters: The Notebook
While not a meme necessarily, these romantic posters I created for my wedding to my beautiful wife Lindsay definitely carried the spirit of memes. Here is a popular example from the batch, in which I blended our faces onto the poster for one of the most romantic movies of all time, The Notebook. Needless to say, my now wife Lindsay loved it.
Finally, here is a batch of (hopefully) self-explanatory memes that I created over the years:
There are likely even more that I’m forgetting, but we’ll camp it there.
In the end, the best memes capture whatever’s floating in the zeitgeist and package it in a way that both unites our common interests and makes us chuckle just a little bit. Here’s hoping that with at least some of the examples above, I’ve managed to do just that.
Thanks for reading! Do you have a favorite meme from the ones above? Offer your thoughts in the comments section below.