A Look Back at the Top 15 Most Memorable Memes of 2017

By Melissa Duko, December 19, 2017

In digital marketing, memes are often a go-to method of injecting a little levity into an otherwise dry piece of content. They’re also a great way to foster social engagement, encouraging your audience to like, reshare, and comment.

Memes for 2017 ran the gamut from political to pop culture, and everything in between. In no particular order, here are our top 15 most memorable memes of 2017. Feel free to laugh, cry, and pop them into your own content.

1. Sean Spicer: Hiding in the Bushes 

Dubbed “The Human Meme of the White House,” no one had a meme-tastic year more than former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. (Well, besides Trump, but we’ll get to him in a sec.) With so many memes to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one. But for us, the most memorable was “Hiding in the Bushes.”

Related Post: Brand Safety: How Poor Word Choice Can Hurt

What Inspired It: Spicer literally hid in the bushes. Although he says he was hiding among the bushes, not in them. (Ah semantics.) The reason? Supposedly to avoid reporters.

Naturally such a spectacle immediately went viral. Memes ranged from a cardboard cutout of Spicer’s face peering out from a bush, to Spicer’s face superimposed on Homer Simpson’s body as it retreated into a hedge, to this Milhouse meme below.

spicer hiding in the bushes.jpg

Source: Daily Mail

While Spicer may no longer provide us with daily meme inspiration, he will forever be ingrained in our memories.

2. Nusret Gokce: “Salt Bae” 

To be a memorable meme, apparently all it takes is a hot chef and a sprinkle of salt. In 2017, those two ingredients combined gave us Salt Bae.  

Related Post: How to Build Brand Awareness With Mobile Video

What Inspired It: Turkish chef Nusret Gokce innocently uploaded a video of himself sprinkling salt on a steak. And the rest is history.


Source: Bustle

Salt Bae is the perfect meme (and GIF) for whenever you want to add some drama to your social sharing or blog post.  

3. Taylor Swift: “Is a Snake” 

Taylor Swift has inspired many memes, but none as famous as 2016’s infamous “Taylor Swift Is a Snake.” And in 2017, that meme came back stronger than ever.

What Inspired It: Long-story short, Swift lied about knowing the lyrics to Kanye West’s “Famous,” and Kim Kardashian had the “receipts” to prove it. For a while, it seemed Tay-Tay went into hiding to lick her wounds. But little did we know, she was preparing to use her new “Slytherin” status to push her new album.

Related Post: 5 Steps to Branding Like a Kardashian

In 2017 when news broke about Swift’s new album, Twitter went into a snake meme frenzy.


Source: Elite Daily

And just went we thought it couldn’t get any better, “Old vs New Taylor” memes popped up, too.

4. Nicolas Cage: “Nicolas Cage in Kazakhstan”

Quirky actor Nicolas Cage is no stranger to memes. There’s even a Pinterest page dedicated to “Nicolas Cage’s Face on Things.” But 2017’s ‘Nicolas Cage in Kazakhstan’ took Cage memes to a whole new level.  

What Inspired It: The actor, who was in Kazakhstan, donned traditional garb and posed awkwardly next to violinist Aiman Mussakhajayveva. Quickly, Cage’s image was snatched from the original photo and went viral.

Nicolas Cage Meme.jpg

Source: Newsweek

Whenever you need to pop a random person into your original meme, you now know who to use.

5. Distracted Boyfriend a.k.a. “Man Looking at Other Woman”

It’s a tale as old as time, man has girlfriend and a wandering eye. So, it’s no surprise that “Distracted Boyfriend” became one of the hottest memes of the summer. It’s extremely relatable and applicable to just about every situation, even the solar eclipse.

Related Post: How to Optimize Your Images for Social Media Shareability

What Inspired It: The origin of the “Distracted Boyfriend” is actually a stock photo taken by photographer Antonio Guillem.


Source: Vox

Whenever you need to make a snarky digital marketing comparison, keep this meme in your back pocket.

6. Kendall Jenner: Pepsi  

Although Kendall Jenner is the quiet one out of the Kardashian/Jenner bunch, she sure made a splash this year getting caught up in quite a few branding disasters. Who can forget the backlash and memes from the Pepsi ad debacle?

What Inspired It: Pepsi’s controversial commercial starring Jenner, featured the model handing a can of Pepsi to a cop during a protest. Let’s just say it didn’t go over well... at all.


Source: BuzzFeed

Jenner also played a role in our next iconic meme from 2017: Fyre Festival.

7. Ja Rule: Fyre Festival

Ah Fyre Festival, not since Woodstock ‘99 has there been such a disastrous festival while the world was watching. Dubbed the rich kids’ modern day version of “Lord of the Flies,” Fyre Festival failed on multiple levels. Naturally it spurned a variety of memes.

What Inspired It: Rich kids go to island. They find a broke down tent village and learn the only substenance is processed cheese on bread with a side of sad lettuce. 


Source: Twitter

If you ever need a meme for classic bait and switch, you’ll find plenty featuring Fyre Festival.

8. Anderson Cooper: Viral Eyeroll

It’s the eyeroll that inspired a thousand GIFs. Veteran news anchor and reporter Anderson Cooper normally manages to maintain his composure, but this time he slipped up and it was glorious.

What Inspired It: Like most of America, Cooper finally had enough of Kellyanne Conway during an interview about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. As Conway continued to evade questions and spin fake news, Cooper rolled his eyes.


Source: GIPHY

Immediately, Cooper’s eye roll was captured and spun into memes, flooding the internet and social media.


 Source: @decider

When you need a solid GIF to express annoyance, Cooper’s eyeroll is life.  

9. President George W. Bush: Inauguration Poncho  

It had been awhile since former President George W. Bush had any public gaffes or “Bushisms.” So, when he showed the struggle is real trying to don a rain poncho, the masses were enamored.

What Inspired It: During President Trump’s inauguration it began to rain, so Bush decided to put a poncho on. But the poncho had other ideas. Bush struggled to get the poncho to cooperate and finally gave up and put it on his head. (We’d probably do the same.)

Source: Time

Everyone loved it, and the “Bush Inauguration Poncho” meme lives on.

10. President Donald J. Trump: Solar Eclipse

Ah, Trump. In 2017, Trump was a meme inspiring machine. There are so many memorable ones: Covefefe, Local Milk People, The Magical Orb, but the one that trumps them all is “staring at the solar eclipse without protective glasses.”

What Inspired It: Despite warnings not to, President Trump stared at the solar eclipse without protective glasses. In his defense, it’s likely it was only mere seconds, but still.

Source: Political Punchline

As the image circulated, the memes came fast and furious. Many memes touched on hot button topics like fake news and Trump nemesis CNN, which fit perfectly with the image. 

11. Joel Osteen: The Innkeeper  

In the summer of 2017, celebrity televangelist Joel Osteen suddenly found himself the subject of Hurricane Harvey related memes. And let’s just say they did no favors to his reputation and brand.

What Inspired It: When word leaked that Osteen kept the doors to his Lakewood Church closed during Hurricane Harvey, people were quick to point out the hypocrisy, naturally in the form of memes.


Source: Twitter

Osteen will likely bounce back from this PR nightmare, but we’ll always have the memes.

12. United Airlines: “I Made It on the Plane”

United Airlines was the gift that kept on giving in 2017. From animals dying in cargo storage to rough-arming passengers, every time you turned around the airline was trending for negative news.

What Inspired It: United Airlines passenger David Dao was forcibly removed from the aircraft. His injuries included a concussion and broken nose, which spurned memes like this Rocky one.


Source: Marie Claire

You could say this was the incident that started the bad press for United Airlines in 2017 and the many memes that followed.

13. Vice President Joe Biden: Medal of Freedom

Former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama are no strangers to memes. They even have their own Facebook following Obama/Biden Memes. But after they left the White House, sadly it looked like the bromance memes would be ending, until we got a very special surprise (as did Biden).

What Inspired It: Obama surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Not only did Biden choke up with gratitude, but so did everyone else because we knew what was coming: more “Jobama” memes!


Source: The Real Rickey Smiley

There were so many great ones, but we have a soft spot for this meme above which combines a reference to Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” music video and the movie Titanic.

14. Drew Scanlon: Blinking White Guy

Although the GIF of Drew Scanlon a.k.a. “Blinking White Guy” has been around for awhile, it went viral in early 2017.

What Inspired It: Legend has it that the GIF originated from Giant Bomb’s video “Unprofessional Fridays.” Scanlon’s blinking is a reaction to someone saying they are “Farming with my hoe.”

Blinking White Guy GIF.gif

Source: Mashable

Anytime you want to express disbelief, you can’t go wrong with this GIF.

15. Trump: Feeding Koi Fish

Closing out our list is none other than President Trump feeding koi fish.

What Inspired It: During his visit to Japan, President Trump was filmed feeding koi carp fish when suddenly he dumped the entire box of food into the pond. Turns out koi fish can't eat that much food or they'll get sick, even die. Naturally the image immediately became a meme, even tying into the popular Salt Bae meme.  


Source: Independent.ie

And on that note, we can’t wait to see what 2018 has in-store for us.

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Melissa Duko

Melissa Duko

Melissa Duko is the Senior Editor and Digital Specialist for Anura. She brings to her role more than a decade of journalism and editing experience. A graduate of the University of Delaware, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, concentration business and technical writing, minor Art History. She also has a Master of Science in professional writing for the public and private sector from Towson University. She isn’t afraid to admit that her love for Starbucks is at gold member status. (Since 2011!) More Articles by Melissa Duko