Image macro

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An image macro about Wikipedia Wikipedia meme vector version.svg
An image macro about Wikipedia

An image macro is a piece of digital media featuring a picture, or artwork, with some form of text superimposed. The text frequently appears at the top and bottom of the image. Image macros are one of the most common forms of internet memes, and often feature a witty message or catchphrase, although not all image macros are necessarily humorous. LOLcats, which are images of expressive cats coupled with texts, are considered to be the first notable occurrence of image macros. [1] Advice animal image macros, also referred to as stock-character macros, are also highly associated with the image macro template.


Etymology and use

The term "image macro" originated on the Something Awful forums. [2] The name derived from the fact that the "macros" were a short bit of text a user could enter that the forum software would automatically parse and expand into the code for a pre-defined image. [2] This, in turn, related to the computer science topic of a macro; "a rule or pattern that specifies how a certain input sequence (often a sequence of characters) should be mapped to an output sequence (also often a sequence of characters) according to a defined procedure".

Beginning in 2007, lolcats and similar image macros (a form of internet phenomenon) spread beyond the initial communities who created them and became widely popular. [3]


An older and more traditional format for image macros Typical internet meme image format.svg
An older and more traditional format for image macros
Another image macro format, used since 2017. It is more popular nowadays. Newer image macro.png
Another image macro format, used since 2017. It is more popular nowadays.

Although they come in many forms, the most common type of image macros consists of:

  1. Text, typically a large text in the Impact font, [4] centered at the top and bottom of the image, using all upper-case letters. White text with a black border is typically used because it is easily readable on almost any background color. Typically, the text at the top is only for introduction and the text at the bottom is the main message. Exaggerated, intentional spelling errors are also used frequently for humorous effect. [ citation needed ]
  2. An image to be placed behind the text. These are typically drawn from a specific set of images that are understood by many Internet users, such as Bad Luck Brian. However, by using the aforementioned typographic style, any image can take on the context or aesthetic of an image macro.
  3. An image, usually from a music video, television show or a film, sometimes with subtitles on it, with a white background above with black text, typically in the Arial or Helvetica Neue font.


O RLY owl O RLY.jpg
O RLY owl

Cats and other animals in general have been a popular choice for images with humorous captions since the mid 2000s. [5] Some common animal-related image macros include lolcats, every time you masturbate... God kills a kitten, O RLY?, Doge and Grumpy Cat.

O RLY is often used on the internet as an abbreviation for the phrase "Oh, really?" Originally started with a snowy owl photograph (which is the classic O RLY image macro), [6] it spread out over the Web quickly and was followed by other macros that convey a wide range of emotions.

Another style of image macro that has amassed its own separate subculture is the "lolcat", an image combining a photograph of a cat with text intended to contribute humour. The text is often idiosyncratic and grammatically incorrect, and its use in this way is known as "lolspeak". Many times, the image is told from the point of view of the animal. [5]

"Rage faces" from Rage Comics are used to humorously depict an everyday or exaggerated situation or reaction. [7] Although Rage Comics in themselves are not image macros, images of specific rage faces are taken and put into image macro format and used in conjunction to their implied emotion or context.

Another popular type of image macro includes a picture of a certain person or figure drawn from various sources in front of a colored background, known as "advice animals". These "characters" often share the same image, but different internet users can choose different humorous captions. [8] These characters can include "Bad Luck Brian", "Success Kid", and "Scumbag Steve", among others. Bad Luck Brian image captions are used for unfortunate situations, Success Kid image captions depict an everyday situation involving good luck, and Scumbag Steve captions describe an unfriendly action taken by somebody.

Websites such as Know Your Meme document image macros such as Bad Luck Brian that have become popular enough to become internet memes, covering such topics as their original intended meaning, spread and popularity (as measured by Google search interest over time).

Another common trend in image macros is using specific scenes from television or movies such as One does not simply walk into Mordor from Lord of the Rings and 'Not Sure If-' from Futurama that uses a screen image of the character Fry looking unsure with his eyes squinted.


Some image macros have been criticised for creating space for "dogwhistling", by leaving ambiguous space for interpretations along racist, sexist and other lines. [9] [10] The ambiguity in interpretations is referred to as Poe's Law, where there is difficulty separating satire and sincere communication within image macros. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Internet meme Concept that spreads from person to person via the Internet

An internet meme, more commonly known simply as a meme, is a type of meme that is spread via the Internet, often through social media platforms and especially for humorous purposes. Memes can spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, or news sources. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on various websites. One hallmark of internet memes is the appropriation of a part of broader culture, for instance by giving words and phrases intentional misspellings or using incorrect grammar ; in particular, many memes utilize popular culture, although this can lead to issues with copyright. Instant communication on the internet facilitates word of mouth transmission, resulting in fads and sensations that tend to grow rapidly. An example of such a fad is that of planking, the act of posting a photo of people lying down in public places; putting the photo online brings attention to the fad and allows it to reach a high number of people in a short amount of time. “Dank” memes have emerged as a new form of image-macros, and many modern memes take on inclusion of surreal, nonsensical, and non-sequitur themes.

O RLY? is an Internet phenomenon, typically presented as an image macro featuring a snowy owl. The phrase "O RLY?", an abbreviated form of "Oh, really?", is popularly used in Internet forums in a sarcastic manner, often in response to an obvious, predictable, or blatantly false statement. Similar owl image macros followed the original to present different views, including images with the phrases "YA RLY", "NO WAI!!" ., and NO RLY.

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Stereotypes of animals

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Lolcat Image combining a photograph of a cat with text intended to contribute humour

A lolcat, or LOLcat, is an image macro of one or more cats. The image's text is often idiosyncratic and intentionally grammatically incorrect, and is known as lolspeak.

I Can Has Cheezburger?

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LOLCat Bible Translation Project

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  1. Shifman, Limor (2013). Memes in digital culture. MIT Press.
  2. 1 2 "SAClopedia entry for "image macro"". Something Awful SAClopedia. Retrieved 2008-07-28.(registration required)
  3. Rutkoff, Aaron (2007-08-25). "With 'LOLcats' Internet Fad, Anyone Can Get In on the Joke". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
  4. Phil Edwards (2015-07-26). "The reason every meme uses that one font". Vox. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
  5. 1 2 Dwight Silverman (2007-06-06). "Web photo phenomenon centers on felines, poor spelling". Houston Chronicle . Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  6. Stephen Phillips (2006-01-18). "Internet Term of the Week". The Independent Tiger Weekly. Archived from the original on 27 January 2008. Retrieved 2007-08-06.
  7. "Remember the "Me Gusta" Meme? Here's How It Began". Lifewire. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  8. "What Is a 'Meme'?". Lifewire. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  9. "Media Watch: Racist memes raise ire (06/06/2016)". Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  10. "The Reason Right-Wing Memes Are the Most Popular Memes". Vice. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  11. Milner, Ryan M. (December 2013). "FCJ-156 Hacking the Social: Internet Memes, Identity Antagonism, and the Logic of Lulz". The Fibreculture Journal (22 2013: Trolls and The Negative Space of the Internet).