Did the Simpsons invent the meme?

By David Osgar

The internet is weird. Let’s just be honest about it. It’s a hive of different cultures, ages and opinions all spiralling in an ever-expanding web. Through it all one show has been there across the internet’s evolution – The Simpsons.

Hi, I’m David Osgar and you may know from such feature articles as, Film graduates; zombie films for everyone and Taken; where is Neeson now? While that reference is pretty dated and from a die-hard Simpsons fan, the same can be said about the memes that we see pop up online.

The show has managed to influence an entire generation, who have been influenced by the risqué and clever comedy of the show’s golden years. When looking at the phenomenon of memes the most famous are “steamed hams”, “lemon face” and the “I sleep in a racing car”.

All of these have spread around the world to depict Australian news, Trump and even Brexit, making it clear internet memes have kept the series alive and made a new and pretty niche contribution to pop culture.


While many of those memes may not mean anything to those other than dedicated fans or meme… experts? What’s the plural for meme? As comedian and long-time Simpsons fan Mat Troy puts it “even if you’ve never watched an episode of the Simpsons, you probably know what a dozen Simpson memes are about, because their repeated so much… With the Simpsons, it’s such a visually distinctive show, everyone knows what it is”.

The Simpson’s success is a story all in itself, but unlike other mega hits from that generation nothing seems to have remained as timeless as the crude cartoons that stemmed from creator Matt Groening all that time ago. The show found popularity for how it pushed boundaries and stood out from the crowd, very much appealing to the MTV generation.

With a clear visual style and the characters being adaptable to any situation, the Simpsons has now adapted itself to our internet culture. The show’s unique comedy and clever writing means the show is a feast for fans and online users to build and adapt moments from the show to become other entities all together.

What other show could make content from combining two jokes to become something else altogether? A scroll through any social media or video website for the craze of “steamed hams” will shock even the most up to date user due to the sheer volume of content.


Pulling fans from all over the world, with groups such as Rock Bottom and Four Finger Discount who originate in Australia, shows how viewers have had the same comic influence from the show as the likes of fans like myself or Mat have here in the UK.  “Steamed hams has been one of the most incredible expressions of fan love that I’ve ever seen… Being an animated show means you can take the show itself, put different voices over it, different heads on different characters and is actually one of the first times I have ever seen a welsh language meme used in that context,” says Matt.

Memes can take many different forms, but as possibly the most successful comedy of all time, with characters that literally have not aged. The jokes are still making new and old fans smile today and so in some ways it’s quite natural to link the Simpsons to the influence in our meme culture today. Now, to paraphrase Marge on gummies, can I stop saying meme so much?

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