The Meme Machine: What Happens When the Internet Chooses You

RT Docs: The Meme Machine: What Happens When the Internet Chooses You

Where did memes come from? Can you make a meme? What happens when you become a meme? In The Meme Machine, Rooster Teeth explores the origins of memes, how they spread, and digs into the stories behind some of the most popular “human memes” like Ermahgerd Girl, Overly Attached Girlfriend, and Chocolate Rain Guy.

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Comments (251)

  • Collindrilling FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    3 months ago

    damn all these are some old ass memes my guys 

  • Matt9678

    3 months ago

    10:45 Clearly you haven't had he pleasure of using Australian internet 

  • PrivateZim FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    3 months ago

    Damn... that "best friends since second grade" high five was real life "the office" awkward comedy. feelsbadman

  • UberTemplar FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    Red Glasses Guy is on a double edged sword. Sure, you're making money in a perfectly legal way, but you're villainizing and isolating yourself from the community that makes you money.


    His website, in all fairness, is kind of like a dictionary. None of the words or definitions are the dictionary's own creation, but they still make money by compiling them in a more convenient place. The only real way that they are different is how culture views their importance. They both are a  compilation of 'words' of an entire language. Just one has been around hundreds of years and is educational, while the other has been around for a decade and helps people spread humor.


    That being said, the dude seems like a total douche. Seems really entitled while the guys at Know Your Meme seem relatable in the video.

    • MrTimeMaster FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      1 month ago

      yeah i could not stand him might even go as far and say i hated him

  • carboy66 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    Although Ben Huh (Red Glasses Guy) annoyed a good amount of viewers, congrats on Rooster Teeth for trying to include more than just one side on the topic. 

  • alyssarcasm

    5 months ago

    I think it's pretty ignorant of Barbara to say that memes are making us dumber. People have been laughing at stupid shit for centuries; there's graffiti in Pompeii that says "Secundus is gay". Laughing at stupid jokes doesn't make us stupid as a culture, and there's no reason why watching videos or reading books has to be mutually exclusive from enjoying memes. I mean, her whole job is based on the fact that people enjoy watching videos on the internet. It must be nice to be up there on her high horse while the rest of us are stuck on the ground with our lowly, lazy humor.

  • ShredderCody FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    5 months ago

    The guy with red glasses is kinda an ass.

  • taw2 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    5 months ago

    Anytime someone says that memes make us dumber or that they show our devolution, I get a little butthurt. Memes are a way of expressing humour and connecting with people over vast distances, physically, and culturally. It's a type of self expression that also happens to be stupid and dumb. Memes are just meant to give others a chuckle or breath slightly more forcefully. In no way do I think they are ruining us. They are just a step in our cultural evolution on the internet.

  • poisoncuisine FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold verified

    5 months ago

    I love Mica ;o;

  • Dec_Zoidberg

    5 months ago

    Why hasn't this gotten more promotion?

  • ThatCakeGuy FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold ThatCakeGuy

    5 months ago

    From Harambe to the stupid things?


    Ok man, you do you

  • Joulaaa FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    5 months ago

    Chris Ray Gun, Sh0e, Skep, etc got on here with a Twitter reply of "remember, kids. #notallpepes"

  • 360forlife FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    5 months ago

    Jon's could have worked better as a video. Like show a news report, hard cut to first reaction, repeat. Not so much as a picture though.

  • cnralex FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    5 months ago

    Mica's is a grade A shitpost, that's for sure. Quality OC.

  • JeremyVoidMain

    5 months ago

    most do seem pretty forced these days. as a avid Reddit user, i was so happy to filter /r/AdviceAnimals. great doc!

  • DavidVickers FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    So Jon's basically Kiba, right?

  • 8bitdee my views are your own

    6 months ago

    I'm the kind of guy who's too told to appreciate the memes of today, like Harambe and that frog one. Memes back in the day had a quality of natural unstoppable force about them, whereas nowadays every meme feels forced. That sounds hypocritical, because memes have always been about that, but I guess the difference between now and then is that back then whenever a meme would gain traction it was something new and interesting to watch explode into a cultural concept. Nowadays memes are just part of culture and not interesting anymore because I've become so used to them. 


    Anyway, great doc RT! Aside from the Jon and Mica part. I don't really think it needed that. No one really cares about two "famous" people creating memes.  

    • Joulaaa FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      5 months ago

      All memes have a time of light. When you go in public and someone starts talking about Pepe or Harambe, it just kills the whole experience. Memes are meant to be an inside joke. An individual digital language as they said.

  • SGTFreckles FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    My favorite thing about this doc is the Creator of the meme generator site acting like he's some kind of authority on memes. Like towards the end when he's shitting on the 4 guys reacting meme. Like all you did was make money off memes, wtf do you know? If I make a website that allows people to create and distribute their own medicine, does that make me an expert on medicine?

  • tanyelle FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    stop. Mica has a "#1 space dad mug" and I instantly awww'd

  • Lanterncourt FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Memes, another thing being ruined by our current pc culture.

  • ShadowBall3r FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold BigDaddyDeadpoo1

    6 months ago

    Ah yes. Delicious, moist, sticky memes ̿̿ ̿̿ ̿̿ ̿'̿'\̵͇̿̿\з= ( ▀ ͜͞ʖ▀) =ε/̵͇̿̿/’̿’̿ ̿ ̿̿ ̿̿ ̿̿



    EDIT: That Asian guy from Cheezburger.com has so much money that he has colored glasses frames. You know he's banking off of dem dank memes when he's got colored frames.

  • StoneAgeStrk FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Great doc yet again

  • vulpesvega

    6 months ago

    heyeayeayea-3628.gif

    Will always be the best meme ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Kappa

  • xJPx15 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    I thought that woman holding the dog in the beginning was Chyna. (You will only get this if you watch WheezyWaiter on YT)

  • Arcturian FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Jon the "can I speak to your daughter" rismonger

  • Austriker FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Austriker

    6 months ago

    pepe being a "hate symbol" is the meme of the decade

  • AnthroMetal FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    I love these docs. 

  • Bismarckee FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    This red glasses guy piss's me off.

    First time I actually hated someone in a rt production.


  • Bismarckee FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Its not free speech if your making money off of it. Self entitled red glasses prick.

  • Arkatox FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Some thoughts.

    1. I actually like Jon's meme. It's pretty clever, and funnier than a lot of popular memes.

    2. I like Mica but her meme was easily the least funny image seen in the entire doc. :P

    3. Tay Zonday is the best. Interestingly I discovered him through collabs with other YouTubers like Jacksfilms, and didn't know he was an old meme until a while later.

    4. Laina Morris is, as always, gorgeous.

    5. I don't know whether to be impressed or pissed off by the credits sequence.

    6. Overall, good doc. My favorite is still Connected, of course. Interested to see what 2017 has to offer for the series.

  • handyguy007

    6 months ago

    Not a bad documentary, but I cringed all the way.

  • MagmaBiscuit FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    As much as I love memes, I gotta agree that sometimes the meme culture oversteps things.


    For example, the pictures of the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey has had so many memes made out of it, and you just have to wonder where you would draw the line

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      Eh that's fine, hell Gavin's favorite meme seems to be about an assassination (back and to the left).

  • mattster232 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Can't afford Double Gold

    6 months ago

    8:09 those eyes! omg they are beautiful

    • Halolover_Kail FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Kazza468

      6 months ago

      Find out how a bot was found, what happens next won't shock you!

  • AndyMayne FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    am i the only one that thought this video was a little scary? like i got chills from it, idk. i feel really weird right now...

  • PhantomFeathers FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Double rainbow all the way, 'cross the sky....


    I can't believe I just sat through 53 minutes of a documentary about people in an online entertainment company dissecting the cultural science of memes. It fascinating to watch you and your published interviewees unravel the history, the good, the bad, and the frikken weird, in the middle of Jon and Mica's quests to create their own memes. My prediction was that it wouldn't work. Can people really "make" viral memes, or do they spurn about by chance and occasional artistic license with limited resources?


    If anything, it was another delightful venture into the world of the Internet as told by people who rely on it to make a paycheck. It was especially fun to look at the political side of it, and at the reality of the people behind some of the biggest memes. Online fame can be weird, regretful business. I love the result of ROFLCon and how the people who went there could commiserate and relate in this train ride they never asked for. Makes me respect Rebecca Black even more, now, for pushing on through all the hate for a song she didn't even write.


    And I love the random street man who pronounced it "maymay".

  • IronGamer FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    I learned more about Memes watching this documentary than any other video out there so far. I liked the documentary, phenomenal work as always!

  • AndrewHasHats FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Pretty good doc, guys. It could have done with less of the /r/fellowkids vibe, though.

  • aaronasael FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Such a great Doc. Thanks RT! 

  • DiegoMorales FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Diego Morales

    6 months ago

    I do think this doc really tried to paint Ben Huh in a negative way, which he deserves but I think was not necessary in the video. One cannot deny the effect that Cheezburger had on memes, the only thing that is wrong is his view on how the person who created it or is featured on the meme has no rights to benefit from the work.

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      Yeah I got that too.. He kinda seems like a bad guy, but at the same time he isn't wrong, I think hes safe under parody law or something

  • PedroSantos FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Awesome documentary by the way, just a small reflection that hit me during viewing:


    "I don't think you have any right to prevent others from using it is, it is effectively speech. What you're doing is trying to prevent somebody that used the same word you used, except you made that word...in a sentence."


    So by that logic, books are effectively, just words in multiple sentences. Therefore, books should be allowed to be republished by diferente authors. If one adds a bit of extra embellishment or crops sections of these books (like a specific quote from a character or a chapter) by his definition its "speech" it works out. Or  even speeches from famous political/social personalities, can I also make a profit out of those?


    Although, obviously what I used as an example is not linear with the meme scenario and everything is not that black and white since the current virtual media falls in a totally diferente category and there are plenty of angles to argue both in favour and against, that is just a thought I had on the matter.

    What are yours?

  • GeorgeMoller FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Nothing like a good nut

    6 months ago

    Look at these fucking normies laughing at old normie memes. Disgusting.

    • Austriker FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Austriker

      6 months ago

      I felt the same way

  • Sockbum FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    I think I would find a meme instantly less funny if I knew someone was being hurt by it, or was an unwilling component in it's making.

  • Davidov64 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold YouTube Wannabe

    6 months ago

    My freshman year in high school in English we had to make meme's like the Despair, Inc ones. I had one of a two headed snake that said "teamwork: It doesn't always work"

  • Rob_cpMetis

    6 months ago

    "You don't possess a talent to be produced upon." - The fudgebuttersticks does that mean?


    -7:12 I have absolutely no idea why, but that little tug on the table-mat/water glass and the tiny readjustment was extremely cute and genuine. I have no idea how or why I even noticed.

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      It is what he said? Hes talking about photos, its not a talent to have a photo taken that someone else can put text on.. Although I'm sure models would disagree.  But, yeah hes kinda wrong, since some people have made careers out of being memes.

  • church9816 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    I get why a lot of people are mad at Red Glasses Guy, and they have a right to be. He comes off as a jerk and practically shameless for posting other people's content as his own. But memes are in a sense free speech. This guy made a lot of money off them because he created a platform to aggregate different memes through out the internet as well as a generator to create your own meme. And while it seems unfair to the person who is the subject of the meme, like Bad Luck Brian, to not see any of that money, what would you propose they do? 


    If they invoke copyright or something then that would not only effect Red Glasses Guy, but every site or person who receives money for posting it. A site like 9Gag that has tones of memes on it would be liable for lawsuits. If people all of a sudden had to pay for license to use a meme like a movie or a song, then it would quickly die out. Memes are such a trivial means of entertainment that if someone had to pay for their monthly subscription of memes, no one would view them. In theory, Dos Eques could sue people for using their advertising without permission, but the attention they get from the meme far out ways the con of losing some licensing dollars.


    If a person becomes famous on the internet because of a meme, then I think it is within their responsibility to capitalize on that. Some obviously have and the internet is great about helping memes become famous. But it can also be very negative at times. Being in the public eye is something not everyone can handle. And people who are memes often times didn't ask to become famous, it just happened to them.

    • olivemeister FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      While I do agree with some of this, I'm not sure what you meant by saying "memes are in a sense free speech" - the term doesn't actually apply. I think what you're getting at is that they're content that, by their nature, is meant to be derivative and spread. Which, yeah, if so, that's completely true. But the issue isn't "memes are getting shared", it's "people who didn't create the memes are selling and profiting off of them, which is thievery".


      You seem to be recognizing Red Glasses Guy as a dick, but how is he any different from other profitable content aggregators? Are they suddenly breaking the law less just because they're not being shameless and blatant about their thievery? The matter of "who owns a meme" is a different but related matter. But the thing that cannot be denied is that what meme aggregators do is not creation. All they do is pull things put together by other people off another site and throw it on theirs, almost never with the permission of the person who first posted it and usually not crediting said person.


      You could argue "it wouldn't be a meme if not for [site] showing it to their userbase" or even "memes are by nature collaborative so by being instrumental in the proliferation of the meme, an aggregator site may count as a "producer" of the meme", but the problem is that there was no consent involved from the content creators. Maybe it wouldn't be big without a specific site's influence, sure. But the people running the site didn't ask the creator before taking their content, and the site does not financially compensate the people whose content they're making bank off.


      That is where the problem lies.

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      Totally safe under parody law, nothing to do with free speech.

  • DocNameless FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    Extremely impressed with RT DOCS. There isn't one documentary that I haven't absolutely loved. Just keep it up please cause you guys rock.

  • renilo112 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    viral meme's are cringe,  twitch meme's are the only meme's that i like.

    • AndyMayne FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      -3 lame?

      2/10 kappa

  • sirenite FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Beta Tex

    6 months ago

    it's interesting to think about the careful balance of sharing these memes and their inherent right with DMCA/copyright laws..... you need it to be shared to be a meme, but as it's all clearly shown, other people can make money off of it and use your copyright, giving you no compensation. putting owners of memes in a weird place....

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      Well there's one problem, you don't own a photo just because you are in it, the person that takes it does.

    • sirenite FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Beta Tex

      6 months ago

      @jadenedaj How is that even a point? Chocolate Rain and Overly Obsessed Girlfriend both took their own video. Bad Luck Brian's friendly clearly already owned the photo and Ermegerd's friend took the photo and gave it to her to use. Like you're right in copyright terms but that doesn't apply here.

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      5 months ago

      @sirenite Well yeah, if somebody makes a documentary with people that own the images that turned them into memes that's bound to happen.  If you go to any meme-site and its full of Obama, Brendan Frazier and that guy with a red shirt, you can't just use that as a blanket statement.. And yeah, I was just saying, that's ONE problem, it's like people expect the law to be setup that they have to get proof of ownership for every photo on a meme generator, its just not how the law works.. Yet. Maybe it will change, in which case it will just be up to 4chan or whatever, good luck shutting down anonymous image boards.    The more important "problem" is its pretty safe under parody law/fair use.. If it wasn't, Rooster Teeth probably wouldn't exist, or at least Achievement Hunter wouldn't... But I guess people will pick and choose their outrage based on some cry baby memelords.

    • sirenite FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Beta Tex

      5 months ago

      @jadenedaj Yes, and the line between parody law and copyright law is a very difficult conversation to navigate. But that's irrelevant, you're comparing video games (that you pay to buy, you give royalties to) to taking an image, downloading it, and reposting it on your own website to make your own money (and violated DMCA). I'm focussing on an interesting point - is there any reason to go AGAINST this since it would remove the entire part that defines it as a meme?

      Your original point is moot. 

  • JDunlap FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold The Dude

    6 months ago

    Then there's the RT Podcast memes...

  • olivemeister FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    6 months ago

    I think the thing about red glasses guy that really gets me is this sense of entitlement. It took me a little while to really process what about him it was that was pissing me off, and that's this:


    There's no give and take, no permission. If he was contacting the people who were creating these images (from what I can tell, his site reposts image macros for the most part) it would be another matter entirely. But it seems he and his team (?) just scour the internet for things to reupload to their network without authorization by the person who created them. Does he even credit them?


    Another thing I have a major gripe with is his idea that they're "just words" and therefore it's not stealing because in theory anyone could have put those words together. Okay, you could have. But you didn't. Someone else did, and then you took it and profited off it. Even if it wasn't illegal to profit off of stolen work, it would be morally just an incredibly shitty thing to do. You did nothing to deserve this, and the sense of entitlement of "I made memes big" is honestly mind-boggling. All you did was steal other people's content and put it all in one convenient place. It was luck that your site was the one of hundreds to take off.


    We have a term for when you take someone else's words, a term that should have been hammered into your head in middle school and high school as a bad thing that you will be punished for doing. That term is "plagiarism", and that's what many aggregate sites do by not crediting sources. But rather than punishing him, he's being rewarded both monetarily and even by this documentary, in that he wasn't condemned for his actions and got to basically advertise his site. 


    Isn't a site like that technically illegal? It seems it's in a grey zone - it's impossible to prosecute, because it's so widespread that tracking it all down and pursuing it in court is a daunting, terrifying task. And a lot of people, like me, probably just don't know if you'd even have a case to pursue in the first place. No one will investigate a theft if it's not reported, after all. But how does international copyright work? Do we have any protection for our content if it's posted on the internet, and how do we exercise that protection when someone steals it? That's what red glasses guy made me think, more than anything else. Well, anything besides "what a douchebag".

    • sirenite FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Beta Tex

      6 months ago

      Yeah, it violates copyright so it's technically illegal..... But would the owners do anything to get the image removed if the point of a meme is to be shared? 

    • rail108 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      yep. Seemed like a very entitled asshat, acting like he deserved success because others made their content open so he can in his mind, freely take it for his own gain.

    • jadenedaj FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      6 months ago

      That's not even remotely how copyright law works.  Just google "are memes copyritten" before you keep shitposting pls -burnie (most likely)