“Me and the boys at 2am looking for beans” was once a kingpin in the world of memes. It commanded legions and led to the creation of merchandise. Now, the meme is dank. Could it be the dankest meme of 2020? First, let’s take a step back.

What is a meme?

Property of the Internet

A meme is a unit of cultural information spread by imitation. British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the term in his 1976 work The Selfish Gene. He coined the neologism “meme” by shortening the Greek word mimema, meaning “imitated”.

Dawkins defined memes as “ideas that spread from brain to brain” – culturally equivalent to biological genes, which replicate inside the body. Within any given culture, memes can take various forms – behaviours, ideas, beliefs, phrases and fashions all constitute memes.

So the term isn’t actually very old. However, it has undergone a semantic transformation in recent years.

What is an internet meme?

Owing in large part to the illustrious online community of 4chan, memes have taken on a new meaning. In modern popular discourse, “meme” actually means “internet meme”. An internet meme is a meme that’s spread via the internet.

But again, in most conversations, “internet meme” doesn’t encompass all the multiple possible forms a meme can take, spread via the internet. Instead, especially among internet-savvy youths, “meme” simply refers to an amusing image or series of images overlaid with captions or quotations.

Like this.

Sometimes modern memes are intended to replicate – like Dawkins’ memes or “true memes” – but mostly they are just made “for the lulz”. In short, meme has become an umbrella term for any piece of disposable comedic or relatable content.

What does ‘me and the boys at 2am looking for beans’ mean, and how is it a meme?

The meme itself depicts a scene in which three ghoulish, grey-bodied phantoms wander, wide-armed, through an eerie, residential corridor. It is night time, but the darkness is broken sharply by lurid greens and yellows. The characters’ glowing, red eyes belie a fatigued urgency, and imply a cannabis high.

Here are three young men engaged in a slumber party, whose inhalation of THC smoke has rendered them subservient to “the munchies”. They have no choice but to stagger from the solace of the hotbox towards the kitchen in search of something to eat. Their target, this evening, is beans.

When it was originally created, the image tapped into a shared experience. This scene was playing out in various homes in various countries. It’s the kind of image that made people say things like: “Bro, yo, that was us last night!!!!”

Its depiction, therefore, appealed sufficiently for the meme to spread – to replicate.

‘Me and the boys’ in the time of coronavirus

Much has changed since the “me and the boys at 2am looking for beans” meme was created about a year ago. Localised and nationwide lock-downs, limitations on social contact with others and severe clampdowns on illegal parties have made scenes like this taboo.

Passing bongs, pipes and/or joints from hand to hand and mouth to mouth is no longer a hot topic. The meme is no longer replicable. It is “dank”.

An old meme is a dank meme

That’s right. Dank no longer means “unpleasantly moist or humid; damp and, often, chilly” – not in the vernacular of the internet. Dank has taken on two new meanings. From dictionary.com:

  1. Slang. (of marijuana) excellent; high quality:
    e.g. There was plenty of booze and dank weed at the party.
  2. Slang. (of an internet meme) passé or clichéd; out of touch; having missed the cultural Zeitgeist.

In the age of lock-downs and social restrictions, social gatherings such as the one depicted in the “me and the boys at 2am looking for beans” meme are, at the least, not worth popularising. The Zeitgeist has moved on.

Image from Reddit<...>

A meme so successful it led to the creation of merchandise, including T-shirts, notebooks and cuddly toys (Baudrillard, eat your heart out), is now so dank it has been relegated to Reddit’s dankmemes subreddit. May it rest in peace.

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