6 Beloved Memes With Disturbing Origin Stories

After ill-informed explosions of unadulterated rage, memes are some of the most popular forms of communication on the internet. Since most of us don't actually want to articulate our inner thoughts and feelings, we hide behind amusing JPEGs and GIFs to simulate human interaction. But as harmless as most memes are, some of these images have decidedly unnerving backstories. You might think twice about copy-and-pasting certain formats after learning that ...

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6
The Nodding Guy Was A Damn Cannibal

The Meme:

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In the rare case that someone on the internet actually agrees with someone else, they employ that GIF in which a bearded outdoorsman gently nods while the camera zooms in on him. Because of the beard and literally no other reason, apparently a lot of people thought it was Zach Galifianakis. But it's actually Robert Redford, the Oscar-winning screen legend and dystopian alternate reality president.

Who we assume wasn't thrilled to go from one of Hollywood's biggest leading men to being mistaken for Zach GalifianakisWarner Bros. PicturesWho we assume wasn't thrilled to go from one of Hollywood's biggest leading men to being mistaken for Zach Galifianakis

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The Creepy Backstory:

The clip is from Sydney Pollack's 1972 film Jeremiah Johnson, in which Redford plays the titular character. Johnson was a real guy back in the Old West, and his story is completely insane. Johnson's pregnant wife was murdered by the Crow tribe, spurring him to go on a two-decade revenge killing spree. If that wasn't disturbing enough, Johnson also ate his victims' livers, possibly because the Crow considered "the liver a sacred part of the body, necessary to enter the afterlife." And in real life he looked a tad less Redford-y.

Though for a Wild West serial killer, he's spot-on.Montana State Historical SocietyThough for a Wild West serial killer, he's spot-on.

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Johnson was eventually captured by Blackfoot hunters, who were going to sell him off to the Crow. But he escaped, and after he killed one of the guards, he "chopped off his leg" and devoured it on the journey home. Maybe this GIF should be reserved for tweets in which people are agreeing on the sweet taste of human flesh.

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Related: 7 Memes That Went Viral Before the Internet Existed

5
Batman Slapping Robin Is From A Murder-Filled Comic

The Meme:

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As further proof that Gotham City's child services department totally dropped the ball, we have the famous image of Batman slapping Robin. Folks on the internet have filled in the speech bubbles with various topics over the years, from Batman complaining that his parents are "Deeaaaaaaaad!!!" to statistical analysis.

Should we really write a caption here? Two sets of text might be confus-<br>[SMACK] We always write captions!DC Comics"Should we really write a caption here? Two sets of text might be confus-"
[SMACK] "We always write captions!"

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The Creepy Backstory:

The image is from a comic in which the Dark Knight does indeed give the Boy Wonder a fresh one. While you might think that this moment of Bat-abuse is the apex of unpleasantness in the story, it is in fact one of the least upsetting parts. The panel comes from World's Finest #153 from 1965, an "imaginary story" that presents an alternate take on Batman's origin. In it, Bruce Wayne's father is seemingly murdered by ... Superboy?

Yup, that sounds like the inner monologue of the world's greatest detective.DC ComicsYup, that sounds like the inner monologue of the world's greatest detective.

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So Bruce Wayne becomes Batman purely with the intention to one day kill Superman. But even though this version of Batman is driven by bloodlust, he still adopts a small child, for some reason. When Robin finds out that Batman is just in the hero game for revenge, he gently asks him to reconsider, and receives that iconic smack as punishment.

Also, if this is about Superman, how does having me beat up muggers dressed like a Rockette fit in?DC Comics"Also, if this is about Superman, how does having me beat up muggers dressed like a Rockette fit in?"

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But things get worse. In the end, Batman decides to team up with Lex Luthor, of all people. And bizarrely, he trusts Luthor so completely that he whips off his mask for no goddamn reason whatsoever.

Is that enough of an unsolicited reveal to prove that I'm serious? Because I've got copies of my birth certificate and Social Security card in the Batmobile.DC Comics"Is that enough of an unsolicited reveal to prove that I'm serious? Because I've got copies of my birth certificate and Social Security card in the Batmobile."

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Batman Kryptonite-stabs Superman, who foolishly never once considers blurting out his mom's name. But right when Batman is about to finish Superman off, he uses those detective skills of his to piece together that it was in fact Luthor who killed his father. So Batman frees Superman, but then gets shot by Luthor. The last panel is literally Superman kneeling over Batman as he dies.

Maybe in the haze of cigarette smoke and day drinking, this didn't seem quite so bonkers to people in the '60s.DC ComicsMaybe in the haze of cigarette smoke and day drinking, this didn't seem quite so bonkers to people in the '60s.

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Related: Memes You Probably Helped Spread Are Secretly Propaganda

4
The "Tough Entrance" Guy Was In Court For Harboring Terrorists

The Meme:

Need an image of someone arriving in super awkward fashion? You can't go wrong with the "Tough Guy Entrance" -- footage of a man trying to look super badass and failing miserably.

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The Creepy Backstory:

The footage is of Jawad Bendaoud entering a French court with all the swagger of a middle-schooler who just snuck into a PG-13 movie. Why was he in court? Well, Bendaoud was accused of harboring the two men who committed the 2015 Paris attacks. He was originally acquitted, then sentenced to four years in jail after an appeal filed by the Paris prosecutor's office. So ultimately this GIF exists because of a harrowing tragedy. It's like if it turned out that the heavily memed monkey puppet has shifty eyes because he used to hang with the Manson Family.

Related: 5 Crazy Memes That Went Viral (Centuries And Decades Ago)

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3
The "Doge" Dog Has A Tragic Past

Presumably because human beings are terrible, people on the internet sure love sharing pictures of animals. One of the most famous animal memes is "Doge," which began with a picture of a Shiba Inu giving serious side-eye to the camera, as if it's starring in a canine remake of Fleabag. (Which, come to think of it, could still be called Fleabag.)

<i>Much popular, very memes.</i>Atsuko SatoMuch popular, very memes.

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The image has popped up everywhere, from Christmas sweaters to friggin' cryptocurrencies.

6 Beloved Memes With Disturbing Origin StoriesAmazon

Because if there's one thing that guarantees an investment is a winner, it's memes.DogecoinBecause if there's one thing that guarantees an investment is a winner, it's memes.

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The Creepy Backstory:

The real dog, Kabosu, has a bummer of a biography. She was born in a puppy mill which closed down. Since puppy mill owners generally aren't known for their altruism, Kabosu and her siblings were abandoned and left to die. While most of the dogs didn't survive, she was rescued by a shelter, where she was, uh, scheduled to be put down. More luckily, she was adopted by a kindergarten teacher before that could happen.

After her new owner posted some "cute pictures," Kabosu inadvertently rocketed to internet stardom. So maybe shelters should think twice about putting down any animals who could potentially become viral stars and mascots for bogus money.

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Related: 18 Famous Internet Memes Before They Were Famous

2
Trollface Was A Failed Attempt To Draw A "Rapist Version" Of A Classic Cartoon Character

The Meme:

Sometimes it's hard to imagine what an internet troll actually looks like. A lot of us may simply picture a nude genital-less creature with brightly colored hair and the face of Clint Howard. But there's also "Trollface," a crudely drawn character who looks like a mascot for the world's perviest sports team.

U unsettled, bro?Carlos Ramirez"U unsettled, bro?"

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The Creepy Backstory:

Trollface first appeared in a DeviantArt webcomic by Carlos Ramirez, and soon spread on 4Chan, becoming the "universal emoticon of an Internet troll." In the original post, Ramierz mentioned that Trollface actually began as an attempt to copy an entirely different meme: a creepy rendering of Mighty Mouse unfortunately dubbed ... "Rape Rodent."

Which somehow manages to make Trollface look like Bambi.Via KnowyourmemeWhich somehow manages to make Trollface look like Bambi.

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Hopefully this won't deter you from wearing a Trollface men's tie to your next wedding, funeral, or job interview.

Related: The 9 Most Obnoxious Memes To Ever Escape The Web

1
The "Distracted Boyfriend" Photo Shoot Got Intense

The Meme:

One of the more popular recent memes is "Distracted Boyfriend," a photo in which a dude unsubtly leers at a passing woman, to the consternation of his female companion. This dynamic has been used to explain everything from politics to the plot of the original Toy Story to quantum physics.

6 Beloved Memes With Disturbing Origin StoriesAntonio Guillem/Shutterstock

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The Creepy Backstory:

The original image comes from a stock photo, which is actually part of a larger set. There are several other photos featuring the same actors who portray the central couple. Putting them all together the pictures form a kind of a narrative that gets surprisingly intense. Like despite the fact that this dude can't stop aggressively gawking at random pedestrians, apparently they have a baby together?

Sure, a baby should save the relationship. Everybody knows that <i>always</i> works.Antonio Guillem/ShutterstockSure, a baby should save the relationship. Everybody knows that always works.

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Then their lives basically fall apart. Not only is their happy moment of childbirth soon ruined by the immediate awfulness of dealing with a crying baby ...

Resulting in the kind of vague distress you have to be a stock model to truly appreciate.Antonio Guillem/ShutterstockResulting in the kind of vague distress you have to be a stock model to truly appreciate.

... but in one picture, they're screaming like maniacs at a bank employee for some unknown reason:

ABSORB OUR MISPLACED AGGRESSION, BANK SLAVE!Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock"ABSORB OUR MISPLACED AGGRESSION, BANK SLAVE!"

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And either the girlfriend finds evidence that he's sleeping around on his phone, or she's super critical of his taste in podcasts:

I know what you've been doing when you 'work late.' Also, how much Joe Rogan can one man listen to? Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock"I know what you've been doing when you 'work late.' Also, how much Joe Rogan can one man listen to?"

The girlfriend then walks in on the distracted boyfriend having sex with someone else. (Possibly that women from the street?)

Though his face is hidden, so it's possible she just wandered into the wrong house.Antonio Guillem/ShutterstockThough his face is hidden, so it's possible she just wandered into the wrong house.

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Sure, it's just a bunch of random images, but we prefer to think that Distracted Boyfriend is merely a prelude to a turbulent relationship drama punctuated by the pressures of financial burden and parenthood, ultimately culminating in multiple acts of betrayal.

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