Frances McDormand won the statue and The Shape of Water earned four of its 13 nominations, but who won the Academy Awards in terms of meme? Meme-ability is increasingly valuable resource in Hollywood, as it can — if used properly and for the right reasons — immortalize a celebrity. Lauren Conrad may try to make us forget about her stint on The Hills, but her crying meme has made the show indelible. Likewise, Meryl Streep will live forever in the form of the photo from the 2015 Oscars where she's cheering for Debbie Reynolds.
At this year's Academy Awards, two memes ruled above them all. There was yet another Meryl Streep meme, almost identical to the one from three years before. And, there was a Jennifer Garner meme. Both are iconic for separate reasons, but which one will endure? Let's examine them.
Meryl Streep Shouts, Pt. 2
Streep's motion at the 2015 SAG awards became an icon of support. Her hands flanking her mouth, Streep lifted her chin to the sky and whooped. The image is used most often in "call and answer" memes, especially in relation to music. Streep is almost always shouting out the best part of the lyrics (e.g., the part in the Bill Nye the Science Guy theme when the chorus goes "Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!"). Streep is usually so composed; to see her cheering so unabashedly is like seeing your middle school English teacher do the "Cha-Cha Slide." It's fun! And it's funny.
Streep's meme from last night is largely the same. She's cheering, but this time she's wearing red, and she's darkly lit. It's a meme sequel, a visually dissimilar version of something we already know. What does it mean to have a part two? Well, for starters, it means Streep is really, really enthusiastic at awards shows. It also means Streep has double the memes for double the immortality. Plus, her meme is widely applicable. When you love something, shout it from the rooftops! Then, if you want to emphasize it, add a photo of Streep. With Streep's likability, and the meme's functionality — and there's two of them! — Meryl Streep Shouts is built to last.
Jennifer Garner Has A Terrible Thought
Oh goodness, Jennifer, did you leave the oven on? Forget to transfer money out of your savings account so that your checking won't overdraw? Did the nanny ask for this night off and you just, you know, forgot about it? Garner's meme from this year is all about the slow pull of discovering something awful. Standing in the audience, Garner starts clapping with the crowd. Then, her clapping slows, then stops altogether. She purses her lips, puzzled. Jennifer Garner has made a terrible realization.
Meme-ing is new for Garner, who is relatively low-profile on social media. She is beloved, but she is not very present on Twitter, which almost makes her perfectly meme-able. Garner isn't usually this unguarded, so to see her so plainly vulnerable — and concerned about something, whatever it is — is thrilling. Garner is the subject of one of Hollywood's most contentious divorces. Remember when Ben Affleck called their marriage "work" at the 2013 Oscars? Two years later, they separated. Rumors of nanny infidelity on Affleck's part followed. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Garner was ever-so-slightly salty about her ex-husband's post-marriage tattoo, a phoenix rising from the ashes.
"You know what we would say in my hometown about that? ‘Bless his heart.’ A phoenix rising from the ashes. Am I the ashes in this scenario?" she said. Oh, sweet love of Alias! It's delicious when stars air their grievances in public.
Ever since, the public has been awaiting another Garner bomb. We've also been waiting for a reboot of Alias, really. Garner's surprised face at the Oscars represents more than a meme: It's the reemergence of Jennifer Garner.
Stripped of Garner's oeuvre, the meme isn't that applicable, unfortunately. It's not directly suggestive. Garner could be realizing something terrible. Or, she could have realized something amazing! Maybe Garner discovered, deep within her belly, a love for Caleb Landry Jones, as I have done in recent weeks. Or maybe Garner simply had diarrhea. We just don't know, and it's harder to project upon her blank stare than it is to do the same to Meryl Streep.
The Winner: Jennifer Garner.
While Streep is all-powerful, and will likely live on in more and more iterations of the Streep Shouts meme, Garner's image is a moment. She will live on in accounts of this Oscars ceremony, the same way Nicole Kidman's flappy clapping from the 2017 Academy Awards endures. Someday — honestly, in this era, in the next week — Garner will be interviewed about the moment, and we'll all figure out what happened. And then, finally, maybe, we'll get an Alias reboot.
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