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Top 10 Most Controversial Internet Memes of All Time

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Alex Slade
It’s never just fun and games, anymore, is it? For this list, we’ll be taking a look at insanely popular memes that have been the cause of many heated debates, have shocking or offensive nature, or have just had wacky and unintended outcomes. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Most Controversial Internet Memes of All Time.
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Top 10 Most Controversial Internet Memes of All Time


It’s never just fun and games, anymore, is it? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Controversial Internet Memes and Viral Videos.

For this list, we’ll be taking a look at insanely popular memes that have been the cause of many heated debates, have shocking or offensive nature, or have just had wacky and unintended outcomes. Whether it’s an image on its own or accompanied with an appropriate caption, a video or a challenge gone viral, it’s eligible.

#10: Hugh Mungus

Sometimes, you do too much to prove a point, and it ends up hurting your cause. After giving an interview, Seattle resident Rudy Pantoja was filmed by Black Lives Matter activist Zarna Joshi. He proceeds to tell her that his name is Hugh Mungus, which Joshi may or may not have been intended as a reference to his penis. Whatever the case, Joshi began to shout that “Hugh” had just sexually harrassed her. Naturally, the video went viral, and there was a lot of negativity directed towards Zarna, whom many viewers felt had attacked the guy and then willfully misinterpreted his annoyed response.

#9: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Performing a challenge for a good cause is admirable… just as long as that’s why you’re doing it. The challenge was to dump a bucket of ice water on your head. It raised awareness to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, with millions of videos of people dumping the ice on their head, including some very prolific celebrities. While the campaign was a success and raised a lot of money, it’s said that some challengers opted not to donate at all, making the videos seem self-congratulatory rather than informative. There were also health risks involved, and many news stations criticized the significant amount of water wastage involved with the challenge.

#8: Happy Merchant

Man, some of these memes have no shame. The Happy Merchant, or Le Happy Merchant, meme portrays a Jewish man with negative stereotypes and characteristics, such as manipulation and greed. It’s usually posted to promote anti-Semitic ideas, but sometimes is used ironically. Either way, it’s still incredibly offensive and has many people conversing about it. If you browse through 4chan’s politically incorrect board, you’re sure to stumble upon the Happy Merchant in a matter of seconds. You can always count on 4chan for hosting a variety of memes such as this on their boards.

#7: Alex from Target

Sometimes you can’t even bag groceries without your life changing. Case in point, Alex from Target. Can’t a guy just do his job without becoming an internet sensation and amassing over six hundred thousand followers on Twitter? After the first picture of him became viral, he soon had hordes of girls visiting him at work, following him, and stalking him. Impossible to be on everyone’s good side, Alex acquired many haters, and they’ve been sending him very concerning messages. They harassed his girlfriend and even leaked his parents’ private information. Alex’s unasked-for fame started out totally innocently, but trolls and haters can create a dark side to anything.

#6: Star Wars Kid

Undoubtedly entertaining and genuinely fun to watch, Ghyslain Raza looked to be having a good time imitating a Jedi Knight. Unfortunately, we all know by now that the world and its inhabitants can be cruel, and the outcome of the video became one of the earliest and most prominent cyber-bullying cases to date. Ghyslain was bullied by thousands of people online, and even by his own classmates. It’s a helpful reminder that while things look fine on the surface, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.

#5: Harambe

Harambe was a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo who was shot out of concern for a 3-year-old boy who had made his way into the gorilla’s home. While the death of Harambe was undoubtedly a tragedy, the memes surrounding it went on and on, almost immortalizing the gorilla in our computers and phones. While most of the memes either praised or paid respects to Harambe, some questioned why he had to be shot, and what led to his death to begin with. These questions sparked debate about whether or not his death was justified, and what could have been done to prevent it.

#4: Tide POD Challenge

Please, don’t do this. Please. This “game” encourages people to EAT laundry detergent capsules. As per the name, this is for doing LAUNDRY. Not for human consumption. While this was joked about online since as early as 2013, it wasn’t until late 2017 and into 2018 that this challenge began a life of its own. Many teens, young adults and so on started recording themselves biting into and swallowing Tide Pods and endangering their lives in the process. Tide itself responded with an official video discouraging the practice in an effort to stop the many cases of intentional poisoning that resulted. Some stores subsequently locked up the products, while social media networks took down all related videos.

#3: Logan Paul’s Suicide Forest Video

While this certainly wasn’t the first controversial video that YouTuber Logan Paul has posted, it’s arguably the worst. At the end of 2017, the older Paul brother uploaded a video showing his discovery of a man who had recently hung himself. The finding was made in the Japanese forest called Aokigahara, dubbed Suicide Forest because of the number of suicides that have occurred there. Raking in over 6 million views in a day, the viral video understandably received immediate and ferocious backlash from politicians, celebs and fellow YouTubers, with people calling for the deletion of Paul’s channel. After he took it down and publicly apologized, YouTube itself condemned the act, which many saw as making light of suicide and ‘mocking the victim.’

#2: #CuttingForBieber

After the hashtag took off to stop the pop star from smoking marijuana, countless teens cut themselves and uploaded it online, hoping it’d convince Justin to stop. This wouldn’t be the first time a meme has had damaging effects on the body. For example, the Kylie Jenner lip challenge had people essentially vacuuming their lips to enlarge them, bruising and making them swollen in the process. The worst part about the hashtag is that it started as a prank posted on 4chan. Whoever posted it underestimated just how much Bieber’s fans really love him. Bieber already had his fair share of haters, so this did nothing to help his case.


Before we unveil our number pick, here are honorable mentions:

Arthur

Pedobear

The Dress

#1: Pepe the Frog

Why do all good things have to be twisted and molded into something offensive? Pepe the Frog started as a harmless, non-controversial meme that has since become a shell of its former self. The great thing about the meme was that it was a blank slate. It had limitless interpretations, and anyone could adopt it and add their own spin to it, thus creating thousands or more variations of Pepe across the internet. Of course, some of them were going to be controversial. Now, you’ll find racist, sadistic and anti-Semitic Pepes all over the World Wide Web, and it has become inextricably linked with the alt-right movement.
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