Yesterday, the band the 1975 released a CGI music video for its new single, “The Birthday Party,” featuring a number of new and old memes of all sorts, including Pepes, Chads, Virgins, and goth gfs.
As a public service, we have combed through the video to explain everything you’re seeing. Below, you’ll find an annotated compendium for this IRL internet experience.
We first see a group of meme characters doing yoga. Four are variants of Pepe the Frog, the 4chan meme adopted by the alt-right and denounced by Hillary Clinton. Before all of that happened, however, there was a running joke among users about creating “rare Pepes,” unique variations that weren’t in heavy circulation. On the far left, we see a character known as Wojak, or Feels Guy, who is often seen as a partner to Pepe. In the middle, the strong-chinned man with the triangular hairstyle is a Chad, the jocklike archetype who is the antithesis of the incel Virgin. In the sky, acting as the sun, is a rudimentary 3-D model of a smiley face wearing sunglasses and giving a thumbs-up, yet another meme. On the ground in the lower-left corner is a S’well water bottle, trendy among tech types.
Here on the left, we see Derpina, the female equivalent of Derp, the protagonist of old-school rage comics. To her left is Earth-chan, the planet Earth depicted as an anime girl. Anthropomorphizing nonhuman things and concepts is a long-running pastime of the 4chan crowd. On the other side of 1975 front man Matthew Healy, the man wearing a hat is a famous Neckbeard, a pejorative category for the type of man who spends too much time in his basement on his computer, the kind of guy who might think wearing a fedora is classy and might condescendingly let you know that, actually, he’s not wearing a fedora: It’s a trilby. On the far right are a couple of famous memes of crying cats, one of which is wearing a pink cowboy hat.
In a quick pan, we catch a glimpse of a dog dressed as Mickey Mouse. Again, this is a famous viral image.
In the next shot, we see the incel Virgin nailing up a series of flyers. He’s looking for a “goth gf.” This is also a long-running trope among the 4chan crowd: the idea that an ideal woman who is a goth (or a gamer) exists out there. The flyer is a real one someone put up, almost certainly as a joke. The goth gf depicted is a character from the Nickelodeon show Danny Phantom.
As Virgin continues putting up flyers, we see Pedobear emerge from behind a tree stump. Pedobear is truly what it sounds like — a pedophile bear — and users would post it when they or someone else said something creepy. You don’t see a lot of Pedobear on the internet nowadays.
The shot pans to the right and we get a quick glimpse of — o shit waddup! — Dat Boi. Dat Boi is a unicycling frog and an old 3-D model, which became famous for … reasons that are still not entirely clear.
We next see Healy dancing in front of an old-school image macro of a character known as the Basement Dweller. He’s a close cousin of the Neckbeard we saw earlier (in reality, the photo is of a Finnish user). The Impact-font captions in these sorts of memes are meant to be read in the voice of the character appearing in the middle, although that’s not really useful in this case. The top line is from the song’s lyrics, while the bottom line simply reads, “BOTTOM TEXT.” This is a reference to people who use online generators to make memes but don’t understand the format; they don’t replace the bottom caption, so the placeholder text remains.
We next see our protagonist surrounded by what is known as greentext, which is a present-tense storytelling format that makes heavy use of self-deprecation and pronoun-dropping language. The stories are usually given additional tonal cues through accompaniment with a Pepe or Wojak meme.
It’s the Distracted Boyfriend meme! You know this one. It’s practically a baby in meme years.
Next, in the top-left corner, we see another bad viral stuffed animal à la the Mickey we saw earlier. At the bottom right is Momo, the YouTube meme that had a bunch of parents worried last year. At the bottom left is Ermahgerd Girl (ermahgerd being a stylized “oh my God”). And the last is Shrek, a meme in his own right (a famous greentext declares, “Shrek is love, Shrek is life”). But it’s important to understand that the intentionally glitchy animation used here recalls the amateur videos people make with Shrek models from video games using a program called Source Filmmaker.
Our protagonist soon falls into a Blue Screen of Death, an ancient error screen that appeared when a desktop computer (i.e., one you had to sit down to use because it was plugged into a wall and the monitor was separate from the rest of the device) running Windows (a popular operating system for desktop computers) encountered a catastrophic error, crashing the entire system.
He’s flossing! As popularized by Fortnite!
The Virgin we saw looking for a goth gf earlier has finally found her. A happy ending, maybe.
The video ends with a nighttime shot. The moon is actually Moon Man, an appropriated version of the old McDonald’s mascot Mac Tonight, who became a meme (sometimes an alt-right one) a few years ago. And then it starts raining. But this isn’t normal rain: If you squint, you can just make out that the raindrops are actually Tide Pods. Please do not eat them.