The True Stories Behind 10 Popular Memes

A friend I know loves turning his friends’ photos into memes. He’ll browse through the Facebook photo albums of his buddies and select very unfortunate, candid derp faces to use, add some text, then unleash it onto his unsuspecting friends. That’s pretty much how memes are born.

But truth be told, not all memes go viral or make it big. Although memes are real easy to make, it is the strength of the meme and how we mortal folks can relate to it that ensures its popularity (or notoriety, depends on how you view this I guess) on the Internet. Many of the memes you have grown to love now are photographs of real-life people with real-life stories which almost always are not as depicted in the meme.

If you have ever wondered about who Overly Attached Girlfriend, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy and Sheltering Suburban Mom are in real life, this is the post to read. Here are the true stories behind 10 popular memes you love.

Scumbag Steve

It’s not hard to see why this meme was christened Scumbag Steve. Posted one fine day on Reddit, the photo alone seem to generate hate from the Redditors (maybe it’s the hat; maybe it’s the fur). The photo is often accompanied with text on jerk-like behaviour, hence the term scumbag.

The photo was actually taken by his mother when he was in rap group Beantown Mafia, and it was posted on his Myspace account back in 2006.


When the meme blew up his world, Blake Boston flipped everyone off, reinforcing their beliefs that he’s a scumbag IRL. Eventually he came round to accepting the meme and even took on the persona for his rap videos on Youtube. Now, he is a father to a little boy and works as a chef.

blakeboston (Image source: Blake Boston)

Disaster Girl

Just look at that face. That look is depicted as the reason to why there are so many calamities in the world. The house burns in the background and this little girl gives you a smirk and a look that seems to say "I know something you don’t know about the fire". Creepy much?! Next up, world domination.

disastergirl (Image source: jpgmag)

The truth behind this story? Well, it was a day in 2004 when local firemen decided to conduct a live demo with an actual burning building located 2 blocks away from where David Roth and daughter Zoe Roth lived. So it was a real fire, but it burned in a controlled environment under the watchful eyes of professionals.

David though caught sight of something else: the now-iconic sinister grin made by his daughter, which he captured with a camera then submitted to the now-defunct Zoomr (in 2007) and again to JPG Magazine (in 2008) where the image got some attention. Disaster Girl has since grown out of her sinister-looking days (check out her dad’s Flickr account) or has she?

zoeroth (Image source: TravellingRoths)


Doge is the Internet slang for dog. Mostly they mean a particular breed, the Shiba Inu (which they nicknamed Shibe, I kid you not). You might have seen the fluffy little critter in photos and accompanied by a stream of monologue thoughts written in colourful Comic Sans font. Oh, and very bad grammar that denotes sarcasm. Such wow.


This particular Shiba Inu photo is the most popular for its hilarious-looking face. The dog was at the risk of being euthanised when it was rescued by Japanese kindergarten teacher Atsuko Sato (that’s her in the photo below). The dog, Kabosu, posed for her owner which was then posted on Sato’s blog and the dog charmed itself into the hearts of the Internet.

kabosu (Image source: The Verge)

Bad Luck Brian

Bad Luck Brian is that unfortunate kid, who just cannot catch a break. Imagine the worst possible case scenario for any possible scenario and that’s a regular Tuesday (or any other day) for Bad Luck Brian. The outfit and braces did little help to pull him out of the rutt and meme-makers usually use him to represent the worst day of their lives.


The truth couldn’t be more far off though. First off, it’s Kyle, nor Brian. He actually tried to reveal himself in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) sub-thread before the moderator removed it (the thread can now be found here). In the thread, Kyle said that the infamous photo was taken as a school photo, which his school principal made him retake since he was "pulling a face".

This is him now, quite possible not as unlucky, but with the same cute, dorky smile. Kyle makes Youtube videos and has a Facebook page where he embraces his Bad Luck Brian persona whole-heartedly.


Overly Attached Girlfriend

Guys who are on the other side of the friendzone fence would probably fall back on using this meme a lot. Crazy eyes here is the Overly Attached Girlfriend, and she makes Fatal Attraction look like child’s play. If anything your girlfriend does gives you the shivers or is slightly over the edge (or just simply deranged), this is the meme to use.


In reality though, Laina Morris is not the least bit scary and is actually quite stunning. The picture that turned her into a meme was actually taken out of a parody she was making of Justin Bieber’s "Boyfriend". The video which was shared by a Redditor, had lyrics like If I was your girlfriend / I’d never let you leave / without a small recording device / taped under your sleeve. It is no wonder why the Internet jumped the gun and crowned her as the Overly Attached Girlfriend.

The good news is Laina continues to post Youtube videos as her Overly Attached Girlfriend persona and mingles with all sort of folks – here’s a photo of her with TV host Jimmy Kimmel. Not bad, Laina.

(Image source: Laina)

Success Kid

The ultimate opposite of Bad Luck Brian, Success Kid is the meme to use when everything goes your way no matter what the circumstances. Just look at that ummph face, and that firm fist. If that doesn’t define success, nothing will.


However, Success Kid didn’t start out as Success Kid – the little boy’s picture was initially plastered all over MySpace with the caption "I Hate Sandcastles". It wasn’t until 2011 when a Redditor cropped him out of the original and gave him a new background turning 11-month old Sammy into Success Kid.

Today, the photo is used on billboards, and even in ads by Vitamin Water and UK’s Virgin Media. And if you are wondering if he still has the same look now that he is 7, hey, this is Success Kid we’re talking about, of course he does! Yeah!

sammygriner (Image source: Laney Griner)

College Freshman

You’ve probably been in many of the same situations as College Freshman here – I know I have. College Freshman represents the thoughts, actions and feelings of the first-year college student (the kind who would buy all the textbooks lecturers recommend, because they were "recommended"). Eventually all college freshmen end up as Lazy College Senior – you know it’s true.


This picture of Griffin Kiritsy (who I’m glad to report is no longer a college freshman) was taken 5 years ago for an interview with Reader’s Digest. He didn’t take too well with the popularity of his meme, which is tough luck considering that he posed for another photo, and was subsequently morphed into Successful College Senior. At least the second one is a step up.


Sheltering Surburban Mom

Practice what you preach is lost on sheltering suburban mom. She is the kind of parent who would forbid you to drink or smoke, then stock up on vodka and cigars for the upcoming family holidays (you don’t know what it’s like!).


In reality, Carly Philips is a successful author of several romance novels and mother of two children. She was initially upset of the use of the now-defaced author-bio photo, particularly when it was posted on her Facebook fanpage.

It took several Redditors to explain to Philips that they were jokes and not made in her expense. Just so you know, Philips is definitely cooler than her Sheltering Surburban Mom persona – she lets her kids watch R-rated movies, young.

carlyphilips (Image source: The Romance Dish)

McKayla is not impressed

US gymnast McKayla Maroney is very much a real person. In the 2012 Olympics she fell during her routine and had to be contented with a Silver medal. While contemplating on her mistake, she unconciously made this "unimpressed" face which was captured in a perfectly-timed photography, thus propelling her into memedom.


She inspired not only the McKayla is not impressed meme but also a Tumblr page dedicated to her. In the spirit of good cheer, McKayla is impressed with the meme – good job, Internet. Since then, McKayla has met the owner of the Tumblr responsible for spreading the meme and has even pulled her famous unimpressed face with President Obama.


Ridiculously photogenic guy

If you have ever run a marathon, then you will understand how ridiculously impossible this guy can be so ridiculously photogenic during a run. Just look at that dazzling smile on runner B5917. Computer programmer Will King took photos of runners during the 2012 annual Cooper River Bridge Run at Charleston, South Carolina and caught the image of Zeddie smiling dashingly at the lens.


He put it up on his Flickr page, and a friend commented on Zeddie’s look before sharing it on Reddit. Charleston City Paper wrote a feature on him, identifiying him via his bib number and charting his rise to memedom and later on, Daily Mail scored an interview with Zeddie’s father Jack where we were sadly told that Zeddie is already in a committed relationship with his girlfriend for the past 5 years.


Shame, I know. Good Morning America though managed to get a chat with Zeddie who revealed that the photo was taken after he waved at a friend. As for his capturing the hearts of the Internet and his beautiful smile, just so you know, Zeddie is flattered by the attention. Here, have a photogenic screencap of him from the interview. You’re welcome.

(Image source: ABC News)

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