An internet meme is defined as “an idea, style or action which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the internet”, though you probably know them as those funny images that pop up on your Facebook newsfeed. They’ve been around since the earliest days of the internet, but majorly broke into mainstream pop culture in recent years, as more and more people were contributing to this growing cultural phenomenon.

In addition to the universal memes that the entire web is familiar with, communities around the world have their own unique variations, as well as original ones relevant only to their cultures, and Lebanon is no exception.

Here are four of the Lebanese online world’s most prominent memes of recent years, and an overview of their origins and usage.

1. Scumbag Zaven

(Photo via Facebook)

This meme pokes fun at the interview style of Lebanese talk show host Zaven Kouyoumdjian. The name is derived from that of an existing meme, Scumbag Steve.

Zaven’s show often deals with controversial issues, sometimes inviting guests who have suffered tragedies or misfortunes. At times, he would direct questions to guests related to whatever it is they’ve been through, with the purpose of getting them to elaborate on their experience. Sometimes, it comes off as as insensitive question with an obvious answer, only intended to rub salt into the wound. Hence: Scumbag Zaven.

The image above reads: “How did you feel when your father slaughtered your mother and mutilated her in a blender? Were you bothered?” Zaven himself learned of the meme and was quite amused.

2. Thx Thx Thx Dawleh
Translation: “Thx Thx Thx Government”

(Photo via Facebook)

Spawned by one of the videos from LBC’s Cheyef 7alak campaign, which highlights some of the uglier aspects of Lebanese society, this meme has become synonymous with a sarcastic critique of the Lebanese government and its shortcomings.

The video it originates from tackles the issue of our total disregard for pedestrian bridges, by presenting mockumentary-style interviews with typical Lebanese citizens. One of those citizens is a young man of the modern age, played by Charbel Kamel, who earnestly praises the government for the pedestrian bridge (which provides much needed shade…) with a little netspeak (“lol”, ‘wtf”, “omg” etc.) thrown in. And he does so by uttering the phrase: “thx thx thx dawleh”.

A screenshot of the scene with the phrase superimposed can often be seen under an image representing a failure or inadequacy on behalf of the government. The image depicted above reads: “Traffic jams around Beirut entrances due to Lebanese Army training on Port road”, followed by a grateful “Thx thx thx dawleh”.

3. 3ade, Mashewe wel Shabeb, Mish Inno
Translation: “Just the Usual, Barbecue with the Guys, I Mean, It’s Not Like Anything Else-"

(Photo via Facebook)

Not the most hard-hitting meme, but certainly one of the most widespread and culturally significant, this one originates from an ad campaign for the alcoholic drink Buzz. In the ads, a character is put up against some kind of tricky social situation, with three reactions presented, two disastrous, one successful; the success attributed to the drink of course… oh and, the concept of the ads was a thinly-veiled rip-off of an existing campaign.

One particular ad stars an average dude, played by Tino Karam, having a barbecue with the bros. The fun is interrupted by a call from his neck brace-wearing girlfriend who asks if he’s having fun without her. First wrong reaction: laughs his ass off. Second wrong reaction: “Just the usual, barbecue with the guys, I mean, it’s not like anything else." Correct reaction: “Really babe? How could a second pass without me thinking about you?”

For some reason, the second reaction really resonated with the online community, leading to various parodies of the scene, and making the phrase part of the Lebanese vernacular, both online and off. The above example, posted this past March when Lebanon saw an unexpected locust invasion, reads: “Babe, are you having fun without me?” followed by, “Just the usual, locusts ate the barbecue and the guys”.

4. Lesh Fi A7la Min Libnen?
Translation: “What’s Greater Than Lebanon?”

(Photo via Facebook)

This one is not too different from “thx thx thx dawleh”, though the cynicism in it is not directed towards the Lebanese government particularly, but more towards Lebanon in a general sense.

The meme originates from a recent ad by the Ministry of Tourism titled Don’t Go to Lebanon. The ad’s formula is simple: a speaker mentions something that you’re not supposed to have in excess, only to reveal a soft spot for whatever it is, ex: “They say don’t stay out late; but what’s wilder than a night out?”.

The ad concludes with the ultimate guilty pleasure: “They say stay away from Lebanon; but what’s greater than Lebanon?” It’s heartwarming sure, but the jaded Lebanese citizen begs to differ. Thus, a meme was born.

Much like “thx thx thx dawleh”, a screenshot from the scene where the phrase is uttered with superimposed text is often placed after an image depicting an unpleasant aspect of Lebanese life, or altering the image itself to reflect that, as in the example above, where the scene is darkened and a candle is introduced, referencing Lebanon’s frequent power cuts.

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