In America, it’s fair to say it’s been a wild year. Considering there’s been a pandemic with hundreds of thousands dead, tens of millions losing their jobs, millions more at risk of losing their homes, dozens of state lockdowns, and one wannabe dictator, it’s easy to feel like the world is collapsing all around us. All of which makes the “This is fine.” meme perfect for anyone living in 2020: everything is burning, whilst the anthropomorphic dog in the middle of it all remains gleefully in denial, conveying a sense of self-denial or acceptance when confronted with an overwhelming situation. Since its inception in 2013, “This is fine.” has gradually become one of the most popular memes on the internet today, usually where people post disturbing news (such as natural disasters, wage cuts, etc.) and then attach the meme.
“This is fine.” was originally designed by KC Green as the first two panels of designed for a webcomic called “On Fire” (see below) in 2013, and forms part of Green’s “Gunshow” series alongside some of his other memes, such as “Dickbutt” and “Staredad”. “On Fire” was first uploaded to a thread on the imageboard website 4chan on 26th April 2013, under 4chan’s /vr/ (retro games) board. However, it was not truly popularized until 10th January 2014, when Reddit user “theonefoster” uploaded “This is fine.” to the subreddit r/funny with the title: “Accurate representation of me dealing with university stress”.
It was in 2016 that this meme truly went viral. On 25th July, The GOP (Republican Party) used the shrug emoticon alongside anti-Hillary-Clinton hashtags to go with the meme, representing the GOP’s distaste at the prospect of one of their favorite targets of vitriol ascending to the Presidency of the United States. Within an hour, KC Green made clear his thoughts on this unwanted appropriation of his artwork:
Despite KC Green’s wishes, the GOP did not delete its tweet. “This is fine.” had now received more attention than ever before, and promptly became one of the most-used political memes. On 26th July, The Nib responded to the tweet with its own version, also designed by KC Green, featuring an elephant (animal of the Republican Party) in place of the dog in the original version. This political cartoon was supposed to foreshadow impending doom for the GOP resulting from Donald Trump running as their candidate for President. Naturally, his eventual election was the the mother of all “This is fine.” situations for many Americans, and this meme was constantly used for four years straight almost as a de facto response to many of his major actions, such as the Muslim ban, the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, lack of pandemic response, etc..
Just a week after the 2016 election, on 13th November Nick Kaman turned “This is fine.” into a simple video game, where the player controlled the dog and had to put out the fires engulfing his house with a fire extinguisher that fired love hearts instead of foam. Despite the game’s basic design, it was played over ten thousand times in the first month of its release (it’s still available here: https://smashynick.itch.io/thisisfine), and seems to refer to the efforts by Democratic voters to put out the “fire” of Trump’s Presidency with “love hearts”.
Aside from politics, recent years have brought about a host of other existential-seeming crises (climate change, a global reckoning with racism, etc.) which many people put out of their minds despite being clearly aware of the seriousness of these issues. Pretending everything is fine when it quite clearly isn’t, concisely captured in the two images of “This is fine.”, helps explain the enduring appeal of this meme in troubling times.