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Memes and Moments in Pop Culture that Cheered Me the Fuck Up (And Cured My Seasonal Depression)

by Thomas Giblin (he/him) @thegreengiblin

culture & lifestyle writer

In the Norwegian city of Tromsø, a famed viewing point for the Northern Lights, the sun doesn't rise from November to January. Despite the city's extreme darkness, the rates of seasonal depression among residents of Tromsø are remarkably low. Our cultural bias is that, unlike the residents of this Arctic city, we don't look forward to winter; rather, it's a season we go through to get to summer.

In contrast to the residents of Tromsø, during the dark and dreary months in Tāmaki Makaurau, I treat my seasonal depression with a daily habit of caffeine and 75 mg of Venlafaxine capsules. I also take great comfort in browsing Twitter, TikTok and Reddit. In over-stimulating myself on these digital platforms, occasional moments of hilarity greet my paling face, usually lit up by the glow of my phone. Cackles of laughter ring out after my third hour of scrolling TikTok in the early hours of the morning. I've found a video worth laughing out loud too; a racoon named Terry is wearing a cowboy hat. I finally doze off; drool waterfalls down the side of my pillow as my body tosses and turns. Upon my resurrection, The Guardian app tells me another celebrity has had their comeuppance; this time, it's someone 'really famous'.

I've rounded up some of my favourite pop culture memes and moments from the years of digital self-medication I've just described. It's an antithesis to the blues triggered by the change of seasons. From Andrew Tate to Harry Styles and cute cats, I hope this list cheers you up. If not, try speaking to a mental health professional.

Don't Worry Darling

To make sense of all the scandals surrounding this film, I had to read a lengthy and detailed timeline; even now, I'm unsure if I understand all that went on. Both during the production and promotion of Don't Worry Darling, rumours swirled about tension between Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh, and Harry Styles. Don't forget Jason Sudeikis, who apparently lay under a car to stop Wilde from delivering a 'special salad dressing' to now boyfriend Styles. This dressing, which contains only three ingredients, is "perfect for salad greens like arugula and watercress and endive", per

I don't care much for celebrity gossip, but when a car crash is happening in slow-motion, you can't help but stare. Wilde cheated on Sudeikis with Styles on set, Pugh barely promotes the film, Shia LaBeouf gets involved in the drama, and we can't forget #Spitgate. Twitter is convinced that Styles spits on Chris Pine during the film's Venice premiere. The video isn't convincing, but it fuels the fire.

The Don't Worry Darling drama became all-consuming when the film was released, and in the third act, the film's twist is that the Victory Project is a virtual 50s prison. Styles plays as an incel who has trapped Pugh in this world after falling down the alt-right pipeline. It's laughable thinking he would be convincing as a basement-dwelling neckbeard nerd. His best role is in Dunkirk; he barely speaks. Despite my vendetta against Styles and his music, I have to thank him for his role in this dazzling labyrinth of scandalousness.


I love cats and will forever maintain their superiority over dogs, especially those crusty white ones. Their purrs are therapeutic, lowering stress levels and releasing endorphins. I don't have a cat, however, so my TikTok is littered with videos and memes of the magical creatures revered by the ancient Egyptians.

Despite my adoration of cats, especially orange ones, my TikTok has been infiltrated with videos and slideshows titled Which cat is your significant other? I imagine I have someone to send them to but don't, so I spam my friends instead. The hundredth video of two cats cuddling is shared; I caption it ‘Us’, despite the fact I'm deathly afraid of holding hands with someone.

The Matrix

Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" (it's alleged he never said this), and in the era of 'influencing', this quote rings painfully true. Influencers come and go; they have their moment in the sun, then disappear; Kevin Wu, Big Nik, Tanya Burr, and the Janoskians come to mind. But few influencers have angered me in their brief moment of fame as much as self-proclaimed misogynist and former TikTok star Andrew Tate.

Tate and his online academy Hustler's University, gamed the TikTok algorithm, artificially boosting his content. You could watch one video about men's mental health or show an interest in fitness content, and your FYP would start showing you videos of Tate expressing extreme misogynistic views. He suggests that feminism is to blame for male suffering, stating that most men "have no money, no power, no sex from their wife" and that their lives "suck". By styling himself as a self-help guru, Tate presents his overwhelmingly male fanbase with a 'pathway' to "escape the matrix." The Matrix, as described by the most Googled person in 2022, is "the systems which are being created by society that are deliberately designed to enslave." To escape The Matrix to Tate, means to see the real world 'as it really is' and that the powers that be are targeting him because he's 'woken up'. In reality, Tate has used and popularised The Matrix as a byword to shift blame for the consequences he's facing.

In radicalising men, extreme misogyny presents a legitimate threat to society. The violence towards women Tate openly discusses is not a fringe ideology; rather, the videos featuring him have racked up over 11.6 billion views. This past June, his 'empire' began to fall apart as he was charged in Romania with rape, human trafficking and forming an organised crime group to sexually exploit women. Now under house arrest, he faces jail sentences from ten to eighteen years. The facade of provocation and materiality won't help him when he stands in a Romanian court stripped of his 'alpha' status. What remains is a sad, insecure man who will likely spend the foreseeable future behind bars. It's impossible to prove that karma is real, but knowing that Andrew Tate is reaping what he sowed brings me immense joy.

My smug enjoyment, a feeling of malicious joy at Tate's downfall, highlights a guilty pleasure: schadenfreude. The German word has no direct translation; it combines the nouns schaden (damage/harm) and freude (joy). Google defines schadenfreude as "the pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune." This secret joy is all around us, and my pleasure in seeing Tate humiliated reminds me of Nietzsche; "To see others suffer does one good." This extreme example of glee shouldn't be shameful. Rather this feeling is profoundly human; we demand justice and fairness.

"Please tell me that is not your penis!"

Shortland Street, Aoteroea's longest-running soap opera, uttered a line in 2017 that would live on in infamy. The core character Chris Warner (Michael Galvin), asks his son Harry (Reid Walker) if the image

on the tablet iPad in front of him is his genitalia. Harry looks guiltily at his father as the iconic Shortland Street drums fade into the background. This cliffhanger would set the internet alight with dozens of news articles and a myriad of memes. The iconic line went as far as Jimmy Kimmel and his late-night talk show; Kimmel and surprise guest Alec Baldwin recreated the scene for millions.

Despite not being a fan of Shortland Street, seeing one of Aotearoa's most significant cultural products go global instils me with an odd sense of pride. I'm inspired to chuck on a pair of jandals, sink a Speight's, pick up a rugby ball and pretend I'm Joe Rokocoko whilst Six60 blasts from a gargling Bluetooth speaker.


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