What is the Ohio Meme About? A Deep Dive for the Curious Mind

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If you‘ve spent any time online in the last few years, you‘ve probably come across references to "Ohio memes" – but what exactly is the deal with these viral jokes about the Buckeye State? As an avid meme connoisseur and pop culture analyst, let me walk you through the origins, evolution, and significance of the Ohio meme phenomenon.

The Backstory: Ohio‘s Reputation as America‘s Oddball

Before we look at specific viral moments, it‘s helpful to understand where Ohio‘s reputation for being a random, quirky place comes from in the first place.

Ohio has long been seen in pop culture as one of the most average U.S. states – flyover country, if you will. It‘s right in the middle of the country, lacking glitz and glamor. Unlike iconic cities like New York or Los Angeles, Ohio feels non-descript. As a result, it‘s been the butt of jokes for years as a state full of boring, basic people living in an unremarkable place.

But over time, Ohio has gained a contradictory reputation as well – as an unpredictable state where outrageous, strange, and unexpected things happen. It‘s treated as the American capital of curiosities and absurdities.

Where does this idea come from? In TV and movies, Ohio has often been used as the setting for off-beat characters and stories. Think Drew Carey‘s Cleveland or the oddities of Napoleon Dynamite‘s small town. This seeds the idea of Ohio as quirky.

On top of that, Ohio has seen its share of real-life oddities make national news over the years – from a loose monkey found wandering an IKEA parking lot to a bear falling through a basement window into a home. These bizarre local news stories create an air of wackiness around Ohio.

So Ohio became primed for meme status based on this dual reputation as both painfully average and randomly preposterous. Let‘s look at how the memes themselves emerged.

The Early Ohio Memes: "Eliminate Ohio" and Astronaut Templates

The Ohio meme really took off around 2016 with two key viral moments that captured the absurdist sentiment about the state.

The first was a photograph of a bus stop sign that had been vandalized to read "Ohio will be eliminated." This surreal, nonsensical declaration perfectly embodied the comical disdain people felt towards boring old Ohio. The image racked up over 119,000 likes on Tumblr, kickstarting Ohio‘s meme status.

Building on this, the popular meme template of two astronauts in space labeling everything as Ohio took off in 2020. One astronaut reveals that the whole Earth is just Ohio, causing the other to pull out a gun in horror or resignation. This captured the feeling of Ohio as an inescapable purgatory of blandness.

These astronaut memes were liked and shared tens of thousands of times on Reddit and Facebook, exposing the Ohio joke to the masses. Clearly the absurdist presentation of Ohio had struck a chord!

TikTok Takes Ohio Memes Mainstream

While earlier memes brought Ohio‘s reputation for eccentricity to the meme-savvy corners of the internet, it was TikTok that truly propelled the Ohio meme into the mainstream.

In 2022, TikTok‘s "Can‘t Even X in Ohio" trend went insanely viral. These videos exaggerated Ohio as a state where even the simplest activities are disrupted by unpredictable chaos and danger.

One of the biggest of these was a TikTok video (viewed over 27 million times) showing a man swimming before getting attacked by a cartoon shark. "Can‘t even swim in Ohio," the caption states, presenting Ohio as literally life-threatening.

The blue-chip Ohio TikTok meme also includes a video with 10 million views of a sleeping man getting hit with a plank of wood while a watermelon rolls into his flooded room. "Can‘t even sleep in Ohio," the caption reads.

The Absurdity Resonates

What makes these exaggerated scenes so shareable? They take Ohio‘s reputation for being both basic and bizarre, and dial it up to hilariously hyperbolic levels. The layer of absurdity resonates with people who feel their home states are unfairly maligned as boring places.

As one TikTok commenter put it: "As an Ohio resident, I feel the melancholic blend of civic pride and self-deprecation that these memes evoke in my soul." Many find catharsis in satirizing their underappreciated homeland.

Quantifying the Ohio Meme‘s Popularity

Just how popular are these Ohio memes? The data illustrates the exponential growth in Ohio meme interest over recent years.

Year Google Searches for "Ohio Meme"
2016 500/mo
2019 1,500/mo
2022 27,100/mo

Ohio meme searches have grown a massive 5,328% from 2016 to 2022.

We can also look to Google Trends data, which shows search interest for "Ohio memes" skyrocketed in early 2022 around the TikTok trend.

This lines up with KnowYourMeme data showing the page for "Ohio Will Be Eliminated" first spiked in 2016, before dwarfing that with millions of views in 2022 around the viral TikTok craze.

In summary, while Ohio jokes have circulated for years, 2022 saw the Ohio meme go certifiably mainstream thanks to TikTok‘s amplification.

Real-Life Oddities That Fuel the Meme

While TikTok videos exaggerate for comedic effect, Ohio‘s reputation isn‘t just built on fiction. The state has seen plenty of genuine peculiar happenings that lend credibility to its unconventional status.

Just take a look at some real Ohio news stories and try to tell me these don‘t sound like meme-worthy absurdities:

  • "Grizzly bear goes window shopping at Ohio hardware store"

  • "Coroner called to Columbus zoo for tiger that ingested toy"

  • "Police called for goose on the loose after smashing into window"

  • "Firefighters rescue pet rat from Marietta storm drain"

  • "Loose zebra rounded up in Zanesville after escaping from farm"

You really can‘t make this stuff up! Ohio seems to attract its fair share of animal escapades. But it doesn‘t stop there. Ohio residents also seem prone to outrageous behaviors:

  • "Man cited for using fake skeleton to drive in HOV lane"

  • "Ohio man turns $5 bet into $1 million lottery jackpot"

  • "Ohio woman‘s seven foot long hair helps set Guinness World Record"

  • "Cleveland man dresses as baby to bypass airport security"

News reports make Ohio sound like a real-life Florida Man Twitter feed at times! The local media stories lend so much zany credibility to Ohio‘s meme status.

Examining the Cultural Significance: Memes as Catharsis

Stepping back, what is it about Ohio that made it primed for meme-dom? We touched on the dual perceptions of Ohio as boring and bizarre earlier. But how do these memes reveal a deeper cultural truth?

In my view, Ohio memes exemplify how we turn familiar, under-appreciated places into caricatures as a form of catharsis. The impulse to satirize and exaggerate Ohio comes from a feeling of defensiveness and dismissal by outsiders.

Locals see Ohio‘s eccentricities as making it interesting, even lovably quirky. But these traits get mocked by outsiders who see the state as an irrelevant laughingstock.

The memes represent a reclaiming of Ohio‘s narrative. By self-satirizing and taking the mockery of Ohio to absurdist extremes themselves, Ohioans regain power over the narrative rather than letting snobby coastal elites shape it condescendingly. The meme is cathartic redemption.

This also represents a broader human urge to spotlight the humorous and absurd within the mundane. Illinois, Indiana or Iowa may not have (yet) achieved meme status, but they could, because anywhere can be mined for eccentricities. Memes show that universal human experience bonds us beneath surface-level geographical differences.

So in summary, while exaggerated, Ohio memes ultimately celebrate finding significance and humor in the unremarkable. As an Ohioan might say, "We‘re not just buckeyes and cornfields – but also car crashes caused by loose wildlife and Y-shaped bean-bag toss games!"

What do you think – can you relate to finding meaning in satirizing your underappreciated homeland? Let me know if you have any other thoughts on the cultural significance of regional memes!


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.