Everyone was already tired of being cutely, gently, wackily betrayed. They just needed a meme from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to help them express it.
While memes are not exactly known for capturing the profundity of the natural world, some of them organically end up that way through a coincidence of timing. Last year’s relationship-centered meme—How It Started vs How It’s Going—turned out to be an ideal vessel for commenting on the utter disruption of a pandemic year, and the Hot Dog Guy helped users mock the late Trump-era’s high supply of obviously guilty leaders deflecting blame.
In that same spirit, the winking meme from WandaVision arrived just in time to get internet denizens through a tumultuous week of disappointment and deception.
The wink in question first emerged in an episode back in January, courtesy of queen Kathryn Hahn, who embodies the goofy neighbor trope on a show that loves to explode TV tropes. It took a late-February spoilerrific reveal about Hahn’s character, however, to imbue Hahn’s big, exaggerated wink with fresh meaning. The wink was never meant for Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), who ostensibly receives it in the moment, but rather for the viewer on their second watch, to understand that they were being tipped off earlier.
Once the true nature of Hahn’s character, Agnes, became clear—accompanied by a catchy, iTunes chart-topping bop—savvy viewers began using the wink image for jokes about the kinds of little white lies that make the world go ’round.
"Omg I'm so sorry, I didn't see this until now!" pic.twitter.com/PlyoFoTNQu
— Jason Ferrante (@FerranteJason) March 1, 2021
HR : your interviews are done, please go home, we will let you know. pic.twitter.com/i9NDZVLAlL
— Pakchikpak Raja Babu (@HaramiParindey) March 4, 2021
It was also a way to call out the little lies we tell ourselves.
Today we’re gonna be productive! pic.twitter.com/GwB2trgZiT
— Preeti Chhibber (@runwithskizzers) March 3, 2021
me telling my computer i’ll update everything tomorrow pic.twitter.com/5NIGfcJfB7
— Kristen Arnett (@Kristen_Arnett) February 28, 2021
This isn’t the only meme to emerge from the show, but it quickly became the most popular, with users making creative photoshopped versions to comment on all manner of betrayals—mythic, historic, literary, and municipal.
"Enjoy this gift of a very normal large wooden horse" pic.twitter.com/4HSUDEuoTK
— Memetaza (@memetazaa) February 27, 2021
"hey caesar it's time to go to the senate" pic.twitter.com/OSMEfirq8V
— Adam Cerious (@Browtweaten) March 2, 2021
JUDGE TURPIN: but first sir, I think, a shave
SWEENEY: the closest I ever gave pic.twitter.com/tIkJhFgsxA
— Tom Zohar (@TomZohar) March 3, 2021
"there's another train directly behind this one" pic.twitter.com/Qh1bu5HYa5
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) March 3, 2021
Here’s where it gets really interesting, though. Much like those other memes from last year mentioned above, users quickly began to apply this one to current events.
Considering all that had happened throughout the week, Twitterers had a lot of material to work with.
Earlier in the week, Biden capitulated on lowering eligibility for stimulus checks based on income threshold, reducing the number of recipients by roughly 17 million. Now, whenever the checks eventually are distributed, there will be many Americans who got a check from Trump who won’t be getting one from Biden. Additionally, the administration also gave up on the proposed and much-desired minimum wage increase this week, after bumping up against the conspicuously surmountable problem of an unwilling senate parliamentarian. Outcomes such as these tend to have the effect of making people feel duped into voting for a political party that never intended to carry out crucial parts of its proposed agenda.
Luckily for the Democrats, though, Republican governors including Greg Abbott of Texas stole the spotlight of disdain this week by announcing they were opening up their states again and rescinding mask mandates, just as we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
None of these developments, nor a little snafu at Nike, escaped the attention of WandaVision fans this week.
Texas has everything under control. pic.twitter.com/cACCQ25lqX
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) March 3, 2021
Nike Executive Ann Hebert: “Everyone has an equal opportunity to get the shoes they want using the SNKRS app” pic.twitter.com/T4eNFVeaXB
— KRush (@Krush59) March 2, 2021
“We’ll do the $15 minimum wage after the stimulus bill passes” pic.twitter.com/WSV5dPIb5E
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) March 4, 2021
Finally, perhaps inevitably, just like the greatest memes, the Agnes wink eventually transcended the realm of current events and trends to confront timeless hypocrisies.
Institutions: "We value diversity, equity, and inclusion." pic.twitter.com/ob8Ty8hdXB
— Anna Gifty (@itsafronomics) March 1, 2021
"One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all." pic.twitter.com/tDNlC81Yxt
— The Last ???? (@JuSLIKEMIKE911) March 4, 2021
Somehow, this silly wink has become the most iconic gesture to come from the MCU since The Snap. I would ask able-bodied photoshoppers to tweet @FastCompany with Agnes’ winking face on Thanos’ body, but that wouldn’t work as a meme.
After all, unlike much of America’s leadership, Thanos didn’t spend months promising immediate relief from economic suffering before going forward and harming vast swaths of the population.