Is this a pigeon? The story behind the internet’s new favorite meme

A still from The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird is being used to mock everyone from men that mansplain to high school Tv shows

The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird was created to be the Japanese version of Transformers: all androids, intergalactic police force and merchandise opportunities. First broadcast 25 years ago, it has never been especially popular outside of Japan, but in the past month it has become responsible for one of the more popular images on the internet, posted to Twitter and Instagram thousands of times a day.

The image comes from a scene in the depict where an android is trying to convince a police detective that he is human. He’s a long way from Westworld standards of artificial intelligence, however, and keeps incorrectly identifying the objects around him. He guesses rises are violets, and asks if a butterfly is a pigeon.

A screengrab from that scene first appeared in 2011, mostly on Tumblr and anime forums. Back then it was primarily used for anime in-jokes, such as superfans taunting each other for misidentifying Pokemon. But in the last couple of months it’s gone mainstream.The meme has become extremely popular- new iterations are being created constantly, with some of the best going viral on social media, or trending on the meme library

Cat Graffam (@ catgraffam) k90ssimgos

May 4, 2018

fullmullet alchemist (@ rfetts)

i attained one LwiyqyoJfE

May 11, 2018

After the official Netflix account use the meme to comment on the questionable casting of actors in high-school drama, its popularity soared.

Netflix US (@ netflix) uh1ztR0wam

May 3, 2018

But what’s so special about this scene? He’s just a boy, standing in front of a butterfly, asking if it’s a pigeon.

Some have said the meme has a melancholy quality; some iterations involve mistaking likes on Twitter for friendship, while others joke about” buying expensive things with money I shouldn’t spend” in a quest for self-care. Vice has suggested the meme acts as a window into people’s psychology, and” could help demystify the process of dealing with depression and other mental health issues “.

But the truth is that, like any memetic form, it can’t be contained to a single topic. It’s already been adopted by the left and right, feminists and” incels“, and used to comment on everything from Ohio environmental politics to rape culture.

ghost science class chalkboard doodle (@ frimairist)

sorry for the butterfly meme eQq7 2teFZW

May 10, 2018

Dan (@ strngephtoghrpr)

My take on’ is this a pigeon’ meme NeJwCXPX2 4

May 7, 2018

This sudden popularity is likely down to its similarity to the” confused boyfriend” stock image that has been doing the rounds since last year.

popular comedy account” the pixelated barge” (@ pixelatedboat) wey5DjJvQQ

August 24, 2017

Previously, most memes consisted of ugly text laid over a single image, inducing it easy for anyone to adapt. But confused boyfriend generated the feeling of a comic strip- constructing it staggeringly popular and spawning a whole new genre of meme.

Finding an image that can tell a story so perfectly isn’t easy, but” is this a pigeon ?” fits the bill, which is likely why it remerged. It also helps that anyone with the most slapdash editing skills can give it a go, even me.

Photograph: Sunup

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