December 19, 2011 at 03:00 PM EST
David Letterman: John P. Filo/CBS

After 2011, will the word “occupy” ever mean the same thing to you again? Can you ever deny the omnipotence of Ryan Gosling? (He’s a gentleman and a feminist scholar!) A Californian taxidermist and a Pop Tart-shaped cat with a catchy theme song suddenly had relevance, and everyday folks like you and me suddenly had a chance for a date with the likes of Justin Timberlake.

These are just a sampling of the most memorable memes to overtake the World Wide Web over the last 12 months. We’ve got one for every month. Check them out after the jump!

Social Studies

Occupy Pepper Spray

Nothing makes for a meme like an innocent cartoon (more on that below) or the cavalier ability of a rent-a-cop to inflict pain on peaceful protesters. When Occupy Wall Street found its way to California’s U.C. Davis, concerned citizens were appalled by the seeming casualness with which campus police lieutenant John Pike sprayed occupiers with peppers spray. Enter Internet artistes, who injected the unfriendly officer into great works of art from the Sistine Chapel to Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” helped him find his way into The Twilight Saga riff and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Even Tim Tebow got a shout-out — one of many this year. Keep reading…

A pose by any other name

Between planking, Batmanning, owling, and Tebowing, the Internet was not lacking for absurd poses this year. If you’re talking bang for buck, though, Tebowing (based on a prayer pose struck by Denver Broncos’ super-religious QB Tim Tebow) is where it’s at. Pop culture figures like Kermit and Spider-Man (more on him later) took to the Tebow, as did a weight lifter under a 135-lb. bar and a gymnast on the uneven bars. Even a pancake got in on the action! For sheer grace under pressure, the top tier of Tebowing goes to the group of visitors to Disney’s Splash Mountain in Orlando, Fla., who managed a synchronized Tebow before facing the deluge of dirty theme park water. Goal!


NEXT: A-list memes (by which we mean Ryan Gosling… and everyone else)

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