On the surface, internet memes seem like they’re all fun and games, but when somebody’s badly timed photograph, profane tweet, awkward video, or MS Paint masterpiece gets blasted over social media, the impact can inadvertently ruin job interviews for the next decade. The internet is a brutal place, and no bit of silliness ever goes unpunished. It’s no wonder that undergoing the radical transformation from a regular person into a digital meme has destroyed many lives.
The results of internet fame aren’t always so terrible, though. Every once in a blue moon, surprisingly enough, memes do some real good in the world. Sure, becoming a meme will probably change your life in many ways, but you’re definitely not going to complain if those changes involve earning enough money to pay off your mortgage, snagging more hot dates, raising funds for charity, or saving a loved one from a serious medical condition.
Grumpy Cat ain’t making her owner grumpy
Judging by Grumpy Cat’s frown, you’d think there was nowhere for this furious feline’s mood to go but up. However, while Grumpy Cat’s expression might resemble the way you look when you have to get up at 5 a.m. for work and the coffeemaker breaks, Mental Floss says the real cat behind the meme — whose actual name is Tardar Sauce — is a frisky, playful little gal with a bright attitude.
Tardar Sauce has also made some big bucks, and since cats aren’t allowed to have bank accounts, that’s resulted in serious winnings for her owner, Tabatha Bundeson. Back in 2012, Bundeson was living on tips as a waitress in Arizona, according to Business Insider, when her brother took a photo of the saucy one and shared it online. That grumpy face went so insanely viral that only a few days later, Bundeson was able to retire from serving tables. Since then, Grumpy Cat has grown from a popular meme to a genuine multimedia phenomenon, with Grumpy Cat now appearing on numerous T-shirts, pet toys, book deals, and coffee mugs, not to mention being the official mascot of Friskies pet food, and the star of the TV program Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Whether Tardar Sauce is aware of her own popularity is another question, but she probably appreciates all the high-quality cat food she’s getting these days.
The Success Kid saved his dad
Everyone wishes they were the Success Kid. With that proud expression, that beachy background, and that chubby baby fist clenching onto sand like it’s made of pure gold, the Success Kid spent years as this generation’s ultimate symbol of victory, both small and large. In real life, though, Time says he was just a regular boy named Sammy Griner, who eventually grew up into a nice, caring elementary schooler.
Meanwhile, Sammy’s dad Justin was fighting for life, undergoing hours of dialysis treatment every day for six years, according to ABC News. When Justin’s health condition worsened, requiring a kidney transplant the Griners couldn’t afford, the family threw a big Hail Mary pass: They launched a GoFundMe campaign, hoping to harness the popularity of the Success Kid meme and turn it into real cash. To their amazement, people pitched in like crazy, raising over 100,000 real dollars, resulting in a successful operation for Justin. Basically, the most famous baby photo of the 2000s transformed from a funny meme into a lifesaving antidote. Now that’s success.