Willem Dafoe Looking Up
“Willem Dafoe Looking Up” is a caption or gif caption meme. It presents exactly as it sounds. It is sometimes called “Vincent van Gogh Looking Up”. The image evokes horror, sometimes in the post-apocalyptic sense. The actor’s expression is one of terror and anguish. Most versions of the meme use the direct source image but some have it cropped or filtered. Most versions of this meme would be considered examples of LOLrandom humor.
The image is taken from the 2018 film “At Eternity’s Gate”, which takes a grim look into the life of artist Vincent van Gogh. The movie is named for one of van Gogh’s paintings which also evokes dread in its rendering of a sorrowful elderly man with his face in his hands.
The meme’s exact origin is uncertain. It is possible that the gif was originally used as a reaction image. It is believed to have been first posted as a meme in May 2020 on iFunny. Due to the crass nature of these early examples and the limited audience of iFunny, it stayed there for a while, but it was already gaining popularity on the site. Other users were making their own in June 2020 and it began to see use on other platforms.
Still, it would not reach its peak popularity for another year. In May 2021, this item was posted to iFunny. The author remains unknown, but the meme was reposted virally in the next few days. It also enjoyed a lot of reshares on Instagram and Reddit.
The following example had viral success on Instagram and Facebook and is generally believed to be what made this meme famous in the general internet. It was discovered in November 2021 and it comments on the COVID crisis.
Since Willem Dafoe is looking up, many versions of this meme put the object of dread somewhere above the subject. That is, he is literally looking up at the distressing thing. Some interpretations of this meme have been downright vulgar. Others have been edgy and politically incorrect. Some memers took the ironic or literal path with it. Like many memes it is something that can take on whatever meaning the creator desires. It can convey a sense of fearfulness or pure silliness. The situations that the character is placed into are comical and unrealistic.