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The best gifs that 2015 gif-ted us

A moving tribute to 2015 through its most shareable memes – from crying Chrissy to Drake dad-dancing

Christmas GIFs! The GIF that keeps on giving! GIF-wrapped! GIF horse in the mouth!

We’ve been making those puns for decades now: GIFs were invented before the fall of the Berlin wall, making them seven years older than the internet.

But this year, if anything, they’ve been knocked about a bit. Through sheer ease of creating and distributing, FB vids, Vines, Snapchats, whatever have superseded them as the ultra-lite moving images of choice – it’s noticeable that of these 10 below, at least six were internet moments before, not after, they got GIF’d. They’ve gone from ways of referencing movie clips or reality TV shows, to email shorthand to neat reminders of other things already happening on the internet. I mean, when was the last time you looked at a reactions Tumblr? And do we really need yet more ways of saying “sure!”, “not sure … ”, “nah” in an email – I mean, Mind Blown still works, right?

Yet they’re still here, the internet’s ultimate survivor, as indestructible as water bears, and as hypnotising. While less quiet formats have bitten away their predominance, they’re still breeding, going strong. They live on as the material of the net, email fodder, with total recall, and always on – less images than moving emoji, at once strangely elegant, inherently silly and a bit melancholic. Like the internet itself, amiright?

Here are the ten best of the year:


For a Dazed-debuted project in collaboration with Central Saint Martins students, Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Rönkkö & Luke Turner made a set of short green-screen videos, and then offered them for download. Of the 36 or so, the one that went totally ~viral~ was Joshua Parker’s motivational video voiced by our man Shia Ell Bee. Genius annotations, Sonic the Hedgehog versions, all that: Shia might be, legit, the most interesting actor working today, and these looped pics cement his artistic work in three big words.


“And now … (pause for effect) … back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what’s good?” Best rapper alive contender – and Dazed coverstar –  Nicki Minaj calling for Miley Cyrus was the culmination of a story that took in so much of 2015’s most majorest issues: race, fame, representation, gender, Taylor Swift. And while reducing Nicki’s disdain into office #beef shorthand undervalues her righteous indignation somewhat, if a GIF’s quality rests on its playability and deployability – its knack for being both compulsively watchable and useable in an email, this aces, hands down.


The best GIFs are like haikus – clever shorthand for an instant emotion hard to process with words. Wait, is that actually what a haiku is? I’m not 100 per cent sure, but this, taken from the 52m+ played Vine is great, totally and utterly great, because it’s about how literally funny it is when people lie. And if haven’t yet come up with a word for that, or even a poem, then shame on us, and thanks to Nicholas Fraser for setting us right.


OK: thesis time.

• Hip hop has been the most interesting cultural movement for the last three decades because it perfectly predicts the times we live in.

• The times we live in now are about

1) commerce

2) content

3) connection

• The best commerce is art

• The best content is hip hop videos

• The best connection is funny

The best art is light. The best hip hop videos are self-conscious. The best funny is uncles dancing at weddings (who are actually good at dancing, despite what some people think).
So, according to this theory, the best cultural moment would be equal to:

• A video by the best and most self-conscious rapper, inspired by the best light art, and featuring top-notch uncle-at-a-wedding dancing.


• The best hip hop GIF would be i) Drake ii) dancing very well, but like an uncle at a wedding iii) to a background inspired by James Turrell.


So according to this really great book Love Saves The Day, voguing was invented in New York in the 70s, by dancers at underground LGBT disco clubs, who would literally pull out copies of Vogue, and competitively strike poses straight out of that month’s fashion editorials. Zip 40 years ahead, and Balmain’s collection with H&M (hashtag fashion’s moment of the year, probably, right?) is pushed by Dazed coverstar – and creative director Olivier Rousteing’s mate – Kendall Jenner. In an interview with BBC’s Newsnight, Rousteing talked about how much more “honest” (and implicitly powerful) social media is, compared to the magazine system that preceded it – a system that inspired the dance above. Right in the very heart of the highest of high fashion, Jenner and Rousteing’s use of viral imagery has set off a depth charge. Paris is burning, indeed. 


Donald Trump has no nose! How does he smell? Like a grotesque borderline fascist.


While this GIF is, properly speaking, the property of 2014, it takes on a whole new resonance with DJ Khaled’s recent genuinely terrifying-seeming ordeal, when the Florida mixtape star, mate of rap royalty and Def Jam’s man in the south got lost in the port of Miami, which was a bit like Cosmopolis, but on a jet ski.


It wouldn’t be GIF countdown with at least one reality TV show or award ceremony screen grab of an expression so totally un-identifiable, you worry for your own emotional intelligence. This year’s is Chrissy Teigen’s face on hearing that her partner John Legend has scooped a grammy, which can only be described, (and I really do not want this to sound mean) as a grimace, rather than the usual, dignified, blinked-away tear down the cheek. The interesting thing is that this misfiring weep became a story in itself, with Chrissy tweeting about the fact she actually hadn’t practiced her teary face, and posing with Legend on Instagram, both welling up in a more accepted manner.

If you look good and normal when you cry, you’re not really crying, she’s saying, rightly. Such a feeling is an inherently raw response to a deeply personal emotion: if you convincingly behave as expected under such conditions, you’re probably not responding naturally, which says something about how performative stuff, in general, is these days. So nice work Chrissy. Keep on you doing you.


Because, you know what? It’s actually pretty hard making one of these things.


When I worked at Dazed, I had a folder full of Kanye West GIFs on my desktop. I believed Kanye in every single one, and, sometimes, could imagine how he felt. And while I can’t really imagine how it would feel to win big at the VMAs, then announce a bid for the presidency, I really want to believe him this time, too.