Over the past 10 years, the “This Is Fine” dog has evolved from a joke into an indictment.
Memes rarely endure. Most explode and recede at nearly the same moment: the same month or week or day. But the meme best known as “This Is Fine”—the one with the dog sipping from a mug as a fire rages around him—has lasted. It is now 10 years old, and it is somehow more relevant than ever. Memes are typically associated with creative adaptability, the image and text editable into nearly endless iterations. “This Is Fine,” though, is a work of near-endless interpretability: It says so much, so economically. That elasticity has contributed to its persistence. The flame-licked dog, that avatar of learned helplessness, speaks not only to individual people—but also, it turns out, to the country.
The meme comes from KC Green’s six-panel comic “On Fire.” In the first, the dog, wearing a small bowler hat, sits at a table, surrounded by flames. In the second, the dog smiles brightly and says, “This is fine.” In the third, as the flames get closer, the still-grinning hound takes a drink of what looks to be coffee and says, “I’m okay with the events that are unfolding currently.” In the fourth, he takes another swig. Here, the panels that have so far maintained a consistent color scheme—yellow, brown, orange—introduce a new color: red. As the dog drinks, his left leg catches fire. “That’s okay, things are going to be okay,” the dog says, his leg now stripped of flesh. The final panel brings the obvious conclusion: Things are not going to be okay. The dog, consumed by the fire, melts away.
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