Gene Wilder died aged 83 Monday, leaving an unforgettable legacy on celluloid.
He also has the dubious honor of becoming a massive internet meme.
His smiling face, taken from a screengrab of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has graced a thousand images and gifs expressing condescension since first surfacing five years ago.
It was perhaps inevitable that Wilder’s unforgettable performance as Willy Wonka in the enduring movie would end up remixed and reimagined as online shorthand.
In the scene from which the image grab is taken, Wonka isn’t actually acting condescendingly to the children he’s showing around his chocolate wonderland.
Asked what “the most secret machine in the entire factory” does, he responds with a gleeful “would you like to see?” before pausing to look at the children.
It’s that face, of barely concealed delight at his own invention, that was used for the meme.
Initially, the image started circulating as one of the “You must be new here” memes, where new entrants to forums, as well as displays of general naivety or inexperience online, were greeted with a sarcastic response.
Before long, the image was used in a series of Creepy Wonka memes, which saw confectionary-themed double entendres superimposed over the smiling face with the oversized bow tie.
By October 2011, Condescending Wonka was born, which is from where the meme really took off.
Someone paired the image of Wilder with the phrase: “Oh you just graduated? You must know everything” and uploaded it to Reddit. Before long, another Reddit user suggested an official name change to Condescending Wonka.
The internet took Condescending Wonka and ran with it, quickly building an archive of tens of thousands of images.
Condescending Wonka, who was often Patronizing Wonka or Sarcastic Wonka, could be used in countless scenarios, to strike out at bad drivers, young lovers, people of opposing political views — whatever was annoying you online that day.
Of course the ubiquity of the meme has left some people — who might want to spend tonight in front of the TV with some popcorn — with the wrong idea about Wilder.