Obsession is an ever-present aspect of modern fandom, and since early February, a new and popular meme format has given fans a different, more specific way to express their infatuation for celebrities and pop-culture characters. Typically posted with the caption or tag “anatomy of,” the meme breaks down the unique characteristics that make its subject — normally a photograph of a celebrity or an anime character — appealing. A characteristic example is an “anatomy of Remy,” the beloved rat from Disney’s Ratatouille. The original picture has Remy smiling and holding a small container of spices, but the new image-turned-meme has a color palette of light blue, brown, and a pink beige in the upper left corner. Dotted squiggly lines run up to the eyes, and a zoomed-in picture captioned“eyes you could drown in” is placed above a zoomed-in picture of his hands captioned “cutest little hands.” “a contagious smile” hovers near his mouth.
anatomy of remy ✨ pic.twitter.com/qhhPhv4rXK— rhe | am spoilers (@TJKlPPENS) February 26, 2019
Similar examples proliferate across fandoms: The Umbrella Academy, Naruto, and even Howie Mandel, amongst many others. Early forms of the “anatomy of” memes pictured K-pop stars and anime characters, with fandom pages on Twitter and Tumblr depicting the earliest posts in the style, but have since spread. Many of the meme designers used the app Picsart as well as other apps like Superimpose, Pixellab, Google Slides, and VSCO, which enable easy manipulation of photos.
the rose quartz + serenity anatomy of an angel pic.twitter.com/awux3Z2B2m— hana (@jeonghnas) February 12, 2019
Twitter user @tjkippens, who made the “anatomy of Remy” meme, told The Outline she used Google Slides. Another user, @moonrayla made a thread to show other meme makers how to make this particular style, starting with a picture of Keith Kogane from the anime series Voltron. First, she color corrected the image in the VSCO app, then used the Picsart app to crop Keith’s eyes and hand to place on the outer edges of the frame. She finished by using the Phonto app to add the written captions “sparkling eyes” and “cute little gloves” as well as the red and purple color pallette.
THREAD: how i make my “anatomy of ____” edits ! pic.twitter.com/JrAtysiE4E— 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐚 ♥ (@moonrayla) February 18, 2019
Stuff like this has floated around before. While the earliest examples of this format date to mid-February, Knowyourmeme.com lists a meme style called “Proper Anatomy” that originated on March 11, 2013 with a meme described as “the proper goat anatomy.” The meme depicts a baby goat with lines drawn to different body parts and inaccurate but funny labels; his nose is labeled a “snootle” and his mouth a “smoocher.” Though there’s no proven correlation, the “anatomy of” celebrity and anime character memes follow the “Proper Anatomy” style, but with an accurate representation of the subject.
There is an uncanny aspect to the format. Obsessing over the individual physical elements of any star is expected from fans, but to see it so formalized — look at these five details of a person’s face, which we’ve taken care to accentuate — seems… obsessive. Whole swaths of the internet are devoted to fandom; this just takes it a notch further. Tired: posting a photo of Nicki Minaj captioned “she really did that”; wired: posting a photo of Nicki Minaj zoomed in on each part of her face, captioned “her vivid eyes and strong cheekbones really did that.”
— the anatomy of ellen page (💌) pic.twitter.com/KmnXOdNEou— pyro ☂︎ (@vanyacademy) February 26, 2019
Not that the motivation is so insidious. When asked why they liked the “anatomy of” style, users who had taken the time to make their own versions of the meme responded with answers like “it’s cute” and “the aesthetic my dude.” Another user, @glimmadora, said, “I like how it points out nice cute details!” User @moonrayla, the creator of the “anatomy of Keith Kogane” thread told The Outline, “I like it because it’s a really fun and cute way to show your love for a character or celebrity you like and it’s not hard at all. . . anyone can draw on an image on their phone.” @tjkippens, “anatomy of Remy” meme maker, pointed out that “they're also just nice to look at too.” This is just the way fandom is, now. Sometimes, it can even be nice.