Return to Monke encompasses a series of memes closely associated with anarcho-primitivism that romanticize simplistic archaic lifestyle, with apes (often referred to as monkeys or monkes) serving as a symbolic representation of that lifestyle. The meme often features intentionally simplified language and is closely associated with similar traditionalist memes such as Reject Modernity, Return to Tradition and Consume Product.
While the exact origin of the meme is unknown, its spread is tied to the popularization of monkey memes on the meme app iFunny, with app userbase’s obsession with monkeys starting to manifest itself approximately in middle 2018. While not yet a developed meme at that time, some of the earliest documented memes indicating iFunny’s infatuation with monkeys are mid-2018 memes Ok So Basically I’m Monke and CGI Monkeys Dancing (examples shown below), both of which later found strong popularity in more mainstream meme communitites such as /r/okbuddyretard and Instagram.
In 2019, the budding trend received further support through the popularization of Le Monke memes and memes imagining atheists having an ape as their parent or grandparent (examples shown below).
Starting in 2019 and futher in 2020, following an increase in popularity of the anarcho-primitivism ideology and the spread of memes associated with it, memes in which apes (usually erroneosly referred to as monkeys or monkes) served as a symbolic representation of the archaic ways of life, gained spread online, spreading to Instagram, Facebook, Reddit and other online platforms.
On October 12th, 2019, iFunny novelty account MonkeyArchive was created, collecting notable memes either featuring or referencing monkeys and apes. The account collected over 1,300 memes in nine minths and accumulated over 9,100 subscribers in that period, contributing to the spread of Return to Monke memes and Monkey memes in general (notable posts and repubs shown below).
While already proliferating on iFunny and in certain Facebook groups during the early months of 2020, the Return to Monke memes did not see mainstream spread on other platforms until approximately April 2020. For example, between April 5th to June 27th, 2020, /r/ape subreddit grew from 329 to over 28,100 subscribers, becoming one of the major hubs for Return to Monke memes on the platforms.
Reject Modernity, Embrace Tradition
Reject Modernity, Embrace Tradition is a phrase used in image macros to humorously point out the change to an object or place over time, positioning the earlier version as superior.
Consume Product refers to a genre of memes poking fun at consumerism, particularly at fans of the major pop culture franchises such as Star Wars and superhero films. In November 2019, Consoomer, a variation of -Oomer Wojak meme, gained popularity as a part of the trend.
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