Ugandan Knuckles: How the First Major Meme of 2018 took the Internet By Storm

Leonel Veizaga, Staff Writer

TidiestFlyer’s 3-D Knuckles model

If there’s any meme that has skyrocketed to massive popularity faster than “Ugandan Knuckles,” you might want to rethink that. Over the past two weeks, various platforms of social media have been invaded by people who use phrases like “do you know the way?” and make clicking noises. The meme has gotten so much attention to the point where some believe that it’s racist against the African country of Uganda. However, in order to try and understand that point of view, we need to ask the important questions: what is the “Ugandan Knuckles” meme? Where did it come from? How and why did it blow up so quickly?

The answers lie within a YouTube video uploaded by content creator Gregzilla, on February 20th, 2017. In the aforementioned video, Gregzilla reviews the 2013 platformer game “Sonic Lost Word,” and one segment of this video features a parody animation of the character Knuckles. This animation eventually gave rise to what some consider to be the prototype of the Ugandan Knuckles meme, known as the “Knuckles Sings” remix on YouTube. However, it would not be until seven months later when the meme began to take form and evolve.

Sometime between February and September of 2017, fans of the Twitch streamer Forsen commonly referenced various jokes that had to do with Ugandan warriors while playing the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Additionally, viewers have been known to stream snipe (or cheat in multiplayer games with a massive live audience) Forsen’s channel while yelling Uganda-related memes, and quotes from the Ugandan film Who Killed Captain Alex?. Then, on September 15th, 2017, an artist on DeviantArt by the username of TidiestFlyer released a 3-D model based on the depiction of the Knuckles character that Gregzilla created back in February. This model would go on to be used by many players in the virtual reality game VRChat.

The spark that finally ignited the keg was a YouTube video uploaded by user Stahlsby on December 22nd, 2017. The video features a swarm of VRChat players using the aforementioned Knuckles model as their in-game avatars, as they troll other players by making clicking noises and saying “You do not know the way” in Ugandan accents, while also quoting and making references to Who Killed Captain Alex?. This video would later be responsible for spawning multiple other videos by different content creators trying to cash in on the meme’s popularity. However, it would only be a matter of time before the criticism of the meme and its usage by many VRChat players began.

Video game website Polygon published an article openly criticizing the meme and those who joke around with it, stating that the usage of fake Ugandan accents is racist. Many have gone on the defensive when it came to accusing the meme of racism, stating that the whole point of trolling players in VRChat was simply just to have fun (since the idea of VRChat is to use any avatar you wish and join a server full of other players just to converse), while others criticized Polygon for accusing players who use the Knuckles avatar of online harassment with little to no evidence. Everything came full circle, though, when Twitter user Wakaliwood (who made the film Who Killed Captain Alex?) chimed in on the whole debacle and stated that the meme’s popularity has lead to more people viewing his movie on YouTube, and that people accusing the meme of racism are simply taking it out of context. However, in the end, whether you believe the meme is racist or not, it’s surely blown up around every corner of social media, from Instagram memes to Snapchat filters, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

In conclusion, the Ugandan Knuckles meme is the epitome of a joke blown out of proportion. Eventually, its popularity will fizzle out down the line, as most memes naturally do. Some may choose to stick with the meme, even after it “dies,” while others may choose to abandon it entirely and hop onto the next big meme. Still, the question remains: do you know the way?