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At any given time there's some meme flooding the Internet, forcing you to pay attention to a dog that talks like it's a racist Asian stereotype or whatever the kids are into these days. Most of these obsessions fade away eventually, with no harm done aside from people wasting money on T-shirts that will end up in the "free" bin at a garage sale three months later. But the following four fads are exceptions -- they show no signs of slowing down, and they must be stopped before they damage the Internet and reality.

4
Zombies

AMC

In a display of irony that would be admirable and poetic if it wasn't annoying as hell, zombies are threatening to devour pop culture as we know it. The Walking Dead is pulling in record numbers, and I'm pretty sure it's federal law that 90 percent of video games must contain zombies as an enemy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is even using zombies to get people to prepare for real emergencies, which hopefully won't backfire when a tornado hits and everyone's first reaction is to grab their shotgun and drive into the countryside.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty
Amateurs. They should avoid tornadoes on an island.

Like anything else that's popular, zombies have become big business. There's the usual assortment of shirts, posters, coffee mugs, and car decals, along with some ... niche products.

Amazon
"Contains more zombie genitalia than most books!"

"What would it be like to screw a zombie?" the product description asks us. "Would it be dry or slippery with pus? Ah, well those are the questions up for debate, aren't they?" No, they weren't before you brought them up, you dogshit maniac. You put those questions up for debate; don't make me your accomplice. No one wants to mesh zombies with sex. I mean, what's next -- a zombie Fleshlight or dildo?

Fleshlight.com
Outsmarted by my own rhetorical device again.

Now that Big Zombie Sex is raking in the cash, it won't want to stop the pus train from flowing. There's an economic incentive to keep zombies popular, which is why we've gone from talking about how much we love zombies to companies that sell zombie merchandise constantly reminding us of how much we love zombies. That's what brought us ThinkGeek's "Zombies and Bacon" section, and then there's the Zombie Apocalypse Store, and Zombie Mart, and God knows how many more websites selling junk like "Indiana Bones."

Neato Shop
Apparently slapping zombies onto things that aren't zombies is an act of artistic ingenuity worth 20 bucks.

All of this would be tolerable if zombies weren't so dreadfully boring now. They've become a monster to lazily slap into a story in lieu of going through the effort of creating something original, like the Adam Sandler of villains. Searching for "zombie" on Steam gave me 89 games, searching at GameFAQs gave me about 500 titles, and Metacritic maxed out the result at 1,000. And that's just counting games that were uncreative enough to put "zombie" in the title.

I'm focusing on games because they're the worst offenders. Zombies are an excuse to give your game terrible AI, because they're dumb by nature. But that makes them boring, unthreatening villains -- they're mindless drones to be gunned down, a novelty that wears off fast. It's reached the point where I'm actively avoiding pop culture I might otherwise enjoy because they contain zombies, and I'm not alone. Can we try to make mummies cool, or something?

3
Bacon

Brent Hofacker/iStock/Getty Images

The Internet's love of bacon was a briefly amusing fad that's been forced to live on for years past its expiration date in order to sell merchandise. Bacon fans can buy everything from bacon bandages and bacon soap to bacon lube and bacon condoms so they can literally pork their lovers. "Bacon Condoms Could Be the Best Thing to Happen to Your Hog, Ever," we're told, in an act of yellow journalism not seen since coverage of the USS Maine.

J&D's Foods
The guy who wrote "make your meat look like meat" paid a fortune for advertising school. Life's really sad most of the time.

But bacon's popularity also has a real-world problem, in that bacon is terrible for you. It's a fatty, greasy, salty processed meat that raises your cholesterol. Bacon's fine in small doses as a treat, like chocolate or heroin. But the idea of "small" to the bacon-obsessed is to crumble it into ice cream sundaes for dessert after you have your deep-fried bacon and gravy, or your cheesy bacon rolls, or your turducken wrapped in bacon so you can eat an entire farm's worth of animals in a single meal. And then, God help us all, there's the bacon explosion.

Kelapstick/Wikimedia
Many pigs died to bring us this information.

The culinary atrocity you're looking at is sausage mixed with crumbled bacon that's been wrapped in a blanket of bacon and slathered in barbecue sauce, and yes, it's perfectly normal to have heart palpitations just from reading the description. At the risk of sounding like a culinary snob, I do not want to eat an explosion. Explosions are for calmly walking away from like a badass, which is appropriate, because if you ever see this thing on a dinner plate, you should slowly get away from it.

Look, bacon is tasty. I get it. But you know what else is tasty? Many, many other foods. Bacon is rapidly on its way to becoming the Borat impression of foods, and if we're not careful, this oversaturation is going to make us hate bacon. Is that a world YOU want to live in?

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2
Weird Foreign Stuff

TV Norge

If you haven't seen "What Does the Fox Say?" you somehow stumbled across this article while trying to find the AARP's website. I'm responsible for several of its 344 million views, and every time someone sent me the link, the accompanying message emphasized how weird it was.

It's funny, sure, but it's being weird and wacky on purpose. They're Norwegian comedians making a joke that in their words was "a stupid thing," but people seemed to think they were playing it completely straight. It would be like a Norwegian watching Lonely Island videos and coming away thinking, "Oh, that crazy American music industry, always obsessing over boats and putting their penises in boxes."

It's not like we haven't seen this before. 2011's Caps Lock-tastic "PONPONPON" was a Japanese music video that became a minor hit stateside after nearly 60 million people watched what looks like every stereotype about Japan being a weird country rolled up into four hallucinatory minutes.

If you can't watch the video, I hate you. But I can't stay mad -- here's a screenshot to help you sample the insanity.

Warner Music Japan
Every frame is like this.

To our Western sensibilities, it looks like Lovecraft went anime, but most Japanese viewers probably reacted with a shrug before flipping back to their tentacle porn. All that crap in the background? They're references to a fashion movement the singer modeled and wrote about before she became a pop star. The average Japanese person would be at least vaguely familiar with it, but most of them don't dress like they were in a Toys "R" Us when it exploded. Even all the bread flying around has a logical explanation. In Japanese, the word for clapping (which she does in the song) and the word for bread sound similar. It's just a silly pun. Assuming that Japan looks like that all the time is like assuming Ohio looks like a Lady Gaga video.

But we're happy to keep writing stories about vending machines that sell used panties as if you could find them on every street corner in Tokyo, and Japan is happy to keep cashing in on our cultural ignorance. It's one of those bits of subtle surprise-racism. We have this weird disconnect where we're capable of recognizing and calling out Western viral videos and marketing stunts that are trying too hard to be wacky, but as soon as another country does it, we take it at face value, because to us, foreigners are just a bunch of crazy people.

1
Cats

ksushsh/iStock/Getty Images

I love cats, and I think any intelligent person reading this will agree that we're superior to all those filthy, unwashed dog people. But even I have my limit, and that limit was reached when Grumpy Cat got a New York Times best-selling book and a film option, officially making her a more powerful force in pop culture than you or I will ever be. My best shot at fame would now be to film a sex tape with her.

When Grumpy Cat appeared at SXSW in 2013, she drew a bigger crowd than Al Gore and Neil Gaiman. In previous years, there were reports on SXSW bringing us new music, movies, and technology, like this thing called Twitter. Now the biggest news out of SXSW is how people waited in line for three hours to get their picture taken with a cat that's probably been traumatized by the experience of hundreds of fawning fans groping her.

It's been said that this is a problem for SXSW, but I think it's a problem for society in general. Cat videos are one of the biggest time wasters out there: 78 percent of Americans say they watch videos online, and 58 percent say they prefer "humorous videos, especially those involving cats and babies." The survey didn't calculate precisely how much collective time was wasted, possibly because the results would be too terrifying.

Eugenio Marongiu/Photos.com
We could spend that time working. Or watching non-cat videos. A step up either way.

Ten thousand of those fans went to the now annual Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis to take part in an "experiment that tests the social boundaries of the online community with a live, off-line event," because saying "come out and pay 10 bucks to watch videos you could enjoy from the comfort of your own home for free" doesn't sounds as artistic.

If you need further proof that cats aren't just idle distractions, Kia built an entire marketing campaign around them. A British milk ad featuring cats got 7.3 million views and caused an 8 percent jump in sales. Why did they use cats to sell milk? Because they tried it with cows and barely cracked 200,000 hits. From pizza to information services, advertising with cats works.

Yum! Brands
The perfect pizza for your cat to sleep on in your terrifying white void of a home.

It's not hard to see why. Cute cats make us feel warm and fuzzy. Positive emotions connect people with a brand, and that connection makes people spend money. And that's how otherwise rational people get suckered into buying whatever crap has a cat slapped on it.

So the next time you watch a cat video, remember that the line between someone posting it for your amusement and someone posting it because they want your money is vanishing. Cat videos are taking over the Internet, and we need to do something before we're overwhelmed by them. Here's a cat getting stuck in a box. Buy Cracked's zombie book.


You can read more from Mark, including his erotic zombie cat fiction, at his website.

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