Love ’em or hate ’em, memes have become a staple of the Internet, an inside joke anyone with a computer can be a part of. From the socially awkward penguin, to the late-to-the-party Slowpoke, we’ve seen ’em all. But it gets more complicated when the meme involves a real person. Sometimes, becoming a meme is a form of bullying, like it was for Ashley VanPevenage, whose skin condition made her go viral in a not-so-cool way. But other times, becoming a meme can change your life in a great way. Take Success Kid, for example, who is now 8 years old and used his meme fame to help his dad get a new kidney.
In the case of “Ermahgerd girl” Maggie Goldenberger, 23, one would assume it would be the former. After all, her meme features her at 11 years old, wearing crazy pigtails, a not-so-cute vest, a retainer, and a relatively bizarre expression while holding Goosebumps books. The meme seemed to capitalize on Maggie’s awkward adolescence. . . except it wasn’t her awkward adolescence at all.
Vanity Fair talked to Maggie about her viral phenomenon, and it turns out that the picture was a joke, spawned from a fun game of ridiculous dress-up when she and her friends were in fourth and fifth grade. Maggie was playing the made-up character of “Pervy Dan”:
Kaelyn had the Polaroid for years, eventually uploading it to Myspace and Facebook, where it was discovered by Reddit. Jeff Davis, who goes by xWaxy, found the photograph on Facebook, thought it amusing, and shared the picture on Reddit. “I didn’t really think much of it at the time,” he told Vanity Fair. There, it was found by Reddit user plantlife.
“The level of excitement in her face, the braces, and the outfit just screamed awkward tween years,” plantlife told Vanity Fair. The South-Park inspired voice “kind of popped into my head as the icing on the awkward cake,” prompting him to write “GERSBERMS. MAH FRAVRIT BERKS” as the caption.
Maggie finds the entire thing strange, but she never felt as though anyone was laughing at her — rather, they were laughing at her character. “It was a middle schooler’s perspective of what funny is, so I’m always surprised when adults are such fans,” she told Vanity Fair.
That said, it has caused her some pain over the past couple years. At one point, when her real name got attached to the photograph, someone tracked down a picture of her — real-life Maggie, not “Pervy Dan” — in a bikini and uploaded it, where it received many nasty comments. “I have no idea who did that,” she told Vanity Fair. “And if I’m going to have a bikini shot floating around on the Internet, I’d like to be spray tanned and under a waterfall somewhere.”
However, for the most part, her meme has been a weirdly amusing experience for her, her favorite being her face attached to the hull of the Titanic with the caption “ERMAHGERD ERCEBERG.”
She still gets a bizarre feeling when she unexpectedly comes across her face on the Internet. “My eyes just get wide and I say, out loud, ‘This is so f*cking weird,’” she told Vanity Fair.
Weird, it is, Maggie. The Internet is a weird, weird place.
(Image via Twitter.)