What Happened to Him?

March 17, 2024

As with any kind of cultural phenomenon, some memes die and then come back again; others surge and then fade. Some, like Crying Jordan or Pepe the Frog, find a new context after reappropriation by political forces. Others, like Question Hound, whose grotesquerie is a perfect symbol of male millennial apathy, simply become a bit of a joke in their own right.

What Happened to Him is one of those memes, a recurring caption and catchphrase that appears in image macro formats that depict sick or dying people in need of help. Despite a slow start, the meme found a big audience, and it quickly became part of Internet culture.

While the creator of What Happened to Him, Ky Moore, didn’t see much of a financial return from his viral moment, he was a good man who valued helping others. That earnestness may have helped him cope with the unwelcome attention that came with his newfound fame, even as he became cast as a revolving character in the Internet’s language of inside jokes.

When it comes to copyright infringement, it’s generally fine to use other people’s memes, even if you change the caption, as long as you don’t make your own version of a meme and try to sell it. This is known as transformative use, and copyright attorney David Harris explains that it’s fine so long as you’re using someone else’s work to create something new, not competing with them in the same market.


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