Why Jeff Goldblum is the Internet’s Favorite Meme
The internet doesn’t agree on much, but everyone seems united under the banner of loving Jeff Goldblum. The actor has seen his popularity surge over the past few years thanks to high-profile roles, classic nostalgia and his sheer unbridled charisma. Between joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, joining Wes Anderson’s regular ensemble, and playing piano on various talk-shows, Goldblum’s found an interesting niche as both an actor and personality.
As a result, or perhaps influenced by the internet’s power, he’s become one of our more enduring memes. You’ve all seen shirtless Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park deployed for various uses, but there’s also drunk Jeff Goldblum, the awkward laugh of Jeff Goldblum, the shower curtain with Goldblum’s face emblazoned across it, and much more. Dr. Ian Malcolm’s oft-quoted line about stopping to think of whether or not one should clone dinosaurs has been appropriated many times over for every possible scenario. His face can be found photoshopped - preferably poorly - onto some of the internet’s more classic memes (a more bizarre effort put forward by the marketing team for Independence Day: Resurgence). Whatever your meme needs, Jeff is here for you.
It’s not unusual for beloved actors or celebrities to find their way into the meme lexicon, but it’s usually something reserved for the plain of existence that doesn’t cross over with ours. The unspoken rule of the internet is that you keep those boundaries distinct. You don’t show your fan-fiction to the people involved, you don’t send them your shirtless fan-art, you don’t call them ‘daddy’ to their faces, and you certainly don’t show them how they’ve been made into online jokes. Well, that’s the plan. Of course, people are seldom so respectful of those boundaries. Just ask any actor with a Twitter account how many times they’ve had people call them ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ in their mentions.
Generally speaking, celebs are advised to steer clear of this stuff. For one thing, it can be near indecipherable for those not up to scratch with the cool kids of the day. Responding when you’re out of the loop can make you sound terribly out-of-touch (or just plain embarrassing if you’re Katy Perry). Joining in can also ruin the joke. What makes Jeff Goldblum so fascinating is not only does he know all about his meme status, and not only has he wholeheartedly embraced it, but it seems like the most natural fit in the world. He was meme material before that became our way of life.
Goldblum’s been in the industry since the 1970s, and while he’s put in some incredible work in truly iconic films, he’s never been the most chameleonic of actors. That’s not his gig. You get Jeff Goldblum because you know exactly what you want for that character and he’ll deliver it in its most potent form. You never forget you’re watching Goldblum but that doesn’t diminish the work or the character. He finds the subtle layers to create enough difference between roles. Ian Malcolm is clearly cut from the same cloth as Seth Brundle from The Fly and David Levinson from Independence Day, but they’re easily distinct from one another. Still, you know a Goldblum-esque role when you see it: Charm with a smidge of ego (increase when necessary); the sane guy in the room who doesn’t necessarily act as such; the geek with enviable levels of sexual charisma; magnetic but not overwhelming in his appeal. Various actors have talked about his natural sex appeal, which is partly what makes him so appealing to the masses. Why try hard when it comes so easily? He’s enjoying himself way too much to be neurotic in the way you’d imagine such a personality to be. The Goldblum archetype is the geek we all want to be, which may be why he’s such a force for our internet deeds.
Nostalgia also plays its part. For us 90s kids, Jurassic Park is a crucial part of our pop culture curriculum, as does Independence Day to a certain subset of nerd. We’d all like to believe that we’d be the Ian Malcolm or David Levinson of the moment when a crisis occurs: The one who was right about everything, even as we’re ignored or dismissed. Ideally, we’d all be the one who can call hindsight of the worst moments in humanity, and hopefully we’d all look that effortlessly good doing it.
Because, let’s be honest, Jeff Goldblum’s meme status is greatly helped by the fact that he’s an eternal fox. I’d say he’s in his prime now, but that would mean he wasn’t always in his prime, although it is pretty cool that we’ve officially bestowed Internet Boyfriend status on a guy in his 60s who isn’t named Chris. Time has been exceptionally kind to Goldblum, and he wears it well. The suits have gotten more colourful and his hair has greyed in ever-so-stylish fashion, but the Goldblum-esque essence remains. He has the kind of terminally delightful smile that’s contagious to those who see it.
You never doubt that, whatever he’s doing, Goldblum’s not giving it his everything. Every interview he gives is a charm offensive, one where his self-awareness of the idea of Jeff Goldblum remains high. He never makes the publicity circuit seem like a chore, and aside from Tom Hanks, he seems to be the actor getting the most pleasure out of this repetitive cycle. It’s like he knows he has a reputation to uphold. He’s completely playing into the meme world, but it never feels desperate or overdone. There’s an organic evolution taking place for Goldblum, as if the man, the work and the marketing were suddenly as one. He didn’t need to completely reinvent himself for the new age: He just needed to wait for everyone else to catch up.
The internet gives everything a short shelf life, so who knows how long our Goldblum love-in will last. I hope it goes the distance and isn’t spoiled by reality - aren’t we all a little on edge about our pop culture faves these days? There’s something to be said about our various factions of fandom uniting around a common cause, one that brings unfiltered joy and allure to all who welcome it. As a wise man once said, life finds a way.
(Header photograph from Getty Images)