Social Media

The “We Used To Be A Country. A Proper Country” Meme, Explained

It's all about '90s & '00s nostalgia.

by Kaitlyn Wylde
A Blockbuster video store overlaid with a screenshot of a Tweet reading "We used to be a country. A ...
ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images/Twitter

You might be wondering why your Twitter feed currently looks like your camera roll after a weekend in middle school, featuring a trip to the mall, a sleepover party, and a fast-food pit-stop. In the first week of December, memes captioned “We used to be a country. A proper country," paired with nostalgic photos of American life took over Twitter. Cue throwbacks of the galleria and retro burger joints, or screenshots of the iTunes music store back when songs cost $1.29 a pop.

Per Know Your Meme, the trend traces back to Twitter user @DarnelSugarfoo. On Dec. 2, the user posted a retro photo of a young woman paying for a carton of milk at a convenience store, captioned, “A ‘7-Eleven’ in 1973. We used to be a country. A proper country.” The tweet was intended as an unironic throwback to a time when, uh, America was supposedly great — the original poster has both #MAGA and #KAG (short for keep America great) hashtags in their Twitter bio — but has now been shared and quote-Tweeted over 6,000 times with satirical responses. (Think, a picture of a pickle and hotdog cake from the same year, with the same caption.) From trolling the original poster, the meme has evolved into using the “We used to be a country. A proper country” catchphrase to call out nostalgic moments from childhood.

Regan, 24, tells Bustle she thinks Twitter is “hilarious” for repurposing the trend. “The original post saying that an old-timey photo of a 7-Eleven is what made us a proper country is ridiculous; it’s not that simple and has never been that simple.”

Part of the fun of the trend for Kirk, 34, is turning it into something else. “I think it's fun to dunk on the original format,” he tells Bustle. “It’s sincere yet naive patriotism, if only to get a handful of laughs from your friends,” he says. Kirk joined in on the trend with a picture of the Rainforest Cafe. “It made me stop and ask myself, what do I actually miss about this place? What would it be like if someone threw a party there?” he says.

Paris, 20, tells Bustle that she also decided to add to the trend after seeing the original tweet. In her post featuring hamburger-painted stools at McDonald's in 1983, which has over 3,400 likes, she mocks the trend with a hint of earnestness. “I always thought the old McDonald’s interior designs were a lot more inspired than they are now, so I Googled ‘McDonald’s in 1980’ found the cheeseburger chairs image and made my own tweet,” she tells Bustle. “At this point I don't think the trend really means a lot, people are just having fun with nostalgia — it's so easy to copy the quote and attach any funny image to it,” she says.

As for how to post your own satirical proper country meme, Regan, who joined in on the trend with an homage to Blockbusters of yore, suggests throwing it back — but not too far. “Opt for something that was very popular in the late ‘90s to early 2000s that’s unfortunately no longer around,” and pair it with the faux patriotic catchphrase.