The PyeongChang opening ceremony in South Korea featured a spectacular array of new technology that showed off Korea's role at the forefront of technological innovation. From virtual-reality augmented scenes in the PyeongChang stadium to lamps that transferred "light" through never-before-seen 5G technology, it was a feast for nerds everywhere. But they were pulled up short by one feature in particular: a lit up smiley face that inspired memes and tweets because it looked, well, a little bit ... off.
Creating a spectacle for an audience of millions is undoubtedly hard, so the techs who decided to make the final flourish in the center of the stadium — which had been previously occupied by hundreds of drummers, 10-foot silk puppets, and hugely complicated light shows, according to ABC News — understandably kept it simple. But the result, meant to be the climax of a huge light show of fireworks and virtual reality sparkle, ended up resembling an emoji pancake. And social media definitely noticed. Was it a call-out to rave culture, a reference to the five adorable children (symbolizing the five elements in Korean culture) who'd dominated the opening ceremony, or just a simple wish for peace? Who knows. But the blink-and-you-missed-it smile made a lot of people extremely puzzled.
It Gave Some People The Heebie-Jeebies
It Was A Familiar Face For Some
At Least It Has One Fan
Did The Budget Run Out?
Years Of Planning Went Into This
Raves Are Back
The Office Is In Style
The Choreo Does Not Exactly Match Up
The smiling didn't stop there, either. The ceremony concluded with fireworks that went off in the shape of a smiley face — and viewers were instantly talking about it.
In fact, the fireworks seemed to be received much better than the other graphics.
The little things I guess, right?
Of course, the smiley face shenanigans were far from the only thing to get meme'd in the PyeongChang opening ceremony tonight. Pita Taufatofua, more colloquially known as "Shirtless Tonga Guy," made quite the splash when he returned to this opening ceremony every bit as shirtless and oiled up as he did at the Rio Summer Olympics, when he launched too many memes and tweets to count. This isn't noteworthy just because it is, unsurprisingly, quite cold in PyeongChang right now — it's noteworthy because Taufatofua's qualification for cross-country skiing should be near impossible. Up until two years ago, he said in an interview with an Olympic channel, he'd never even seen snow; he managed to train and qualify first using rollerblades in Tonga, and then traveling abroad to hit actual snow slopes (and, subsequently, your Twitter feed).
Another irresistibly meme-able moment? Naturally, when the 2012 chart-topper "Gangnam Style" started playing, it left quite the impression on the audience. Seeing as the artist, Psy, is an incredibly popular artist in South Korea, it is none-too-surprising that it was played during the opening ceremonies; although nobody could be quite prepared for how #pure it was when people started dancing along to it. And admittedly, for those in the U.S. who were watching the coverage live from PyeongChang at 6 a.m. on Friday, many weren't prepared for that kind of enthusiasm for life so early in the morning; as one Twitter user and Daily Beast Editor Tanya Basyu phrased it, "So far, this Olympics opening ceremony has included the U.S. walking out to 'Gangnam Style,' Bermuda's dedication to shorts, and Tonga's dedication to keeping Rio alive with its shirtless, oiled flagbearer (it's below freezing)—and it's just past 7 am EST, what a Friday".
And what expression is more perfect for your internal mood by Friday after a long hard week at work than — drumroll, please — the awkward smiley face from the opening ceremony that has been meme'd round the world? Perhaps the reason we are all so collectively unnerved by the now infamous grin is because it speaks to a truth about ourselves that we are not all too ready to examine.