The fifth comment down on the YouTube video which spawned a million memes reads, plainly: ‘Why am I still watching this? It’s 2019…’
Never has a more relatable sentence been uttered via a Qwerty keyboard and sent to the video-sharing platform. And yet, here we are, hankering for more timeless meme nostalgia.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be partial to a meme, an off-shoot of Internet culture which has exploded over the past decade to become part of a universally recognisable language used the world over.
At the forefront of this movement is an era-defining Internet character: Overly Attached Girlfriend.
Cast your mind back to 2012, a time when Vine was a glint in its creators eye and Snapchat was only three months old, when the world was introduced to Malala Yousafzai and Hurricane Sandy.
It was the year London hosted the Olympics and Apple launched the iPhone 5. Manchester City won the premier League for the first time in over 40 years, J.K. Rowling launched Pottermore and Psy’s Gangnam Style became the first ever video to reach one billion views on YouTube.
Elsewhere on the Internet, people were eagerly burying their heads in the sand – safe spaces away from suicide bomb attacks across Iraq, Damascus, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Palestine and beyond.
Instead, a lot of us turned to easily-digestible funny photographs applied to oh-so relatable captions. Thus, 2012 will forever be known as the year memes went mainstream.
As with her fellow Class of ’12 meme-mates – Bad Luck Brian, Success Kid, ERMAGERD Girl and Grumpy Cat to name a few – the Overly Attached Girlfriend happened entirely organically.
Laina Morris, the brains behind the Justin Bieber-inspired character, told UNILAD exactly how it all came about, explaining she ‘technically’ created OAG but it was the Internet which ‘really took over and made her what she eventually became on it’s own’.
Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of preparation that went into creating Overly Attached Girlfriend. I just made a silly video for a contest that I didn’t think anyone but my friends and family would see.
You’ve probably heard the story. But if you haven’t, here’s a little recap, in the words of Laina.
Overly Attached Girlfriend – the picture captioned with a thousand words – actually started with a video uploaded to YouTube in response to an online contest Justin Bieber was having to promote his new fragrance, called Girlfriend.
Laina, who made the video for a laugh among her pals, said:
He asked people to make a parody of his song Boyfriend. I made a parody from the perspective of an overly-clingy girlfriend and made a creepy face at the beginning of the video.
Someone took a screenshot of the face from the video, turned it into a meme they called the ‘Overly Attached Girlfriend’, posted it to Reddit, and it went viral from there.
Frankly, it’s criminal the parody didn’t win the competition, with lyrics like:
If I was your girlfriend / I’d never let you leave / without a small recording device / taped under your sleeve
Still, Laina – who didn’t even know the entry would be uploaded publicly – is happy with the outcome of entering the competition, having since won the whole internet.
Here’s the meme which started the phenomenon:
Laina recalled staying up late with a mate to watch the interpretations flood the Word Wide Web, just one night after the video was originally posted.
Considering the Internet Jury of 2012 couldn’t quite decide whether the Overly Attached Girlfriend – or OAG to her friends – was a character or a serious representation of Laina’s attitude to dating, you might think she’d be alarmed by the meme-makers.
Some of them did get pretty dark:
It was ‘pretty crazy’ but ‘entertaining’ even in its divisiveness, she told UNILAD:
There were a lot of people that loved it, a lot of people that hated it, and a good amount of people that couldn’t figure out if OAG was a character or a real person.
The memes were definitely entertaining to read and it was pretty surreal to see all of them popping up everywhere completely out of my control.
Thankfully, people soon figured out Laina was ‘in on the joke’ so the trolling ‘never got too much’.
In fact, the video of the OAG was posted about six months into a new relationship Laina was embarking on at the time, with a guy she’s still dating and very much in love with to this day.
Whether she sews her name into his clothes or not is an entirely different matter.
Of her partner, Laina told UNILAD:
I’ve been dating my current boyfriend since before I ever posted the OAG video, so we’ve really gotten to experience the journey of Overly Attached Girlfriend together, which has been fun.
He has been there since the beginning of all of this, which is pretty great because I never had to explain to him this random/weird part of my life that exists online.
We’re still together to this day, so I guess I’m pretty lucky that I never had to date as the Overly Attached Girlfriend – I’m sure that would have been pretty interesting.
As far as her online alter ego and the misconceptions which now follow her, Laina said:
For the most part, I think people understand that it was a lighthearted joke created for a silly contest, but every now and then I’ll run into someone who genuinely believes there’s no difference between me and OAG.
It’s pretty funny when it happens, but also pretty rare. I did have to get used to getting recognised in public as it happened a lot in the beginning, but everyone was always pretty nice about it for the most part.
I'm always amused by the @OvrlyAttachdGF tweets. Then I realize my face is associated with it and I'm slightly disturbed. Still awesome.
— Laina (@laina622) June 16, 2012
Laina’s mainly grateful the meme wasn’t too gross, having gone to school with The Guy Who Holds in a Fart Next to a Cute Girl in Class – who UNILAD confirmed definitely wasn’t flatulent – and seen how meme culture can go for some.
She joked she was relieved to get ‘stuck with the better named meme’.
She was even lucky enough to have a more flattering spin-off made once she became more widely recognised as Laina; another more altruistic version of the narrative took hold in the Misunderstood Girlfriend meme.
A photo of a smiling Laina with ice cream would be captioned with message like:
FOLLOWS YOU TO WORK / YOU FORGOT YOUR LUNCH
Also, in the interest of equality of the sexes, OAG even got her own male doppelgänger in Overly Attached Boyfriend, courtesy of Redditor u/Phatrick129. You remember the OAB, right?
Certainly, people’s willingness to be friendly when they recognised Laina out and about certainly helped turn being turned into a meme into a ‘positive experience’ even though it marked a ‘big change in [her] life’.
Concluding with a sense of happy nostalgia for simpler times, Laina said:
Overly Attached Girlfriend completely changed my life forever in a pretty awesome way. It opened doors and gave me experiences that I never would have had otherwise.
I have had the opportunity to meet so many new people I would have never known.
At the end of the day, this crazy, weird, random meme was easily one of the best things to ever happen to me. Regardless of where I go from here in life, Overly Attached Girlfriend will always be something I’ll be grateful for.
Take me back to 2012, please.
For more stories from behind the memes, follow UNILAD’s series of interviews with the people who star in your favourite viral content; ‘That’s Meme’.
If you have a story you want to tell, share it with to UNILAD via [email protected]
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.