This Is Fine creator explains the timelessness of his meme
This is fine does not mean this is fine — not on social media.
The three-word phrase now doubles as shorthand for when a situation becomes so terrible our brains refuse to grapple with its severity. An oil spill has covered the Gulf of Mexico. This is fine. Are the polar ice sheets melting faster than ever? This is fine. Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States of America. This, too, is fine.
Things are going to be okay
The new alt definition comes from a 2013 webcomic called “On Fire.” In the six panels, a dog wearing a hat sits at a kitchen table. The room is engulfed in flame, but the dog smiles and says, “This is fine.” The dog calmly lifts a coffee mug to its lips. “I’m okay with the events that are unfolding currently,” says the dog, taking a gulp from the mug. Its arm incinerates into red gore. “That’s okay,” says the dog. “Things are going to be okay.” And then the dog’s face melts like one of the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The first two panels are above, but here’s the full strip, courtesy of its creator, artist KC Green:
The comic is part of Green’s long-running series Gunshow, but like many of Green’s other successful creations, including “Dick Butt” and “Started,” “This Is Fine” has achieved mainstream popularity as a meme.
According to to Know Your Meme, the first two panels — the dog saying “This is fine” while surrounded by fire — were posted on Reddit and Imgur in 2014, where they received thousands of upvotes. Since then, the two panels have become a popular meme. In January of this year, Adult Swim animated the entire comic as a channel identification interstitial.”This Is Fine” is unique as a meme for two reasons. One, while sometimes modified, it’s most commonly used in an unaltered state. On Twitter, for example, someone might write some troubling news and attach an image. Second, it’s still climbing in popularity and usage, despite now being nearly two years old.
To unravel what gives “This Is Fine” both relatable and timeless qualities, we spoke with its creator.
Chris Plante: What inspired “On Fire”?
KC Green: This was in 2013. I think I was still struggling with myself — with getting my anti-depressants and stuff right. You know, every now and then you have these off days where shit is worse, but you’re trying to ignore it. It’s just a feeling you have. I wrote this comic and that was all there was to it.
Do you remember a moment when it came back into your life?
This isn’t anything new, but it’s the first in a while since “Dick Butt” that’s gotten as big as it has. I [first] saw the two top panels shared somewhere on Twitter or Facebook. [The post] said, “What finals are like” — everyone was going through finals at the time in college or whatever. And it was just “This Is Fine,” and that was it. And it just kept going from there. [Laughs]
Why has it become so popular?
Because it’s a feeling we all have, apparently. It’s a feeling we all get, just like, “Things are burning down around me, but you got to have a smile sometimes.” It’s a basic human [feeling], “Well, what are you going to do?”
Why do you think a meme is only the first two panels and not the full comic?
Brevity. Just quick memes. That’s all people want. And that’s all that some of them have seen. I was actually in Seattle two weeks ago for a comic show, and I decided, alright, I’ll print out some prints of this one, and I made “Dick Butt” stickers. I put them all together. Everyone recognizes it and says, “I’ve only seen the top two panels. Oh my gosh, there’s more to this comic.” I had some kid come up and shout, “Memes! Look at all the memes!”
Is it weird or difficult that, at its most popular, your creation is essentially freely available?
It’s just the webcomic model that we’ve all sort of figured out over the years — “we” meaning other webcomic artists. I have a store through TopatoCo where we sell prints of this comic. There are always a lot of different things that help me make a living off of what I do. Plus I do a lot of freelancing here and there. Sometimes Adult Swim comes up to you and says, “Can we animate ‘This is Fine’?”It was last year when they contacted me, and I said absolutely. We did 10 total based on different Gunshow comics since they wanted “This is Fine.” That one came out first, and we got Dana Snyder, the voice of Master Shake, to do the voice.
What sort of money is made off of a meme? Could “This Is Fine,” for example, pay for a year of your life?
Well, the Adult Swim thing was nice. It wasn’t just “This Is Fine,” but “This is Fine” that helped it. I don’t know if it paid for a year of my life, but it did help for a while, especially around tax time. I split that with the animator, Shmorky, who animated all of the stuff. The shirt is actually selling super well, I will say that. We made a brown version and then a black version. I don’t know figures off the top of my head, but it’s sold a lot. The prints went really well at Emerald City [Comic-Con]. We have mugs and stuff, too, with the image on there. Like if I wanted to, yeah, it probably could if I pushed it more, but I’m still making comics of my own. I’m still drawing and making new stories. I’m more focused on that. And the money just comes from various places. I’m making a fine living off it. Not great. I’m not super rich, or anything, if that’s what it’s coming to.
You’re able to keep doing it.
Yeah, I’m able to keep at where I’m at.
Is it possible “This Is Fine” has endured, because it’s like our generation’s “Hang in there” poster?
[Laughs] Yeah, it has a similar feeling, like just hang in there, we’re almost to Friday.