Every so often a new crying reaction meme makes a splash, giving us a new way to emote some kind of minor inconvenience. We’ve had Dawson Leery, Michael Jordan, and now—days after it finally debuted in theaters—Evan Hansen has entered the arena.
Dear Evan Hansen, a film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical, has been a source of controversy and memes for months, both for whether star Ben Platt could convincingly play a teenager and the horror some expressed after discovering the plot of Dear Evan Hansen. Once it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, those concerns resurfaced, even as some reviews attempted to zoom out and consider the barrage of negative criticism. Now, it’s made $7.5 million to date and audiences seem to love it (at least according to Rotten Tomatoes).
Regardless of whether people watched Dear Evan Hansen, they’re now taking scenes out of context to mock them. Last week, a clip from early in the film showcasing just how awkward Platt’s Evan is around his classmates went viral, but over the weekend, a single image became a meme unto itself.
According to one viewer, the scene falls later in the film after people discover that Evan Hansen has been lying about his friendship with Connor, a classmate who died (and who had a note Evan wrote to himself in his possession). Evan is standing outside, he appears to be belting a song, and he’s crying pretty hard.
If you haven’t seen Dear Evan Hansen (or aren’t planning to), you can catch a small snippet of the scene around 3:27 in a trailer released Sept. 16.
Chances are, none of us are going to look camera-ready if we’d been ugly crying, and a viral and grainy screenshot of Evan Hansen doing just that made people question if it was even real.
For some people, it was another excuse to make fun of the movie with one TikTok of the scene going as far as to loop in audio of someone shouting “Police, help!” repeatedly.
The next step in the evolution of the Evan Hansen crying meme was to Photoshop his face into other existing movies, shows, and photographs. One version, which added tentacles and sunglasses, evoked the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer. Midsommar and Avengers: Infinity War were also used.
And soon enough, you didn’t even need Dear Evan Hansen anymore: It was now shorthand for getting upset over something small or straining yourself.
It’ll take some time before we know just how much staying power Evan Hansen’s crying face has, but right now, it’s pretty widespread.
*First Published: Sep 27, 2021, 5:31 pm CDT
Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and TV/film critic at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has covered everything from the Sundance Film Festival, NYFF, and Tribeca to New York Comic Con and Con of Thrones. She is based in Brooklyn.