The GIF comes from a live stream shot in 2013, when Scanlon was a video producer at the popular gaming website Giant Bomb. During one of the team's weekly "Unprofessional Fridays" shows, Scanlon watched as editor-in-chief Jeff Gerstmann played Starbound, a two-dimensional action-adventure game. "I've been doing some farming," Gerstmann narrated, "with my hoe." Without missing a beat, Scanlon reacted much the same way Jim Halpert might have.
"When we're doing videos like that," Scanlon explains, "we're very aware of the audience."
"We deadpan a lot," adds Gerstmann. "When you get into double entendre and stuff like that, we just kind of plow through it and let the audience pick up the pieces. There's a lot of goofy shit in and around video games, so you're going to hit upon something like that along the way."
Gerstmann and his cohorts live to entertain -- "Unprofessional Fridays" is often a two-hour show after all -- and many of their finest, wackiest moments turn into GIFs circulated by Giant Bomb fans. In fact, if you search Scanlon's name, or "Giant Bomb" plus "GIFs," you'll find all sorts of weird shit. Getting memed is essentially part of the job description.
Giant Bomb's winks at the audience might be intentional, but in this case, what happened two years later was not. In 2015, a NeoGAF commenter zoomed in on Scanlon's fluttery eyes and used the now-famous GIF to react to a comic strip. In 2017, that same GIF erupted on Twitter and Instagram. "That wasn't one of the more popular [Giant Bomb GIFs at the time]," recalls Scanlon, "but for some reason, through internet chaos theory, that one rose to the top in early 2017." Why? Maybe it had something to do with the way GIF-sharing services were cataloging images. Or maybe it's because the GIF, when taken out of context, could extend outside video game circles to... almost anybody?
It did. And it became huge -- even earning unofficial Twitter accounts. But why now? Four years later? The GIF itself is a little more complex than the more image-macro, Impact-font memes that ruled 2013 (Grumpy Cat, Philosoraptor, and Ermahgerd girl to name a few). "I think the pervasiveness of it also has to do with the fact that there are so many crazy things happening in 2017," Scanlon says. "If it was more of a calmer year maybe we wouldn't see it as much." Fair.
The first major use of the meme Scanlon saw in the wild was this biology example, which cracked him up.