Willem Dafoe Looking Up
Willem Dafoe Looking Up, also known as Vincent van Gogh Looking Up, is a scene from the 2018 biopic At Eternity's Gate in which Vincent van Gogh, played by Willem Dafoe, looks up at the sky with an overwhelmed expression. The scene has been widely used as a GIF and image caption format online, typically in a literal sense to portray the meme's subject looking at something above them.
On September 5th, 2018, a trailer for the biographical drama film At Eternity's Gate about the painter Vincent van Gogh premiered. In one scene in the trailer, van Gogh, portrayed by actor Willem Dafoe, looks up at the sky, seemingly overwhelmed (1:29 mark, shown below).
The scene first gained initial virality as a GIF caption template on iFunny in May 2023. While the exact first meme using the GIF is unknown, the two earliest found memes based on it were made by iFunny user Lordtard (on May 22nd, 2023, shown below, left) and another unknown user, with the second GIF (made before May 28th), which referenced the "Sandy Cheek's C--k Vore" image, going viral on the app through multiple reposts (shown below, right).
On June 19th, 2023, iFunny users ironically reposted the Sandy Cheeks GIF caption, with the posts gaining over 2,800 smiles in two years. On July 2nd, iFunny user Paddyv62 posted a GIF caption that gained over 940 likes in two years (shown below, left). Prior to July 10th, 2023, an unknown user made a GIF caption about Paganism (shown below, center), with Twitter gimmick account @WeirdestMp4s reposting it on that day. The post gained over 960 reactions and 6,100 likes in one day. On July 28th, iFunny user Excrement posted a GIF caption about the Three Gorges Dam that received over 4,500 smiles in two years (shown below, right).
The format did not achieve viral status until May 2023, when on May 3rd, 2023, iFunny user posted a meme captioned, "muslims in Antarctica waiting for the sun to set so they can eat" (authorship unconfirmed; shown below).
In the following days, the image received viral spread through reposts. For example, on May 6th, 2023, Instagram page willrepostmemes reposted the image, with the post garnering over 5,500 likes. On the same day, it was reposted to the /r/exmuslim subreddit, where it gained over 2,000 upvotes in six months.
Following the viral spread of the meme, the format achieved significant popularity online in the second half of 2023, peaking in popularity in December 2023 following the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home as Willem Dafoe trended online during that period.