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‘Game of Thrones’ Meme Bracket: Brace Yourself, Upsets Are Coming

The top overall seed lost to “You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” as the tournament moves to the Elite Eight.

HBO/Ringer illustration

What do you call an upset when it’s entirely foreseeable?

This is the question I’m left with, as after two days of voting and almost half a million ballots tallied, three no. 1 seeds remain, but none of them are the top overall seed entering the tourney. In a shocking defeat, Brace Yourself—a meme based on words Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Lord Paramount of the North, never once uttered—fell to “You Know Nothing” by more than 1,000 votes.

Brace Yourself was the first meme in the Thrones canon. When it first came to prominence during the show’s inaugural season, the internet was a quieter place. Barack Obama was president, Facebook hadn’t yet purchased Instagram for a then-laughable $1 billion, and Chatroulette was still a thing parents worried about their kids checking on the family desktop.

The simplicity of Brace Yourself—a portrait of a leering Sean Bean, cloaked in pelts and carrying a Valyrian steel sword, with GIANT BLOCK LETTERS WITH NO OBVIOUS AESTHETIC VALUE covering half the screen—gave it a versatility that other memes lack. LeBron James lost his first Finals series with Miami just months after bolting for South Beach with an almost preposterous lack of self-awareness? Brace yourself, LeBron takes are coming. New Year’s Eve is right around the corner? You better brace yourself, because resolution posts are coming. The Republican nominee for vice president of the United States drops a series of wildly unnecessary workout photos in the middle of the campaign? If you’re not bracing yourself for that, I don’t know what you’d brace yourself for.

For a time, basic formulas like this one were all we needed to have fun online. Something funny, frustrating, or generally mundane happened in the world that was likely to rile some people up, and those with decent enough internet connection bolted to their meme generators to warn folks about the ensuing onslaught of posts. The public needed to be prepared. But times have changed. The blocky, gaudy lettering iconic to Brace Yourself feels of another time. The 24/7 nature of the internet makes having time to brace yourself seem outdated. And it shouldn’t be surprising that a meme centered around a character that was ceremoniously beheaded in 2011 suffered an early exit.

It was time for Brace Yourself to stand down as the de facto Lord of Thrones Memes. Perhaps Season 8 will deliver a new Stark Meme front-runner. But for now, kudos to Ygritte and “You Know Nothing.”

Voting for the Elite Eight is now open. You can cast your ballots here, on Twitter, and on Instagram until 5 p.m. Eastern. Game of Thrones taught us that heroes die early and often. Your votes did as much to kill Ned Stark as Ilyn Payne did. And just as Robb Stark rose in his place, so too will another dank Thrones meme.

Elite Eight

(4) “You Know Nothing” v. (3) Jon vs. Everyone

4.You Know Nothing”: If you’ve ever had an ex say something that still rattles around the inside of your skull like a DVD player’s screensaver, you know how deeply this phrase cuts our boy Jon. “You know nothing, Jon Snow” was Ygritte’s go-to putdown for her southern lover, and they were the final words she said to Jon as she lay dying in his arms. The phrase bothers Jon, but it also bothers actor Kit Harington, who does not understand what the phrase means.

I know what you’re thinking: “Jon Snow was in Pompeii?” But it’s either outstanding method acting or a terrible omen for his marriage to Rose Leslie, the actor who plays Ygritte.

3. Jon vs. Everyone: The premiere meme for any and all hot takes. Jon’s charge toward the Bolton cavalry in the Battle of the Bastards works for any controversial opinion because internet users are bloodthirsty spectators and social media is our virtual colosseum. When a great hot take enters the arena, it doesn’t matter who is unsheathing their sword against the galloping hordes of groupthink. It only matters that we are promised blood.

Don’t be surprised if this meme, like Jon, beats the odds.


Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    (4) "You Know Nothing"
    (4596 votes)
  • 61%
    (3) Jon vs. Everyone
    (7301 votes)
11897 votes total Vote Now

(1) “Dracarys” v. (2) Drogon vs. Loot Train

1. “Dracarys”: Dany has done so much conquering, killing, city-razing, and slave-freeing over the years that it’s easy to forget how legendary her initial conquest was. She swaps a dragon for an Unsullied army as her advisors openly express doubt, reveals she speaks Valyrian, orders the Unsullied to kill the masters, and then says the word that puts the “fire” in “fire and blood.”

2. Drogon vs. Loot Train: A highlight tape of Golden State Warriors playoff games.


Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    (1) "Dracarys"
    (4396 votes)
  • 62%
    (2) Drogon vs. Loot Train
    (7366 votes)
11762 votes total Vote Now

(1) Tyrion Dancing v. (6) Tyrion Slapping Joffrey

1. Tyrion Dancing: Tyrion’s trial in Season 4 is among the tensest scenes of the entire series. The bloopers, not so much.

I assume this is how Paul Manafort walked into his various trials.

6. Tyrion Slapping Joffrey: Nothing short of mesmerizing. It’s Game of Thrones ASMR.

This could be on a loop for two hours in a movie theater and it would be better than watching Green Book.


Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    (1) Tyrion Dancing
    (6168 votes)
  • 48%
    (6) Tyrion Slapping Joffrey
    (5701 votes)
11869 votes total Vote Now

(1) Night King Raises Arms v. (2) Tormund and Brienne

1. Night King Raises Arms: The end of “Hardhome” was seared into our corneas, and the ensuing meme of the Night King raising his arms immediately replaced Brace Yourself as the best (and most overused) meme on the Thrones power rankings.

2. Tormund and Brienne: The unrequited love that launched a thousand memes.


Which Meme Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    (1) Night King Raises Arms
    (5731 votes)
  • 51%
    (2) Tormund and Brienne
    (6166 votes)
11897 votes total Vote Now

An earlier version of this piece included an incorrect bracket image.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.

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