Chuck Norris is Dead. Werner Herzog Killed Him.
He ate his own shoe. He hauled a steamboat over a mountain. He got shot by a sniper during an interview and shrugged it, off responding, "It's not significant"... He's the perfect storm of brilliance, bad-assery, and batshit insanity.
And now he has a meme.
The San Francisco Guardian recently reported that the hottest new Twitter trend is the "Werner Herzog vs. Chuck Norris" tag, which modifies a Chuck Norris fact to showcase how film director Werner Herzog is infinitely more awesome. Some choice examples:
"Chuck Norris counted from 0 to infinity. Werner Herzog counted backwards from infinity to 0."
"Chuck Norris clapped to make the Big Bang. Werner Herzog invented hands."
"Chuck Norris tames wild animals. Werner Herzog tames Klaus Kinski."
Roger Ebert has even become a fan of the trend, allegedly originating the most popular tweet: "Chuck Norris pounds nails through a 2x4 with his fist. Werner Herzog does it with his dick."
That this meme has its origins on Twitter is particularly interesting, as it is one of the few memes that does not trace its origins to the trendsetting imageboard site 4chan (which is actually kind of nice, as most of their output is just plain unsavory).
This trend seems less an extension of the enduring popularity of Chuck Norris Facts than a consequence of the seemingly random growth in Werner Herzog's popularity. Sure, he's crazy, and the internet loves crazy, but he's always been this way. And though his pessimism and preoccupation with self destruction have endured, he's arguably less crazy in recent years (he hasn't tried to haul a boat over a mountain -- or run a set on which a crew member had to cut off his own foot -- in almost three decades, after all).
Still, the past couple months have given us a barrage of Werner Herzog parodies, most notably the "Werner Herzog reads" series, which includes renditions of Curious George, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and Madeline that are every bit as funny as they are clever.
But one has to ask: Why now?
Herzog's mainstream popularity has been steadily building since his acclaimed 2005 documentary Grizzly Man, and his more recent films Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and the documentary Encounters at the End of the World have only helped fuel the director's momentum. There was also the brief availability of many of his early films for free (and legal) on YouTube last year, which might have helped people unfamiliar with his work get in on the joke and allow for the current widespread Herzog love-fest.
But whatever the reason, if anyone deserves to have his awesomeness memed, it's Werner Herzog. He has some legitimate street cred these days, while Chuck Norris is probably best known for, well, Chuck Norris facts -- which actually didn't even begin as Chuck Norris facts, but Vin Diesel facts. (That, and giving Haley Joel Osment really bad news).