It’s a well-covered aspect of Sean Connery lore that the legendary Scottish actor and alpha James Bond retired from acting following 2003’s disastrous The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
“The last one I did, [director Stephen Norrington] was given $85 million to make a movie in Prague, but unfortunately he wasn’t certified before he started because he would have been arrested for insanity,” Connery told an interviewer in 2007. “So, we worked as well as we could, and [I] ended up being heavily involved in the editing and trying to salvage.”
It’s a testament to how bad that film was and how successful Connery was, that the actor could just call it quits near the height of his powers and popularity. And in the end, Connery was true to his word, providing his voice to a couple documentary features but otherwise staying out of the public eye until his death this Saturday at age 90 in his home in the Bahamas.
Connery deftly removed himself from the film industry and public life for the past decade and a half, but pop culture itself wasn’t quite done with him. Not only did his work live on in classics like the Bond films and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Connery also played a huge and unlikely role in the development of Internet meme culture … whether he knew it or not.
Sean Connery was the inspiration for one of the Internet’s earliest meme factories: YTMND. YTMND was essentially a meme website before Richard Dawkins’ 1976 term “meme” was even used to describe the phenomenon of Internet humor communication. The site was originally developed in 2001 by Max Goldberg as “yourethemannowdog.com,” based on a line reading from Connery in a trailer for the 2000 film Finding Forrester.
In the trailer and subsequent film, Connery stars as a reclusive J.D. Salinger-esque writer who decides to help a local Black teenager develop his writing talent. Connery bellows out the bizarre (and maybe slightly offensive) “you’re the man now, dog!” as he pores over pages from his youthful charge.
Goldberg’s site took the audio clip of that strange moment and played it over 3D ASCII text of the line. A little later on, Goldberg added a photo of Connery to the page as well.
In 2004, “Yourethemannowdog.com” became simply “YTMND.com” and the site was expanded so that users could upload their own YTMNDs pages. Early popular meme hits included “The Picard Song”, the rapid gif “Doesn’t Change Facial Expressions”, and the “Batman Bomb Run”. The site was a major success, with the Picard Song alone racking up nearly 4 million views over its lifetime. Whether it meant to or not, YTMND distilled everything needed for Internet memeing down to its bare essentials: text + image + occasional audio. It was one of the first instances of the burgeoning Internet culture’s strong Dadaist streak of humor and it all started from one throwaway Sean Connery line delivery.
The site continued to evolve throughout the years before eventually shutting down in 2019. By that point, however, the meme format YTMND had helped popularize was ubiquitous across all social media platforms of the Internet. Alongside sites like early Reddit, 4chan, and eBaums World, YTMND helped shape the Internet world as we know it. YTMND eventually returned under Goldberg’s guidance in March of 2020 with all the original YTMND pages still available. Predictably, in the wake of Connery’s death, the home page is currently filmed with memes honoring the original YTMND godfather, with one poignant entry promising “We’re the Man Now Dog”.
It’s strange to consider that such a classic, old school actor like Connery could play a major role in the development of the Internet’s tastes, but the Internet is a strange place to begin with. As we’ve witnessed time and time again through the past two decades of Internet communications, this medium has a knack for finding one unique bit of the human experience (like say, a passionate line read in an otherwise mediocre movie) and highlighting it to its absurdist extremes. With that in mind, perhaps Sean Connery as an Internet meme pioneer was all but a given to begin with.