In some of the most critical or complicated situations in the history of the last ten years, the illustration frequently appeared on social networks in which we see a small dog in a room on fire saying with a seraphic expression “This is fine”, “everything is fine ”. The illustration is taken from a strip by American cartoonist KC Green published in January 2013, ten years ago, and has since been reproduced and quoted many times, becoming a meme.
And not just any: many believe it one of the most representative in recent years, for the way in which he has managed to express the feeling of helplessness and resignation felt by many people in the face of catastrophic or in any case momentous events that have affected the world, from the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump. In short, many in recent years have empathized with the dog who deludes himself that the fire that surrounds him is not actually a problem.
The episode from which the meme is taken is called “On fire” (“a fuoco”, “in flames”) and is part of the strip Gunshowcreated by Green in 2008 and concluded in 2014. Released on January 9, 2013, starring Question Hound, an anthropomorphic dog who also appears in the rest of the strip.
With wide eyes and a cap placed tightly on his head, Question Hound sits in a chair in front of a cup of what he imagines to be coffee, surrounded by flames. The meme only takes up the first two panels, in which the dog says his joke with a smile, but then the strip continues. “The things that are happening to me are fine,” Question Hound says again: as he sips the drink, however, the arm with which he holds the cup begins to burn and then the rest of his body is also hit by the flames. The obvious conclusion, in short, is that things were not all right in the rest of the strip either.
We passed it a couple days ago, but it has been 10 years since “On Fire”, the strip I did that became the meme “this is fine”. https://t.co/AxZxDYkICs pic.twitter.com/STFYX4XS9B
— kcg (@kcgreenn) January 12, 2023
The strip’s first two cartoons went viral in 2014, when they were shared and instantly liked on both the social network Reddit and Imgur, a popular site for sharing images, memes, and GIFs. Green he recounted that initially the meme taken from his comic strip was used by those who identified themselves a bit with the dog in rather complicated everyday situations, for example by students struggling with school exams or by people who found themselves having to smile despite the humiliations in the workplace. Later, however, it spread widely in the most diverse contexts, becoming a kind of symbol of anxiety, resignation and impotence, but also of defeatism or the inability to accept reality.
In addition to many social network users, the meme has also been used or mentioned in politics, especially in the United States. In 2016 the Republican Party used it to comment sarcastically on the first day of the Democratic convention on Twitter, while two years later Republican Senator Richard Burr he quoted in a speech about Russian interference in US politics. After Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, she always appeared on Twitter an animated version of the meme in which a firefighter saves the dog from the burning house, to indicate a situation that was eventually resolved positively.
Hey politicians – doing speeches in front of solid blue backgrounds makes it super easy to replace them 👍#ThisIsNotFine #LizTruss #CPC22 pic.twitter.com/XqNyIIQtpS
— DBM Motion Graphics (@madebydbm) October 5, 2022
Green, who is now 35, drew “On fire” at a time of great personal uncertainty: he was learning to manage the antidepressant drugs that had been prescribed to him and wondered if taking them was the right choice for him (he clarified be convinced that it was). In a recent interview with NPR, he observed that at that moment his idea was «a bit that of having to ignore all the madness that is happening around us, like a house on fire. From there, the strip wrote itself,” she said.
According to Green, the meme has continued to be successful also thanks to the increasingly complex and pressing events of the last decade, including the coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis and the great political polarization, because it helped to define the common sensation somewhat of the “see something fall apart». Another reason it has remained very popular is that it is so simple that it adapts to a large number of situations, he told the Washington Post: «I drew it specifically vague. Like any good work of art, people interpret it the way they want.”
Green he claims than that of being in the midst of situations in which everything is falling apart but you still have to react “it is a feeling that apparently we all experience”. In this sense, according to him the strip of the dog that says “everything is fine” also manages to convey the idea that extremely critical situations can be faced.
Talking with NPR, he said that many people still contact him today to tell him that they have found the strip reassuring. One of his explanations is that the cartoon describes the process by which one becomes aware of a certain situation, but processes it, accepts it and uses it to grow. On a general level, Green explains, empathizing with the dog is a bit like empathizing with other people for the various situations that can afflict them: it is something that “creates a sort of community”.
In 2016, Green himself drew an alternate version of the strip for the comic site The Nib: In this version, Question Hound yells “This is not the end”, but in the end he takes a fire extinguisher and manages to put out the flames.