“Milhouse is not a meme” is a paradoxical statement and a well-known debate on the imageboard site 4chan about what makes an internet meme and what doesn’t, using The Simpsons character Milhouse Van Houten as an example. Since the birth of the debate on 4chan in 2005, the phrase has been typically used to initiate a chain post of recursive nature. Due to its recurrence over time, “Milhouse is not a meme” is often referred to as a forced meme.
Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten is a character from The Simpsons who first appeared in Season 1 Episode 1 entitled “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” In the show, the character is portrayed as Bart Simpson’s best friend who is extremely nerdy and desperate for peer approval. Because of his nearsightedness and gullibility, Milhouse is oftentimes treated an easily exploitable target throughout the series. Naturally, his inability to fit in complements the fact that he is seen as a forced meme, making it all the easier for online audiences to single him out as a loser. The catchphrase “Milhouse is not a meme” is believed to have originated from 4chan’s /b/ (random) board between 2004 and 2005, as evidenced by the Urban Dictionary definition for “Milhouse” submitted on January 26th, 2005.
The debate over Milhouse on 4chan began following numerous waves of spam posts containing images of Milhouse. The catchphrase is said to have been in usage since 2005, but the earliest 4chan thread available on record dates back to October 2nd, 2007.