Sanic Hegehog
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Credit: 0nyxheart/Sega

Sanic, the demented meme, is the purest expression of Sonic the Hedgehog

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Feb 10, 2020, 4:30 PM EST

Long ago, in the distant year 2010, a YouTube user by the name of 0nyxheart uploads a typical video on March 31. Their video shows them innocently drawing a crude version of Sonic the Hedgehog via Microsoft Paint. A loud and highly distorted track from the original Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) video game plays in the background as 0nyxheart colors the whitespace greenscreen-green. After scribbling the words "Cumon Step it Up!!!" as a finishing touch, Sanic Hegehog is born.

Fast forward 10 years, and the deformed Sanic is as relevant as ever, along with his Sega counterpart. The original Sonic the Hedgehog is finally getting his big Hollywood screen debut. Unfortunately, he's already had to deal with some controversy regarding his live-action look. To appease fans of the lightning-fast blue hedgehog, he underwent major redesigns to more positive praise.

That, however, obscures the reality: Sonic has always been made a punching bag for his looks. Sanic is, in fact, perfect proof of the twisted love and appreciation many have for the character. Perhaps that's why some fans have demanded to see the film with the designs used in the first trailer.

As we approach Sanic's 10th anniversary, much of the Internet has either embraced his unique look or turned away in disgust. He's inspired many new memes, video parodies, and even more messed up Sonic characters. Does anyone remember the controversial Ugandan Knuckles? Let's not forget the sheer volume of Sanic memes that range from random funny humor to bizarre, unsettling depictions.

You know your meme has made it when even the official Sonic Twitter account cashes in on the craze, as it did for much of 2016 and 2017; the game studio itself also embraced the meme, allowing players to choose a Sanic shirt as piece of character wardrobe in the 2017 game Sonic Forces. In 2018, the company turned Sanic into a limited run clothing line.

It was actually somewhat divisive to see Sanic make the jump to the actual games and merchandise, given its irreverent grassroots origins. His creation is based on the efforts of the community, which has allowed him to develop and grow into his own thing. To some, his cameo in a pretty mediocre title of the franchise cheapened it, despite the reverence from Sega, and I certainly see how it rubs people the wrong way. Nonetheless, this doesn't take away from his widespread influence elsewhere.

If you look on DeviantArt, you'll find a boatload of Sanic fanart and comics, some more creative and funny than others. They're made by fans of Sonic the Hedgehog for other Sonic fans. A good number of them are well-drawn, but the few that look raw and less polished are more likely to catch my interest because they remind me of drawings I used to do as a kid. Meanwhile, if you go on YouTube, you'll come across a variety of Sanic Hegehog videos. He's got his own "album," a parody reaction from King of the Hill's Hank Hill, and even his own cinematic movie trailer. I could go on, but we'd probably be here all day and it's best to check some of these videos for yourself.

Sanic embodies the ugly, absurd, and imaginative aspects of YouTube's early days and continues to endure as an odd spectacle in the corner of the web. As with all memes, they're rarely fully forgotten and resurface every now and then if you're paying attention; the Internet has a way of preserving all matters of weirdness, especially warped and perverse renditions of our favorite childhood media.

That points to Sonic's overall legacy with a generation of gamers. Sanic's creation proves that fans have the power to be more creative, knowledgeable, and faithful to the character than any executive at Paramount; it just is done through a different lens. In a way, fans messed up Sonic's looks long before the studios did — and they managed to own up to it with no shame. Sanic continues inspiring others to make their own memes, comics, and videos and the nostalgia for such a character never went away.

So as Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog film hits theaters, keep Sanic Hegehog in your heart as you watch Sonic race across the big screen. Who knows. Maybe Paramount will consider another redesign in the director's cut — Sanic Hegehog: The Movie.