Every now and then a GIF comes along that does more than slow down the speed at which a webpage loads—it takes you on a journey. It teaches you something not just about yourself but about the nature of the moving image and its capacity to tell emotionally resonant stories through the presentation and elision of visual stimuli.
For example, this GIF, sent to us by press representatives for Health2blog.com, is ostensibly a commentary on fitness or something. And yet it begs intense attention, asking the viewer: When did you first meet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Where were you—what were the smells and sights of that moment? Who were you, in that moment? Did you love him? When did you last see The Rock? Where is The Rock right now?
As the GIF takes us through the years, we see first the wily recession of Johnson’s hairline, then his eyebrow arch up as he assumes the mantle of WWE champ. He soon seeks respectability and mainstream acting success, morphing into increasingly Californian menswear. For a brief moment he appears to thin down before finally thickening out at the neck and turning into the immortal, immovable demigod we know today. By softly morphing static images, the GIF creates a sense of tension between the passage of time and the consistency of Dwayne Johnson’s smiling face. It reminds us that throughout anything, he will be here, his neck gradually thickening but his smile as constant and reassuring as a benevolent god’s.