The meme, that comes either as an reaction image, GIF, or clip, depicts the character exhailing with his cheeks puffed up, looking stressed. It has been circulating online since July 2022, and has been a popular exploitable and reaction meme.
The clip comes from Season 3 Episode 7 of “The Boys”, which first aired on July 1st, 2022, under the title “Here Comes a Candle to Light You to Bed.”
One of the scenes in the episode depict Homelander giving a speech in his own defense, while he notices a character, he mistakenly identifies as a superhero, that attempted to kill him. Following his speech, he is shown as exhailing stressfully, with eyes tearing up.
The first meme to use the pop culture sensation’s breakdown came the next day, on July 2nd, when Twitter user @GenZlaughs shared a video meme, combining the “Stressed Homelander” format with the When the Hoes Arrive template.
Within days after the first post, “Stressed Homelander” video caption memes became viral, swarming TikTok and Twitter with content in July 2022.
The format remained popular even after July 2022, although another Homelander meme soon emerged, depicting Homelander Laughing. These two memes, however were largely embraced by online communities, including Incels as well as a general meme public, spreading to sites like Reddit and YouTube, still appearing in videos and meme compilations in October 2023.