Memes are popular. With the success of content creators like Dolan Dark and Grandayyy, it’s clear that the creation of quick, accessible and efficient jokes has become a choice flavor of comedy for an increasingly sped up world. As funny as great comedy movies are, we are living in a world of more and more stimulation, and people want their gags and they want them fast.
Memes go viral in a second, and in spontaneous motion creatures like Howard the Alien, or a picture of a shocked neanderthalic SpongeBob go viral in a second, only to disappear later. Like a wave through the social fabric of society, a common joke appears, causes rifts and spinoffs and enjoyment, and then rapidly vanishes as the next gag takes its place.
The imagery comes and goes as though it had never been there before. Like graffiti on a city wall, it’s there for a week, and gone again tomorrow, with another street art mosaic avenging its canvas. But memes, like any other form of content that rapidly spreads, don’t have to be purely for comedy. They are a form of mass media, and as a result, gain a mass following. Their virility is something beyond infectious. Memes, and comedy more largely, is at its core a message. And that message can have incentives behind it.
In short, memes and propaganda can meet in the middle.
Comedy isn’t apolitical. From comedy shows like Family guy teasing Republicanism, to comedians like Steven Crowder basically building a career on criticizing Leftism, to George Carlin practically leaving no ideology unscrutinized with his wit, comedy is and has always been critical, and it’s easy to be critical of political platforms.
With the inception of the internet, however, comedic criticism went from a few dozen well-known comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and John Cleese, to a sprawling mass of politicrits, who began arguing both extremist views in their gags, or moderates pointing fun back at the zealots. While initially tv networks and movies could choose their narrative of comedy, the critical comedic chaos on the internet was anything but controllable.
In a moment, anyone could get famous on YouTube with their comedy sketches, anyone could make a funny vine, and anyone could point fun at politics. This was just the tip of the surface though because then came memes.
With that, while there was intent for memes to create an era of communication between the masses, it may be that the opposite has happened. That the memes and imagery and comedy we are exposed to create an echo chamber, reinforcing ideology through comedy and teasing. We choose another, a meme about a factious stereotype, a political bash against feminism, a gag about kneeling for the flag, or any other critical laughter, and as one comedy images lead to another, the rift between the others’ jokes fades.
Memetic content becomes a way for us to know the factions we consider ourselves within, by criticizing other groups. It becomes a way of society to know its flags and to have its symbols. It becomes the propaganda we hold ourselves in association with, and the propaganda of who we hold ourselves against, and it inspires this divide not with an ideological outrage for the enemy, but ideological laughter demeaning him and supposing our own superiority.
I’ll be continuing this post in part two of meme-a-ganda, which will arrive within the week. While this a foreign idea to many, it’s one that can be delved greatly into.