Saturday, 22 April 2017

Spicy Memes

If you are in the age group of people that have no chance to buy property in central London, you'll likely have seen a spicy meme or two. It's pronounce meem by the way, not me-me or mem-ey.

For those of you unaware, a meme is little more than an internet joke; usually pictorial. They have no specific owner, no specific creator and mostly an unknown origin, but if you were to try and follow the meme stream it'd like go like this—4chan, Imgur, Reddit, Twitter & Facebook, World Domination.

Due to their lack of direct ownership, there is a clear lack of copyright in any particular meme; which is a very exploitable concoction. The copyright free Emojis of their time. This has been both exploited for commercial effect, societal degradation and heavy, heavy racism. At this point we reference the strange case of our lord and savior Pepe, that slightly sad looking frog that has now reached the realms of 'normies', twisted into a racist emblem and a rare reaction along the way.

Pepe was originally a character in Matt Furie's comic Boys Club; made famous by a panel in which Pepe pisses in the toilet with his pants full removed and testifies that it "Feels good man", quickly picked up by 4chan and other image forums as a response image. Though as it's frequency grew, people began to create their own and hide them away, making 'rare pepes' and adapting them to every situation, sadness, anger, happiness and blind xenophobia—a crudely drawn frog became the unified face of the outer reaches of anti-social web interaction.

Because of the popularity of a Pepe reaction, it was being adopted by almost every user of the outlandish, free-speak forums of 4chan; which unfortunately lead to a simple comic character being drowned in imagery of compromising viewpoints; being that a large section of 4chan's user group toe-the-line between socially unacceptable and bear-faced hate. Like a sad green frog being trapped in a snowball at the top of Mont Blanc, it quickly rolled down the mountain of popular culture to develop into a horrendously large boulder, to which its original existence could no longer be observed and this is when it was proudly adopted as a searing JPEG based flag for the far-right.

soz pep
Where as things created innocently can adopt meme status and spiral out of control worse than 2007 Britney Spears, some brands are recognising the social grip that memes have on popular culture and embracing them with all their copyright free goodness. Step into the ring, Gucci—a very high fashion brand, gripping and repulsing the youth market with their memes and expensive handbags.

Though I think it's a bloody brilliant design stratergy to develop what is otherwise seen a snobbishly posh designer brand into relatable internet jokes, it's a bloody cheeky move if ever I've seen one—riding the wave of pre-created internet in-jokes without paying a penny of royalties. Though they didn't use Pepe, they still wouldn't have to have paid Mr. Furie a penny either as the standard internet 'pepe le frog' is different enough to be out of his copyright; the poor bugger.

See above the 'starter pack' meme where people collect a range of stereotypes for various trends, groups and genres as a poke at their community. Often created by people who are passionate about said topic, laughing at the people who are new to said topic and are likely failing to expected stereotypes. Those arrogant, funny bastards.

There is no obvious name for this one, but it's adapted from a meme where people display their frustration with a screen cap from children's TV show Arthur; in an episode that tackles anger and violence and shows him clenching his fist from a profile stance. Of all of them, this is the one that is least changed, but the one I like the most, as it feels very high fashion with a little hint to internet humour, rather than a blatant reference—it's cleverly different enough from the original Arthur scene to be out of copyright too; those sneaky high fashion harlots.

As far as I can read on the internet, people of the internet are cringing very hard at this campaign; but as I'm not very attached to any particular meme, I think it was a bold step for a brand that arguably trades exclusively on it's image and reputation to embraces what are otherwise spews of collected internet humour.

All in all, as an avid user of the internet and the generation to grew up with it, seeing it turn from Geosites to Wordpress and MetaCafe to Youtube. I wouldn't have ever expected internet humour to have such a poignant space in society, never mind and recognised style and set name. It seems the Meme culture is certainly a digital representation of the youth, displaying it's problems with xenophobia, a thirst for freedom of speech and the sharing of a continual in-joke.

A lot of meme hang heavily on current events or nostalgia, enforcing an – if slightly twisted – view on the modern world and the things happening around it, whether hilarious or tragic, they can all fall into a dark hole and become a meme. In my mind, they aren't as poisonous as we may think, which thousands of people dealing with serious situations by applying a sense of humor; or even using them as a gateway to freedom of speech, even if that is hate speech, it's still the freedom for them to say and express that. Long live the meme.


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