There was an attempt….
The term ‘meme’ was first coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene (1976). It described memes as ideas that are competing to implant themselves into people’s minds and to be spread culturally via the memepool (the collection of all existing memes). Memes need to be good at being replicated or they die out and are forgotten.
The idea of what a meme is has developed since 1976 and the term is now used in the mainstream, to refer to something (a song, an image, a jingle, a video etc.) that has been remixed and reimagined by many different people. The culture of memes is global and reaches pretty much anywhere that has access to the internet, thanks to the rise of global sharing platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr. Vine was also a huge platform for facilitating memes and even the app’s closure became a meme in itself (RIP Vine). Vine revolutionised the way most of us consume memes, showing the world what could be achieved in only 6 seconds and normalising this incredibly short, snappy and often slapstick humour that continues on other platforms. The discipline of being able to contain an idea or narrative into 6 seconds is truly an art form in itself and lends itself well to the internet generation’s short attention span and craving for viral media that can be shared quickly and remixed a million times.
Sometimes memes can be random images/songs/clips that become popular quickly or they can be related to current affairs across the world. With Trump’s inauguraition only happening a short while ago, memes to do with Biden and Obama, Trump entering the White House and the statment of ‘alternative facts’ from Kellyanne Conway about the inauguration ceremony are very popular at the moment. Memes to do with American current affairs are also often related back to British culture in some way in order for them to be even more relevant for a British audience, for example Theresa May’s meeting with Trump is another situation that has been remixed and ‘memed’.
One of our tasks for this module was to study meme culture and language and then create our own meme that had to demonstrate creativity, political awareness and/or humour and experimentation. I brainstormed many possible ideas for my meme and I decided quickly that it should be relevant for students as they are a target demographic for memes. I also had the idea of targeting a specific group of students to narrow the demographic and hopefully encourage more people to relate to it and share it, improving it’s spreadability. I thought that targeting welsh students more specifically would be effective for this.
Memes often have a very short life in the public knowledge, sometimes not even lasting for a full week before something else takes the spotlight, so as the deadline for this task approached I made sure to keep checking social media to see what memes were gaining or losing popularity. One very current meme that has arose recently is the image above, named the ‘roll safe’ meme. The image is quite a simple one, leaving a lot of room for interpretation on what the non-verbal communication of the man in frame indicates and also providing a lot of scope when it comes to edits of the meme.
In the end I decided to go for the caption I did as it can be understood by a majority of British people but it is quite personable and relatable for welsh people, more specifically welsh people living in England such as students at English universities. I think the meme is quite effective in it’s simplicity, and the fact that the punchline of the joke isn’t explicitly stated in the text but instead relies on the viewer to infer the meaning from the image.
Dawkins, R. (1976) The selfish gene. New York: Oxford University Press.
Know Your Meme (2017) Roll safe. Available at: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/roll-safe