“Rueful Reluctance:” An Unwitting Cat Owner’s Search for Meaning Among Memes

Reaction Shots and Reader Response at the Purple Wedding

Image of Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones, choking, with text overlaid: 'Those shoes, with that dress?'

Image Credit: Cyndicyanide

[Note: Spoilers below the cut.]

As a Game of Thrones fan, I was pretty excited to watch this last week’s episode. It’d been a while since I’d watched, and the wedding of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell gathered together many of the show’s beloved characters.

Part II on Memes and Political (In)action: Satire and Empathy

In November 2011 student protestors at UC Davis were holding a peaceful demonstration on their campus when former Lt. John Pike pepper-sprayed them at close range.  In the days that followed, my Facebook newsfeed became a log of collective outrage. One day, an image of former Lt. John Pike Photoshopped into Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” appeared, and the “Casual Pepper Spray Everything Cop" meme was born.

Image Credit:

Reactions to the meme were varied. Some, like a friend of mine who is a UC Davis alum, worried the humor would become detached from the message of the protest. After all, in the world of internet memes detachment is somewhat of a governing principle. Even databases like refer to the UC Davis Cop as “Casually Pepper Spray Everything Cop” -- emphasizing the disjuncture of his body language with his actions in a nonspecific time and place, over his place in UC Davis’s institutional history, and in the history of the Occupy movement. I would argue that some subjects seem riper for meme-making than others because their engagement with their surroundings already suggests the kind of disconnect between an individual and his or her environment that we usually associate with the chaotic and Photoshopped world of the Internet.

Political (In)action in the Meme Generation?

Dawkins playing a midi breath controller in Saatchi video. Image Credit:

This will be the first post in a three-part series in which I will explore the relationship between memes and civic discourse.

What is an internet meme? Though most young people can instantly recognize a picture of Philosoraptor, Feminist Ryan Gosling, or a Lolcat, few know the history of this ubiquitous term. Nevertheless, show a room full of undergraduates an image of Nyan Cat, and you'll immediately elicit laughter and a sense of camaraderie. In that moment of laughter, however, it seems worth asking: what exactly is bringing consumers of memes together? From UC Davis’s “Pepper Spray Cop Meme,” to China’s “Big Yellow Duck” meme, how are memes shaping their viewer’s and creator’s understanding of activism and history? Is a comical form treated with such levity an effective means of communicating about more serious matters?  

Wild Horses and Bayonets Couldn’t Drag My Binders Full of Women Away: Political Satire on Web 2.0

Screenshot of the Twitter feed of Invisible Obama, taken 23 January 2013

Image Credit: Screenshot from Twitter

Inauguration officials estimate that about one million people crowded the National Mall this weekend to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as President. While this crowd was smaller than the 1.8 million who attended his first inauguration in 2008, a number of luminaries were present: Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, and Invisible Obama. Apparently Invisible Obama had a busy day planning his inaugural ball outfit, surprising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and acting as a “seat filler.”

What Andy Cohen Can Tell Us About Jim Lehrer

A GIF of Andy Cohen moderating the presidential debate

Image Source: Reality TV Gifs

I’m weighing in late this week on last week’s first presidential debate.  Jay has usefully analyzed several covers of The New Yorker and illuminated for us a particular venue’s take on the candidates, while Todd has collected “Big Bird” memes to demonstrate a variety of reactions to Romney’s attack on PBS.  I’d like to pick up the popular culture trail where Todd has left off and discuss one meme in particular, posted by RealityTVGifs on October 4th, the morning after the first debate.  The gif depicts presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama superimposed on Real Housewives of New Jersey Jacqueline Laurita and Teresa Giudice, respectively, while Andy Cohen, Executive VP of Bravo, moderates.  How can we read the comparisons this image invites—of the presidential debate to a Real Housewives reunion special?  Though there is obviously the potential of productive discussion in the relationship between Romney/President Obama and Laurita/ Guidice, what if we examine the less obvious juxtaposition: how can Andy Cohen inform our reading of moderator Jim Lehrer?

Mitt Romney vs. Big Bird: When Enthymemes Attack

Big Bird stands behind Romney at an outdoor microphone

Image Source: Unknown

In last week's debate, one of the more memorable moments was Mitt Romney's vow to cut off government funding to public television despite his appreciation of both Big Bird and Jim Lehrer. Because he would neither raise taxes nor borrow money from China, Romney argued, he would cut programs like PBS. I suppose Romney intended the statement as a bit of red meat for his basethose who would rather their tax monies not go to PBSand perhaps also for the putative independent/undecided voter who also distrusts such government spending. I also suppose that for such audiences the line worked. However, for other audiences, Romney's enthymeme provoked an outcry, because those audiences do not share the unstated premise in his argument that PBS does not merit continued funding. Sesame Street lovers (and Romney haters) across the web responded with a torrent of photoshopped images criticizing Romney's position.

Hey Girl, I Made This Meme For You

Image from Fuck Yeah Ryan Gosling

Image Credit: F--- Yeah Ryan Gosling

Some recent procrastinating led me to Jezebel and thus Joey Thompson’s recent YouTube video, in which he teaches men how to look like actor Ryan Gosling. I was intrigued because I have been following the proliferating Ryan Gosling memes for a while—which have gone on long enough that they’ve been accused of jumping the shark.  Still, I’d like to take some time to think a little bit about what their newest evolutions might tell us about memes, form, and feminine desire.

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