Is there a problem with meme culture? – Utahstatesman

Posted By on December 2, 2019

on November 29, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Since the birth of the world wide web, creative users have whipped up images or comics with the intent of making others laugh.

Within the last decade and the rise of social media, there has been an influx in meme culture that has streamlined across generations to bring small chuckles to internet users throughout the day. In todays world, memes have relatively short lifespans; they are around until they are no longer funny or until another meme takes its place. However, some of these memes have developed darker meanings, allowing people with bad intentions to twist images into something sinister.

Take Pepe the Frog, for example. Pepe was popular throughout 2015 and early 2016. Creator Matt Furie used Pepe the Frog in his comic book series, Boys Club, from 2005 to 2008 and it was never his intention for it to turn into something viral.

Its been kind of inspiring to me to see how mostly kids and teenagers are attracted to the youthfulness of Pepe, Furie said in his interview with The Atlantic in 2016. He never expected something silly that he would send his friends would become a major hit with internet culture.

It all changed when movements began using the image to promote white supremacy. Many used it to represent presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump himself began to use the image frequently, which increased its use even more. Even Hillary Clinton added a section to her website about Pepe the Frog, calling him a symbol associated with white supremacy. Soon after, the Anti-Defamation League, an American organization opposed to antisemitism, included Pepe as a hate symbol in their database.

Internet trolls began to spread the image of the frog further, giving Pepe a Hitler-style mustache or dressing him in a KKK hood. This angered Furie.

Its my worst nightmare to be tangled forever with a symbol of hate, Furie said.

Furie began fighting for his creation to be removed from websites and posters associated with white supremacy. In fact, in June, he won a $15,000 settlement against the radio show Infowars for using Pepe the Frog on their advertising.

Another meme that was taken too far revolves around popular YouTube creator Felix Kjellberg, known by his online name PewDiePie.

In the race against another channel called T-Series to get 100 million subscribers, fans began a campaign called Subscribe to Pewdiepie, in which posters were hung up and ads were purchased in places like Times Square and the Super Bowl to encourage others to subscribe. There was even a parade held in Estonia.

A lighthearted meme turned dark when users began to take things too far. Racist memes were made about T-Series, which is based in India. A World War II memorial in New York was defaced with Subscribe to Pewdiepie carved into it. Then, to Kjellbergs horror, the shooter who opened fire on a mosque in New Zealand in March used the meme in his manifesto.

To have my name associated with something so unspeakably vile has affected me in more ways than Ive let shown, said Kjellburg, who ended the movement immediately.

Other memes, such as the OK hand symbol and Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker on a set of stairs made popular with the 2019 film have caused problems too, both online and in the real world. So many people have been visiting the stairs from The Joker film that its caused problems with traffic and tourism. All of this begs the question: is there a problem with meme culture?

I dont think the problem is the meme, but the person, said Kinsey Brashears, a senior at Utah State. Memes are often fun things, but sometimes groups of people take things too far.

Brashears was not even aware that some memes had been used for symbols of hate, which asks yet another question: should people who are unaware of the dark side of memes be chastised for using them?

I think that people who use these memes or symbols and are unaware that they are hate symbols or have bad connotations have some responsibility, said Jeffrey Perala-Dewey, another student at USU. I dont think its fair to put all the blame on them, but I would hope that they would do some research or understand why that meme is no longer okay.

There are always bound to be a few bad apples in the bunch when it comes to the creation of memes and how far their idea or image can be taken, but for now, it seems meme culture is here to stay.


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Is there a problem with meme culture? - Utahstatesman

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