A Nation of Crying Jordans
In the midst of turmoil, memes are here to save the day.
By D’Ariel Myrick, University of Georgia
With the tense political climate and finals coming around the corner, life can be summed up in one word—stressful.
However, there is one way to brighten your day that never fails, and that is with memes. Memes make you laugh when you would rather climb under a rock, and they are great distractions when you should be writing a ten-page paper but don’t want to be responsible. Social media keeps everyone connected, and it allows everyone to share in laughs, even when the subject is sensitive.
Sometimes, it’s really hard to find the brighter side of situations, but almost always, there is a way to laugh. Memes speak for all the good and bad times, so even when you think you can’t laugh, check your social media, and then see if it’s still a no.
For instance, I found myself stunned into shock at how an unqualified, privileged candidate could win the 2016 election, but memes have alleviated some of the stress of Trump’s inauguration, as well as every unfortunate event since, and they have given me a little light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
No self-respecting meme-discussion can take place without mentioning the meme-spawn himself, Donald Trump. As a result of his boorish behavior, internet content-creators have been having a field day, practically working overtime to create new memes to satirize the latest heinous thing the potash-in-chief has cooked up.
When it comes to presidential memes, there are plenty of options to choose from. Many though, and several of my personal favorites, involve comparisons between the thinning pate of our commander-in-chief and a half-shucked cob of corn. Regardless of the damage he is inflicting on our nation and foreign relations, memes about how ridiculous his appearance is will never stop being funny.
Not all memes stem from political commentary though, and, much in the same way the #OscarsSoWhite movement arose from a criticism of the award show’s racial homogeneity last year, an image, actually one taken from the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards, of Meryl Streep, exploded onto Instagram earlier this year in meme form.
In the photo, Streep appears to be exclaiming emphatically, with her hands cupped around her mouth, a pose that meme-makers have used to comically represent a call-and-response joke. Several of its iterations are centered on song lyrics, such as the popular twist on Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” verse, which twists “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” into “concrete jungle wet dream tomato.”
Considering how high the tension was after the big mix up with the announcers giving the Best Picture Award to “La La Land” rather than the rightful winners, “Moonlight,” everyone needed a laugh. A lot of people, especially people of color, were scrutinizing the Oscars for under-appreciating black actors and actresses, but the Meryl Streep meme helped lighten the mood without distracting from the fact that Hollywood still has a long way to go.
Another popular, Hollywood-inspired meme comes from Kendall Jenner’s debacle of a Pepsi promo. In the full-length commercial, a group of young, beautiful, diverse protestors are marching down a street and raising awareness for a non-specific cause, carrying inoffensive banners with slogans such as “Love is the answer.” The problem arises when the commercial shows Jenner handing a Pepsi to an unusually nonthreatening cop and ostensibly solving the problem of police brutality, even though everyone knows the issue is much more complex than that. Pepsi later apologized for “missing the mark,” but the damage was done. Nevertheless, memes swooped in to save some of the day.
Famous Civil Rights leaders, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were featured in memes using Pepsi to defend themselves against police brutality. Even reality star Tommie Lee, who is known for her mugshots, became the subject of another iteration of the meme, as someone took a photo of her most recent mug shot and added the title: “Me going to jail because I didn’t have a Pepsi handy.” All jokes aside, it is impossible to simplify police brutality, but the memes helped mitigate the outrage caused by the commercial.
Another subset of memes that are particularly popular right now are “end of semester” memes. Most include photoshopped images of Starbucks and earphones onto a famous movie, but my favorite is the “end of the semester” starter kit, a meme that includes a sit-down with the professor who will definitely not give you extra credit, as well as a few screen grabs of Will Smith looking desperate from “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Memes speak for everyone, especially when it comes to struggling through life.
As the world becomes increasingly connected, the period of time for which a meme is relevant continues to shrink. The funniest photo, GIF or video of last week is old news today. Though there are a few exceptions, such as Crying Jordan and Spongegar, the quick turnover of memes can make keeping up with the latest ones a challenge; still, you can take solace in knowing that you don’t really have to. Feel free to just tune in and check out whenever you want, marveling at the latest hot meme.
Right now, a few memes are vying for the title of “meme of the moment.” The simplest is based off of Kendrick Lamar’s album artwork, which features a photo of his face looking despondent with the word “DAMN” written in block letters. As you can imagine, spoofing such a basic, intuitive concept is child play.
Another popular meme comes from a video made by Instagram and Twitter user Nick Joseph, who goes by the handle “nicknpattiwhack_.” In a video in which he and his friend Dan Rue (@danrue) sneak into the house of NBA player Anthony Davis, Joseph repeatedly uses the phrase, “Oh no baby! What is you doin?” A screenshot of Joseph’s comically incredulous face next to the text of his famous catchphrase has become a quick clapback to insinuate that someone is doing something stupid. Props to Joseph though, because he and Rue seem genuinely talented and appear to be attempting to extend their ten minutes of fame. Watch this video and tell me they don’t deserve at least D-level celebrity.
Finally, another meme that is perfect for getting you through this shellacking of a year is “Blinking Guy,” which is a largely self-explanatory meme.
Taken from the obscurest bowels of the internet, Blinking Guy conveys an incredulity similar to “Oh no baby! What is you doing?” but much subtler, the kind of disbelief you would express if given a ridiculous assignment from someone who, because of hierarchical reasons, you are not allowed to reject, but can instead only blink incredulously at the inanity of it all. If Blinking Guy doesn’t sum up humanity’s reaction to what humanity has done to itself in 2017, I don’t know what does.