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Memes have been a strong media form for people to voice their opinions on societal ills, values, and anxieties. Memes maintain a certain level of hilarity while also providing letting others comment on society. This would classify them as a satirical tool which makes them the newest of the forms of satire. Satire has been around since ancient Greece and certain forms of satire can be seen in old Shakespearean plays. Normally most sources agree that satire really did not become a valued form of media until printing material became big in Europe. Satire became an important political tool to help influence the public’s opinion. Memes are the most recent and currently most effective form of satire memes address the societal ills, anxieties, and values. Memes have the ability to be considered a valuable contribution to the arts because of the versatility that they can be explained with and also because they are sharing of culture and an important part to help bring people together for different groups of the world.
The term Meme was coined by the evolutionary biologist named Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. The word meme was derived from the Greek word mimema, which means imitation. Dawkins conceived memes as the cultural parallel to biological genes and regarded them to control their own reproduction and therefore serve their own ends in a manner similar to “selfish” genes. In these terms, memes carry information, that is replicated and transmitted from one person to another, and are capable of evolving, mutating at random and undergoing natural selection, with or without impact on human fitness. Memes can take a variety of forms, such as an idea, ability, behavior, phrase, or fashion. A meme’s replications and transmissions occur when one person copies another person’s cultural information and uses it (Roger’s 2019). However, Memes are an important part of contemporary America’s media because it gives society an outlet through humor to comment on what is going on socially in America whether it be an anxiety, a value, or a social ill. Memes have become a viral internet trend and an essential tool for people to put out a commentary on what is relevant in contemporary America. Internet memes are premised on hilarity and parody, on activities, ideas, or catchphrases from media spread through the internet from person to person. It can take the form of a picture, video, website, hashtag, a word or a colloquialism.
Memes enable people to share their thoughts on private, domestic and international situations all over the world. Whether mocking of a political figure, pointing out the humorous expression in an old picture, or continuing to talk about a phenomenon in the video game world, Internet memes have influenced how people share their opinions and critiques. They are a sub-form of expression, but with little or no consequence they are a valid form of commentary. Memes are a new wave of freedom that grows with the Internet for generations.
Memes can address the social ills of society through humor by addressing the ill upfront while also exposing the problem and keeping the seriousness issue. An example of this can be seen in figure 2 (see figure 2). This meme specifically addresses gun violence in the city of Detroit while also using the popular cartoon character Lisa Simpson, to make the meme more humorous. In doing so, the meme also becomes more relevant and relatable in society because the image of the character found in a popular television show helps people realize what is going on because they understand the reaction that is happening from that character which in turn helps people better understand the meme as a whole. Memes not only address social ills but also have the power to address soical values as well, making them a versatile tool for satire and humor.
Memes can address the social values of society through humor by talking about the normality of the value and how sometimes the value can be funny. A social value can simply be something that is mutually valued such as music or art. Music in most civilizations has been valued because it is another form of expressing opinionated views. Certain musicians have become popular memes because of either something they did or something they have said but few are made memes because of their accomplishments and quality of music like in figure 3 (see figure 3). The meme itself shows that society values good music. The meme claims that “Hip-Hop is dead” but also says that J.cole is the savior of Hip-Hop because he releases what contemporary society calls good music. These memes not only help point out social values in a funny or creative way but they also help address social anxieties.
Memes also have the ability to address social anxieties such as new hot political topics such as the topic of abortion and the actions taken on both sides of the political landscape to either increase the freedom or to take the ability away. Such anxieties are made humor and relatable because normally if it gets popular a certain group of people all see the meme as a true representation of how they feel about the subject. Figure 1 (see figure 1) address the hot political topic of abortion, specifically the abortion bill that was passed in the state of Alabama, which banned most types of abortion and even barred rape victims from getting an abortion.
Memes address social ills, values, and anxieties such as gun violence, good music, and abortion. Memes are the latest and most efficient form of satire today they address societal ills, anxieties, and values through humor and relatable. Being the social media commentary outlets that memes are, makes them important and valuable because it enables the public to give their opinion on those societal ills, values, and anxieties that contemporary society has. Memes not only are a way for society as a whole to come together and share culture but it is also a creative and humorous way to get other people to see another’s opinion.
- Rogers, Kara. “Meme.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/topic/meme.
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