Manufacturing Memes

In a world of Peak TV and rising popular culture, communities enjoy a lot of in-jokes – those wisecracks that go viral simply due to their relatable nature . Memes, no matter how they are pronounced, are generally characterized by the universal nature of their likeableness. Their creation has become so intimately commonplace that they exist even within small communities – for instance, universities use them to market themselves, to make their publicity look a little less like publicity.

Let’s return to a bygone time, one of the Rage Comics, where Derp and Derpina reigned supreme. Essentially ,the time when seventh graders on Facebook had a handle on what was going to be meme-ified and what was not.

Look at the current memes, particularly those on a white background, with one image attached. Using current trends to establish something that will gain likes and laughter reiterates relatability. Memes are no longer merely funnythey are a marketing strategy attempting to give a more human picture to the corporation that uses them by using the best tools of the very millennial they wish to address. The idea behind this is simple: the perceived irreverence of the corporation in question makes them more real and accessible – perhaps a little less like a heartless machine that swallows people and spits them out according to profit and loss.

Regardless of the way humour is being used for these purposes, the essence of this “relatability” of memes is interesting in the way it operates. The meme is currently primarily used by the Liberals – Tumblr, a website which is known for tumbling into predominantly progressive views, after all, set the new format of the meme. Before Tumblr, during that dark period in human history from 2004 to 2008, memes were in the shape of Rage Comics, and type cast figures were used to indicate emotions. Tumblr text posts, which reached insane popularity, have set the standard for the current memes – the ones with a plain white background and relatable text in the middle.

This forced “relatability” isn’t meant to be good or bad – it’s a result of the way the meme culture has turned. Where it’s easier to approach target audiences by employing things they enjoy – such as memes – corporations have begun to use them for publicity. The beauty of this publicity is that you will never realise it’s publicity. The meme culture began as organically generated popular content – a democratic understanding of what should be considered good or bad. Instead of a bunch of aristocrats and elites telling you what to enjoy, the meme culture is one of the nicer, purer things that was started on the internet.

Nice things aren’t meant to last.

Healthy, home-grown and organic memes are a joke, of course. But here we are, corporately-generated memes trying to get the one thing that money had not been able to buy – the word-of-mouth review. Obviously, obviously we’re going to have someone else get their grimy little hands all over it and not realise what’s going on until all of us are laughing at a plain white text post of questionable font that says something relatable about the multinational chicken joint or something.

Naturally, the quality is going to drop. We can’t have good things for too long.


T in a Cup


A Cup of T
‘T’ as in me, ‘Cup’ as in tea, ‘Of’ as in preposition and ‘A’ as in article. Bringing you thoughtful rants on TV, books, society and various other things induced by too many cups of ice tea.

Written by Tanvi
Updates every fortnight

Column icon and featured image by Sanna Jain


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