Hello, Children of the Internets…Father Time, here. You may not believe this–shit, I can scarcely believe it myself–but there once was a time when memes were developed, ran their course, and eventually died. Occasionally, the meme would see a resurgence, riding on the white horse of creativity. Using wit, or simple nostalgia, a meme would be brought back into the mainstream.
Some memes even caught on so strongly that entire long-running television shows were built around them; shows that wedged the confusing meme into the show as if the showrunner was obsessed or driven to the brink of insanity. None of us knew what it meant. The Internet was so young. We just…went with it. The next thing we knew, we were all recognizing Calista Flockhart was. Next thing we knew, she was married to Harrison Ford…when we woke up, it was too late.
We now have two memes that won’t die despite the best efforts of the ubiquitous “fun police.” So, what does a culture that has become morbidly obsessed with self-victimization and virtue signalling do when they realize that people they disagree with are having all the fun?
Declare those memes racist, of course.
First, we have Pepe the Frog. The character was ripped from the pages of Matt Furie’s comic series, Boy’s Club, a counter-culture stoner strip that grew popular among the indie web-comic crowd. But Pepe truly came to life on 4chan, the brightest beacon of the dark-web, where message board addicts developed Reaction/Rage Faces. Many of which have faded into obscurity over the years, but Pepe–for his seemingly random nature–caught on with vicious staying power.
Pepe the Frog‘s only true purpose was to convey “feels good” or “feels bad.” It slowly evolved into becoming a variant symbol for Internet Trolls, hiding behind “Smug Pepe” faces as a symbol of pride and accomplishment in their trollings.
Enter Donald Trump. Trump’s candidacy was the single element that thrust troll culture, which had been evolving through GamerGate and years of ripping on inane popular fads, into the real world. And nothing makes trolls happier than the anger-berries generated by Glorious Leader Trump.
So, it seemed Pepe the Frog was a perfect fit for faux hate-mongers on social media. A troll could pretend to be a white supremacist and use Pepe as an in-crowd hint that they’re trolling. A plan with no drawbacks.
Well…one drawback. The mainstream media taking it seriously.
Yes, that’s right. Pepe the Frog just trolled a national election. But it doesn’t stop there. The (((Anti-Defamation League))) has officially declared the cartoon frog as a symbol of hate. That’s right–it’s a burning cross, swastika, triple-parenthesis around something you’re identifying as Jewish, and Pepe the Frog–all equally threatening and worthy of hate-crime status. Because if the 24-hour media cycle creating bullshit stories is going to get under the skin of anyone in this crazy, mixed up country of ours, it’s the upper class of concerned hand-wringing Jews.
And speaking of cultural pearl-clutching, let’s breathe some life back into Harambe the Gorilla!
It’s not completely accurate to say that Harambe ever went away (except, of course, in the literal sense, for the actual Harambe), but the over-saturation of the gorilla meme has caused many to lament its longevity.
Longevity, in the meme world, means literally 1 Summer that might as well be 100 years.
I sincerely doubt anyone needs their memory jogged about the Harambe incident, but let’s remind ourselves anyway.
On May 28th, 2016, a child fell into the gorilla encampment at the Cincinnati Zoo, leading their beloved male gorilla Harambe to be shot dead by Zoo Staff for fear of endangering the child’s life. The incident sparked initial outrage, first among the Black Lives Matter crowd, comparing the gorilla to a proud African life taken to save precious white child. Then, they figured out the child in question was black, and immediately blamed everyone else for questioning the responsibility of the child’s parents. Animal rights activist fought tooth and nail (pun intended) against those who believed the Zoo made the only sad, but sensible, decision they could.
It was the shot heard ’round the world.
But it didn’t take long to fade away, out of the news cycle, and out of the public eye.
And then it came back hard. The trolls had won the day again, spreading “Justice for Harambe” memes, comparing the deceased gorilla to beloved celebrities lost in 2016, shouting “Dicks Out for Harambe” and other such nonsense, just to put the ridiculousness of it all into absurd perspective. People who had previously been fighting about the emotional and ethical impact of the killing of this beloved animal were now coming together in good humor to celebrate Harambe’s life.
So, needless to say, harmony over Harambe could not last long before those who refused to be “in on it” began to drive the wedge yet again.
One of the most notable opponents of the Harambe Party was actor, comedian, and all-around professional dipshit, Kumail Nanjiani, who declared the Harambe memes racist because Harambe is a silly African name, and therefore must only be used out of hate.
You know when your pseudo-progressive cocksuckery has gotten out of control well-and-good when people like rainbow-haired Max Landis have to attempt to settle your hash. But Kumail can’t be swayed, even though his opinion stinks like yesterday’s curry.
Of course, Kumail isn’t the only one. A battalion of social justice warriors have jumped on the “Harambe Memes are Racist” bandwagon, and they aren’t going anywhere.
Clearly, the only course of action is to continue ad nauseam with the antisemitic anthropomorphic frogs and the racist great apes, but at what cost? Sure we can ram these things down the throats of everyone who is fake-offended by them, but do they lose the comedy?
When the memes stop being funny, the beauty and purity of the joke is lost. But it’s even more important to note that not all jokes are created equal. And not everyone’s sense of humor is the same. Pepe the Frog creator, Matt Furie, was recently asked about the use of his character by Trump supporters and racist trolls. He said that he finds it funny and entertaining; that it’s just a phase, and more in line with out-shocking another person with how vile he can make Pepe than it is about any kind of actual hatred.
Conversely, the Cincinnati Zoo and many others have grown very upset over the continued Harambe memes, and have requested many times over that they be stopped, or at very least, directed elsewhere.
The beauty in this double-edged decorative replica sword is that as long as there is someone out there, fudging their drawers and getting needlessly triggered over a drawing or photoshop of an amphibian or ape, tossing around Pepes and/or Harambes will never go out of style.