Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A look at the Meme

by Tom Harper

Forever Alone: The miserable figure that has made a name for itself over the past few years due its repeated melancholy in different situations. Should we feel sorry for his never-ending depression.........No! Of course not! For Forever Alone is merely another meme for the sole purpose of enjoyment. But just what exactly is a ‘meme’?

The technical definition of a meme is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture". From the Greek mimeisthai meaning “to imitate”, a meme is a repeated image, phrase or trait used in different contexts, normally to invoke a positive reaction from the viewer. Aside from the hilarity of these various spectacles, what some people fail to appreciate is that perhaps there is a deeper meaning to some of these memes that initially meets the eye.
For example, is Forever Alone meant only to create various hilarious situations to further extend this character’s suffering, or could it represent the hidden solitude of the soul within every human being? Could it imply the loneliness that swells up inside all of us every now and again? Do we laugh at this unfortunate figure as it helps us to shift our perspective away from our own desolate lives? To find out, I’ve looked at the potentially deeper meanings of some of the world’s most popular memes:

1.     Planking

Planking: the activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. Both hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game. At some point in our lives, I’m sure we have all been subject to planking in one way or another, whether we have laughed at it online or dared to participate in it ourselves. The main rule for this meme is the more abstract the location, the better the plank. You may be interested to know that a 20-year-old man in Australia even died after trying to plank on a seventh-floor balcony in Brisbane, Australia! So what on earth encourages someone to plank?

The key is in the origin. Planking’s beginnings may lie in an infamous movie scene from the 1993 movie The Program, in which a quarterback lies down on the yellow line in the middle of a highway as cars fly past. Teenagers who saw this scene in the trailer tried it themselves to prove their bravery, and several were run over by cars (The scene was later cut from the movie). Planking then expanded into several countries as the “Lying Down Game”, but with the same trait as being almost a rite of passage: an approval of one’s courage combined with their ingenuity and sense of fun. If a person can plank, then they have the ability to be creative, amusing and brave, and so planking is more than just lying face down in a field. It is a statement: a statement of your personality, as well as perhaps your physical strength in particular situations. So as long as you don’t risk your life for the perfect plank, I believe this to be an excellent way to show off the kind of person you are through a trait that is now becoming almost universally recognizable!

2.     Nigel Thornberry

Growing up, many of you may remember Nigel here as the esteemed father of the Thornberriesso how on earth did this man with such vocal difficulties find his way into internet stardom? Simple: it’s all about the looks. Although Nigel may not be universally recognized from the children’s program, his face is incredibly distinguishable. His giant nose, off-set teeth, tiny eyes and ginger moustache set him apart from other internet characters as it is indeed a face that is quite amusing to stare at for a while. But does Nigel have a hidden side to him? As some of you may be aware, Nigel is an explorer, and a very enthusiastic one at that! Perhaps his face attached to different well-known figures could represent their own pioneering personalities and how they too strive to defy convention in their own forms of lifestyle? Perhaps the mask of Nigel has its place on everyone in one way or another.

3.     X all the Y!

X all the Y!  represents the sheer determination to not leave any task incomplete. No matter the situation, this figure cannot help but feel it necessary to see it through all the way. Does this imply his powerful mindset to finish any challenge set before him, and thus should be commended? Or does it give this character a sense of insatiability? One is never enough for him, neither two, neither 350,576,204. As long as there is still more to be had out there, this meme cannot stop until his goal has been fulfilled. His aim is to become the god of his field of work, the master of his chosen subject, the king of whatever he puts his mind to! Although his determination should be recognised, this meme never reveals where this character’s drive ends up, which could be to his own destruction. Thus perhaps sometimes we must refrain from X-ing all the Y.

4.     Leeeeeeeeroooooooy Jeeeeenkiiiiiiiiins!

Leeroy Jenkins: the man who messed up the perfect plan. This meme is taken during a World of Warcraft guild raid. In the video, the guild (called "PALS FOR LIFE") is making detailed plans on how to beat the Rookery room in the Upper Blackrock Spire (a dungeon that takes a lot of players to beat) while one of them - Leeroy - is away from his computer. All the raid is wiped spectacularly when he returns to his PC and just charges into the room without any preparation while shouting "Leeroy Jenkins!" into the microphone.

If not for his seemingly foolish action, the raid may have had a chance in achieving their well-sought mission. Because of Leeroy, people around the world now shout his name before attempting something dangerous with an apparently reckless regard for their own safety. So should Leeroy be commended for his rash action or scorned?

For me, Leeroy represents impulse: an unleashing of a primitive, animalistic, irrational persona that is ready to tackle any challenge without the foreknowledge of how to do it. Although this is indeed reckless, it has an element of bravery to it: a pumped readiness to attempt something where the chances of success are at a minimum. Although Leeroy does indeed go against his guild’s wishes, can we be guaranteed that they would have succeeded anyway?

Yes, Leeroy was away from his computer during the preliminary planning and so could escape scornful charges by pleading ignorance, but surely he must have had some idea of what he was about to do? Therefore I believe that Leeroy represent someone who makes the snap decisions: for better or for worse. He doesn’t ponder on the future and worry about what could potentially go wrong, he focuses on enjoying on the here and now, and so he displays a character that let’s go of concerns and worries and just goes for it! Let’s face it: we all need to be like that once in a while.

5.     Nyan Cat

I have nothing to say about this meme. I am open to alternate interpretations, but to me this is just bonkers. I highly recommend NOT wasting your life watching the endless video if you value your sanity.

And so, on that note, I leave you with the view that memes are not just ideas that are passed around for no apparent reason: they are messages, they are statements, they are things that give you an alternate perspective on the world around you. However, when dealing with memes, one must remember that they are not the only way to enjoy life and see its many different meanings, and so I feel that my excessive research into some of them has left me no better than in this situation:


1 comment:

  1. Hannah Millerchip9 June 2016 at 15:03

    Brilliant! Especially the Nyan Cat explaination!


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