This weekend I was scanning through my twitter feed and a particular item caught my eye…
My first thought was, “A line to see kryptonite? Uck.” [I’m deathly allergic to cats, lol.] My second thought was, “a line to see a cat? What the what?” I did a bit of research, saw the endless Grumpy Cat pics from SXSW (including this video from Mashable), and I pitied the manhandled kitty. Apparently I was not alone: “Free grumpy cat” twitter posts attached to the #sxsw hashtag.
Now, if you find yourself wondering what exactly a “grumpy cat” is – let me introduce you! Originally named “Tartar Sauce,” she is a sourpuss-faced Internet celebrity. She has a grumpy blog filled with grumpy images, a grumpy store of grumpy cat items, a grumpy Facebook page, and a grumpy, yet popular, meme. Celebrity status kicked in when a picture of Tartar Sauce was posted on my favorite site, Reddit— a place where pop culture goes to mutate and spread. From there the text-layered pics flooded in, and meme-history was made. If a meme isn’t started on Reddit, it’ll eventually show up on Reddit.
Warning: Some links provided below may bring you to content not approved or supported by Metaverse Mod Squad (and the content could definitely use our awesome moderators). These memes are great examples of how online content can be used inappropriately very quickly. Also – this is the stuff your kids encounter, whether you know it or not.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post my morning routine with Reddit. It’s one of the many ways I am able to stay ahead of the curve in social media. It’s an infestation of early adopters, and pop culture consumers (and a hot bed of trolls). Over the last few weeks, image-based memes have replaced my previous obsession with YouTube parodies & channel celebrities (Toby Turner, I will meet you yet!).
There are hilarious memes, and there are some not so hilarious memes. While Grumpy Cat remains one of the more well-intentioned characters, like Success Kid, Boromir, and Business Cat (amongst others), there are other meme characters that showcase silly-sassy themes like Hipster Ariel and Condescending Wonka (as seen to the right). And there are memes that are insulting, dangerous, and inappropriate (like Successful Hilter and Pedobear, neither of which I care to support by linking).
Similar to the newly acquired fame associated to Grumpy Cat, memes have created an array of (unfortunate) Internet celebrities, like Scumbag Steve, Overly Attached Girlfriend, Bad Luck Brian, Good Guy Greg, and First Day on the Internet Kid.
There’s a dark side to memes, too. Most memes have an expectation of (dark) humor, or social commentary, as alluded to above. Memes can be used as tools to bully, and platforms for bullying. Recently I was made aware of a really interesting video project on Kickstarter called, “Tropes versus Women in Games” by Anita Sarkeesian, who has been the target of cruel, unwarranted attacks by internet trolls, and her image defamed by derogatory memes (Warning! That article, although educational about the situation, contains strong language and difficult images).
Oh, Internets! Why must you have a shady, wretched, and down-right disgusting side? The web is still a “new frontier” with so much possibility! Truly, there’s nothing wrong with humor, or silliness, or thought-provoking sass, but there should be no place for cruelty or personal attacks. Just as with any open, creative platform in this world, and its important to know the bookends of popular content – from grumpy little Tartar Sauce to the cruel fodder of cowardly trolls. At the end of the day, it takes moderation and education to create a positive community, and with that knowledge, we can create the universal expectation of netiquette.
Director of Digital Engagement and Strategy
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