From White Guy Blinking To Arthur’s Fist: How Memes Became Political


Respect the meme

Remember Salt Bae? White Guy Blinking? Arthur Fist? They might not be as ever-present on the internet as they once were, but there was a time when they were all over the place. And even if they're now gone, they've been replaced by other images, like Guy Checking Out a Girl

Every other week, it seems like a new meme takes the internet by storm, images careening down Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines. While often dismissed as silly-yet-relatable jokes, a look at their subtext reveals they're so much more.

The most obvious example of this is the way Donald Trump has become a common target of meme-makers for his endless and sometimes nonsensical Twitter rants (covfefe, anyone?), but the digital pitchforks of social media have skewered everything from Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial to Dove’s whitewashing ad. Sociopolitical theories and concepts are often couched in confusing academic language, but memes have come into vogue as a way to break down complex concepts: to poke fun at them, to make them funny, and to make them palatable for the masses. They allow people to discuss the issues that are relevant at that moment in a way that is not only entertaining but also easy to understand. Complicated ideas can thus be digested in a split second, quickly getting the "why" across. Why, for example, was the Pepsi advertisement, in which Jenner ends a protest by handing hostile police officers a soda, in such bad taste? A meme of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being violently arrested, with the phrase “Now hold on, officers, I have a Pepsi” plastered across the bottom, instantaneously illuminates the flippant and derisive attitude toward political protests in the commercial.

Memes fall in a long tradition of satire through comedy. Much like political cartoons of yore, they are Trojan horses wherein an idea is wrapped up in humor for prime delivery. They break down and unpack at a glance what could be considered a complex theory, utilizing imagery that is sharp, witty, funny, and straight to the point in order to convey an idea instantly. Long-winded theories of racism, sexism, classism, and other –isms might be dismissed as boring, staid, confusing, or hard to understand, but memes are short, sweet, and to the point, allowing people to grasp and understand things in a way that perhaps they wouldn’t have understood previously. They literally grant access to these concepts through memes. And due to the intense viral nature of internet sensations, when memes get around, they have the ability to reach people that maybe never understood or thought about said concepts and social commentary prior to seeing the meme.

They are the sociopolitical cartoons of our generation.

Memes represent valid social commentary and the multitude of ways to break down what’s going on in our daily lives as well as within popular culture. So why do we so often look at them as simple and dumb? Similar to how TIME’s Annual Worst Words Poll primarily targets youth-driven internet slang and African-American Vernacular English (the former of which is often interchangeable with the latter), memes fall under the banner of "unserious," despite their often-sociopolitical undertones, due to their association with young internet culture and black people.

But now, more than ever, it's time to give memes their rightful shine. As social media and the internet evolves, their usage has also evolved beyond Grumpy Cat and Why You Always Lying? The next time you find yourself copy and pasting the newest viral hotness in order to convey a social construct, just remember to respect the meme.

Screenshots via YouTube

This is not the first time Swift has been called out for this

Taylor Swift is being accused yet again of copying Beyoncé. This time, the Beyhive is seeing striking similarities between Swift's new "You Need To Calm Down" music video and Bey's "Party" video from 2011.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy of Showtime

'On Becoming a God In Central Florida' also stars Beth Ditto

Kirsten Dunst, like many people on my Facebook feed, wants you to hear about her new super-exciting entrepreneurship opportunity—she's definitely not going to mention it's a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme though.

Keep reading... Show less
Photos by Jack Taylor, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

She takes defending her country seriously

Start your morning off right by watching Michelle Obama whip a ball straight at Harry Styles', well, balls. During a game of dodgeball between the former FLOTUS and The Late Late Show host James Corden and their respective teams, the throw that decided the entire match is one you'll want to watch over and over (and over) again.

When Obama challenged Corden to a U.S.A. versus U.K. match, using dodgeball to determine which home country was better, I already knew she was going to win. She's Michelle Obama. It was just as easy for her to convince everyone she'd win before grabbing a ball as it was to select her all-star crew; Obama shares in the clip, "You would not believe how easy it was to get people to do this. All I had to say was, you're gonna throw a ball at James Corden." I'd say yes! Her six-person team is made up of actors Allison Janney, Mila Kunis, Melissa McCarthy, Lena Waithe, and Kate Hudson.

Corden had a less easy time grabbing a team (he only has five people, including himself), made up of Harry Styles, Benedict Cumberbatch, Samwell Tarly John Bradley, and Reggie Watts. Styles suggests no one would have actually joined up with Corden had the late-night host not stalked them, joking that he called, texted, and even showed up at "your house, your work, your hairdresser, your pilates class, and your shower."

Even without the magic of jump cuts, the game flies by in a flash. Corden's entire team is wiped out in no time, leaving Styles alone to fight for his home country. The former One Direction band member had no chance once Obama had him in her crosshairs, and with one swift toss directed at Styles' crotch, Corden's team's fate is sealed forever.

Watch the full video below, and if you're just here for that winning blow, skip ahead to 6:46.

Team USA v. Team UK - Dodgeball w/ Michelle Obama, Harry Styles & More - #LateLateLondon

Asset 7
Photo Courtesy of Transthetics

Get to know Transthetics, a truly transformative company that didn't set out to change the world

Alex is not your usual entrepreneur. The plain-spoken, self-described "...boring heterosexual guy..." just wants to have vanilla sex and relationships with women. He started Transthetics, penile prosthetics for transmasculine people, to serve this purpose. While Alex may be working on things that are transformative for individuals, he didn't start his company to "change the world" or be internationally recognized in the way many CEOs strive for. He doesn't even choose to use his surname in any product advertising, press, or fundraising materials. That might not seem so unusual, considering we live in a world that is so hostile to deviation from the gender norms—but we also live in a world of "rock star"-led start-ups, and anonymity is quite unusual there.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix

Give them a round of applause!

At the MTV Movie and TV awards last night, Noah Centineo and Lana Condor won an award for "Best Kiss" for their, erm, performance in To All The Boys I've Loved Before. And, during their acceptance speech, Centineo gave a callout to Condor's lips.

Keep reading... Show less