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From the Pope to the Prime Minister: Meme Culture Spares No One

The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.

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Web Culture
4 min read
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What's in a meme?

History's defining mood.

We've stepped on it with quick flex and now there's no going back. A meme – let's say – is the opium of the internet that remembered to factor in the lighter side of life. Look close, and you will see – garbed in humour – a schmaltzy angst that's yearning to find a connection with others.

The mere abundance – unfortunately – spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin' Pope. If you can't meme it simply, you (perhaps) don't understand it well. That's a (slightly) modified version of what Einstein had supposedly said (“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well”), who, incidentally, has been memed too.

The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
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But hey, don't you dare flinch in horror when this big mood gently looks over its shoulders and beseeches you to accept that 'high art' has had its day.

Yep, take that, with or without a pinch of offense. Because 'art' has yanked open the floodgates and 'expression' no longer requires a gallery, canvas paper, or connoisseurs in pastels and tulle.

All you need now is a relentless distaste for censorship and a well-endowed data pack.

A meme, simply put, is a cultural missile capable of giving you a quick blueprint of the mind behind it! Word has it the word ‘meme’ was coined by a guy called Richard Dawkins in 1976. He likened these tiny cultural snippets to genes. You know, because they’re bolstering cultural evolution and all of that.

First meme?

That's a tricky one, but here's something from the annals of Twitterverse:

The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
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So, what's the real deal here if the meme landscape sounds like a harmless vacation during work-hours?

When a meme goes viral, what's really running uber rogue are... ideologies. There's something quite primeval about the way we understand our place in the world. Our memes are proof. Take, for example, the recently concluded Lok Sabha Elections 2019. The world's biggest elections dropped the mic, along with a generational coping mechanism – the almighty memes.

With no conspicuous agenda, but with enough relatability in tow, the little rogue snippets slid into perfect compartments with easy grace - social, political, and – sadly – religious.

Of course, it is amazing that everyone got to have a say. And the conversation was not unilateral. But, wait up: is it really uniting more sensibilities or driving more wedges, in a political climate that does not seem to know how to peacefully accommodate differences?

The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
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If a pro-left meme goes viral, it is because the underlying left-leaning hot-takes are creating an inextricable circuit among leftists faster than you can say leftists, and vice-versa. If a Netflix-centric meme goes viral, you know that a LOT of people on your feed are privileged enough to have bought a subscription. Similarly, when the 'distracted boyfriend' gains overnight fame on the internet, you know that it has successfully banked on a truckload of gender stereotypes capable of tickling a lot of funny bones.

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The internet, of course, has its ‘safe’ favorites too.

There is - among others – a Baba Ramdev who resurfaces every now and then, courtesy his unnerving agility, a Vijay Raaz whose slick, deadpan remarks onscreen have been sliced and diced, frame by frame, for truisms universally applicable to situations, and a Grumpy Cat (RIP, maestro) who relatably doles out his disappointments in life.

The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
The mere abundance of memes spares no one - not our prime minister, not the Queen, not even the frickin’ Pope.
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If socio-political literature could lend the meme landscape an ear, it would hear the masses speaking – a massive revolution of forms of expression, 'artistic' or not, as you deem fit.

The flip side, not surprisingly, involves dissemination of ideas that are  – more often than not – sexist, classist, and distasteful. 

So there will be as many takers for, say, Vivek Oberoi's recent meme, as there will be for the counter-memes that point out Oberoi's indiscretion.

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The meme landscape is a dicy monster. Ridden with conflicts. Some good, some not so good. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee was memed recently, leading to strict penalization, and consequent questions raised (memed) on censorship and free speech.

Mostly, in memeland, it is cloudy, with chances of heavy cultural drizzle. So gulp it down as part of your social media diet, and prep yourself likewise. A spontaneous combustion of mixed thoughts is the cultural out-pour of the times.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Mamata Banerjee   Modi   Lok Sabha 

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