It started with this one. After Nelson Mandela’s death, some Twitter users, suffering from TALAS (They All Look Alike Syndrome) confused Mandela and Morgan Freeman resulting in this meme. And it’s a good one. It provides a good commentary on TALAS and works as social criticism. It makes sense. It says something. It’s amusing. That’s my criteria for for trolling. Keep it relevant, smart and pointed.
When Lenny Bruce first started swearing in the 60’s he shocked people. He swore for a reason, though. He didn’t gratuitously drop profanity. He wielded his words as weapons to puncture society with. Not too long afterwards, when you didn’t get arrested for saying “cocksucker” in public, the floodgates opened and, though through the wonders of money-driven entertainment, audiences expected comics to swear. Comics rapidly blunted the (s)words until you couldn’t cleanly cut a tomato with them. It became a race to who could say the most offensive thing. The hacks took over.
I trolled hard for awhile. I’d like to think I was good at it. My various alts could lead the unsuspecting piece of shit racist/wingnut/homophobe/Islamaphobe down a golden path, getting him to agree with ever more horrific statements until they realized they’d step over the invisible line of tact and euphemism and into the truth of their hate based philosophy. I infiltrated a few members only email groups and Facebook groups where they dropped all pretense freely threw “nigger”, “jew” and “camel fucker” around gleefully. I’ve been privileged to be a part of some outstanding websites and Facebook groups exposing wingnuts for the miserable human beings they are.
Sadly, the Golden Age passed to the second wave who, like the post-Bruce hacks, lived for the yuks and to piss people off regardless of the target. The sense of purpose fell by the wayside for pageviews, like counts and notoriety. Like SNL, they got complacent and refused to believe that the well would go dry. As a result, the content got worse, descending to coarseness with no wit or sting whatsoever. This, of course, is my own, snobby subjective opinion. But I know I’m not alone. Most of the people I respect now do their own thing on their own time leaving the kids to their kid stuff.
So, now we have the Death Memes. A Death Meme is when you take someone who’s just died, hopefully within an hour of their death, and post “RIP [Insert Name]” with a picture of someone else with the similar name. It needn’t have any relevance. John Glenn just passed and I’ve seen “Glen Campbell” and “John Goodman”. When I see these I block them immediately. They’re pointless and stupid.
Why Death Memes? Why do people feel the need to make them?
Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death hit me hard. As a recovering alcoholic, it really hurt that he gave into his addictions. The man was a genius. His ability to put himself into another person’s body and mind, his subtleness and phrasing…dear god, what a tragedy. My favorite moment of his is in The Big Lebowski when he shows the Dude the Big Lebowski’s photo gallery. “This picture was taken when she [Nancy Reagan] was first lady of the NATION.” Where that line reading came from is anyone’s guess. But no one could have sold it except him.
I’d already had it with the Death Memes before his death, but they came fast and furious. One of the public groups I was in had a private planning group where “fans” were invited to leave their memes for consideration. Several Hoffman Death Memes popped up and I snapped.
“What is the fucking POINT of these? One of the greatest actors of our generation just died of a heroin overdose and you’re doing hacky, shitty death memes an hour after he’s dead? Why does he deserve this? What agenda does it put forward? Seriously – WHY?”
“Calm down, man. It’s what we do.”
Yeah. “It’s what we do.”
It went back and forth with me trying explain why that was the shittiest answer you could possibly give and them trying to say that I was butthurt, too old, too thin-skinned and had no sense of humor. After a few hours of this, I realized the futility of it and quietly left the group.
I hate The Three Stooges. It’s a one-joke premise. You watch because, like Napoleon in Time Bandits says, “THAT’S WHAT I LIKE! LITTLE PEOPLE! HITTING EACH OTHER.” But I get why you’d find it funny. I honestly understand it. I didn’t like the South Park episodes I’ve watched but it’s the same thing. I get what they’re doing and I get why other people think it’s hilarious. I get why some people think Nichols and May sucks. I get why my wife can’t stand InfoChammel.
But I cannot understand why someone thinks Death Memes are funny. Given my interaction with creators, they can’t either. “It’s…Glen Campbell…but it says JOHN GLENN! GET IT? One of the first men to go into space DIED and I put his name of GLEN Campbell, not John Glenn! Get it?! GET IT??!!”
When websites first got the ability for people to leave comments the kids used to have a competition to see who could comment first. In most cases, they didn’t even read the article. They’d sit at their computers hitting F5 until a new post showed up and wrote “First!” That’s it. “First.” Because they were first. And that was supposed to mean something. Writing “First”. To show they were first. No context. No meaning. Just mindless competition to see who had the biggest cyber-dick. Those idiots are now making Death Memes. Because they want to be pointlessly first.