Mommy, where do memes come from? And where do they go when they die?
First of all, memes are so lame-ishly mainstream now that I finally don’t have to explain them to you anymore, right? I don’t have to go on and on about the term’s evolution between Richard Dawkins having coined the word in 1976 and that creepy dancing baby from the Blockbuster ads in 1996? Great.
When does an Internet meme become uncool? Is it when hip celebrities on TV start referring to it? Is it when children start wearing stunnah shades? Or is it when the term “Internet meme” becomes part of the daily discourse on CNN, Fox News, and visits to your grandparents’ homes? (“What in the world is a trollface?”) Or is it when “Meme Studies” becomes part of your college’s course catalogue? Dolanomics?
Popular music provides a good analogy: Hey dude, have you heard of the White Stripes? I heard them for the first time today and I’d like to discuss them with you, a person who first heard them 100 years ago and has no interest in talking about why Jack White is way more better than, like, Jason Mraz AND John Mayer combined omg. The Internet meme equivalent is you asking me, “Have you see Orange Helmet Cat?” And me shouting back at you, “YES, LIEK A MILLION TIMES. IT’S GR8 AND MY FAVRIT BUT CURRENTLY I WANT HOTPOKETS.”
Here’s another “death of the cool” scenario for a popular meme: anytime a meme is used to sell a product aside from “teh lulz”. When “teh lulz” take a backseat to “teh $” and “teh sales conversion rates/teh RIO”, the integrity of the meme’s innocence has been compromised. All your lulz are belong to Old Spice/Jim Beam/Old Jim Spice Beam now, so get ready to pay per laugh. These jokes are all brought to you by O’Booze, the non-alcoholic grain alcohol of choice since… well, since forever!
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re an uncool newb who will never even be a cool newb, and you’ll probably discover Internet memes in 2014 because you’re too busy pretending to live in the “real world” with physical memes like the high five. Face it, we’re all cyborgs now, and Internet memes give us a decently primitive mashup-language by which we communicate our goofiest Internet-brain thoughts. It’s enough to make your mind into a constantly overflowing dumpster, with one useless meme replacing the next in a war between your limited memory and the infinite memory of the Internet.
The existence of this article, in fact, is evidence that memes are totally uncool, and judging by how much the word “meme” has been Googled in the past year, it’s obvious that too many uncool people know about memes for them to continue to retain their mystique. Unfortunately, however, viruses don’t die off when they’ve lost their novel appeal. No, they find other willing hosts who are not yet immune, hosts who are unaware of the virus’s consumptive abilities. These are whom we would refer to as “old” people. Old people do things like sue for copyright infringement, because they don’t understand that the Internet is a chaotic playground, not a courtroom. Needless to say that to be an “old,” one does not necessarily need to be old in age — it’s the mental state of creative entitlement.
And that’s why Andy Warhol would have fallen in love with 4chan and internet memes, if only he hadn’t died 25 years ago and missed out on the coolest chapter of American cultural life, which in the future will be called the “Golden Age of the Internet” by some dumb history textbook in the chapter “Early 21st Century Information Technology: The Stepping Stones to Singularity.” The man would have made a fortune on “I can haz cheezburger” merchandise, and we’d call it post-art. In this sense, memes don’t ever die, they merely become zombiessssssss.