Reflecting on laughter through memes

Reflecting on laughter through memes

Following the violent attack on the Capitol, memes that address the chaotic and violent event have been circulating online. Many people are using memes as a way to cope with the serious political situation and to help them deal with the insanity that the nation was witnessing in our country’s capital. However, others wonder whether the memes have gone too far, considering the gravity of violence that occurred at the Capitol.

Memes often rise to the surface when serious political issues are brought to the public eye. Within minutes of the breaching of the capitol, many social media users jumped on the opportunity to create meme after meme on the very serious topic. One of the most viral memes to be spread all over the internet was a picture of a man in a Viking hat with no shirt on, speaking with another man, and above them, the caption read “Sorry pal, no stag dos allowed. You’ll have to go to the Wetherspoons down the road.” People re-tweeted this meme countless numbers of times. Another viral meme regarding the incident of the capitol being breached was about how Mike Pence and Donald Trump were fighting, some internet user put the caption “THE GIRLS ARE FIGHTINGGGG” over a picture of the two of them. This tweet was also extended all over social media sights. 

Over time, jokes and memes have become more frequently used as a way to lighten an issue. People often become desensitized and turn their back to serious problems because of this. While memes and jokes are good for the positivity they bring to dark scenarios, poking fun of a serious subject matter too many times can have adverse effects. For example, Tanya Brown, of Ontario, Canada recalled a story in which her son suggested that Iran “Just blow up the USA and get it over with already,” following conflicts between the two countries. Jokes about World War 3, Politics, the BLM movement & much more can quickly take a turn for the worse & cause people to be unaware about real, mounting issues.

Still, while some internet users, out of touch with the sensitivity of certain political subjects, extend their insolence to an offensive level, memes may also prove a point of humorous unity for people to bond over. The terrorist attack on the Capitol was doubtlessly alarming for many, invoking high levels of tension and fear among Americans fearful of the impact of the breach. Yet, social media continued to remind society that such intense emotions were spread across the entire populous – one Twitter user laughed at the cast of “Duck Dynasty” making it past the professionally trained security forces at the Capitol, encouraging a lighter temperament to overcome the horror of the invasion. Similarly, a TikTok user suggested the idea of Congressional representatives teaching one another viral internet dances, letting others cope with their shock by having a laugh. With such quick and relatable humor, the accessibility to these memes most certainly calmed the widespread panic to a certain degree.

Although the severity of the attack on the Capitol and its juxtaposition to the numerous memes published about it have made many people question how far society’s humor has gone, there have been numerous incidents in the past that have been humorized in similar ways. During the debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris that took place on Wednesday, October 6th 2020, Vice President Pence made a series of offensive and disturbing comments, including racist remarks regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. “Under President Trump’s leadership, we will always stand behind law enforcement,” Pence stated on the efforts to defund the police. However, in the days following the debate, the most relevant story was one involving a fly that had been on Pence’s head during the discussion. Countless memes and jokes were centered around the fly, and Pence’s controversial statements were quickly forgotten. In fact, when you type the phrase “Vice President Pence” into Google, one of the first autofill suggestions is the word “fly”. Additionally, Tide Pods became the subject of a dangerous meme turned challenge in the summer of 2018. The health risks were minimized detrimentally, and even in articles warning citizens away from trying the challenge, it was still humorized. “Admit it: don’t you kind of want to know what a Tide Pod tastes like?” a Vox article joked, going on to show numerous tweets depicting Tide Pods on pizza and making fun of the company for designing candy-shaped products. Overall, the memes and jokes surrounding Tide Pods, the presidential debate and other serious topics have unintentionally led to the dangers of these subjects being lost in the rush to find comedy.

In all, many memes over the past few years have brought laughter and joy to historical events, but many have been taken too far.  For example the memes about the Capitol Hill have brought people out of a dark time while tide pod memes ended with people poisoning themselves. Although these memes may be comical, they can escalate quickly to be harmful.