Rhetorical Success in Memes


Morticia Addams Meme

 (image: http://www.addamsfamily.com/addams/anj02.jpg)

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Memeticness

This is the original image; there are no variations--yet.

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Memetic features


Genre



Morticia and Karma

 (image: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bw0Qc9TCUAAeiWD.jpg:large)

Description


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Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia's expression can be interpreted as smug satisfaction and directed toward the person/s receiving the karmic smackdown. This inference is successful because of the added text.

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This is a remake of the original image. By including text at the top and bottom of the macro image the creator of the meme sets it up (top text) and delivers the zinger (bottom text). The action is a karmic smackdown. The subject is the one receiving the karmic smackdown. And the end result is the shared satisfaction by the creator, distributor, and viewer of having witnessed said karmic smackdown.

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Genre



Morticia, Coffe and Witchcraft

 (image: https://pics.me.me/i-like-my-coffee-the-sameway-ilike-my-witchcraft-dark-17669337.png)

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Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia's expression can be interpreted as not only satisfied, but knowing--as in--the caption is an inside joke that can only be truly appreciated and understood by a specific audience.

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Genre



Morticia and Psychos

 (image: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9b/e7/c1/9be7c112f6aca2977f111a3c9f6a1191--addams-family-morticia-addams-family-quotes.jpg)

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Memeticness

In this derivative, the caption, paired up with the image of Morticia, implies that Morticia is a pyscho thus her expression is being interpreted as the look of a mentally unstable person or "unhinged". Annoyingly, the creator of the meme is not only misinterpreting Morticia's expression, but the embodiment of this character.

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Memetic features


Is there reason circulation of the meme has died?

Genre



Morticia and Bitchy Barbies

 (image: https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7c/27/d8/7c27d8be52bd3e8886b60429c36f1a83.jpg)

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Memeticness

In this derivative, Mortica's expression can be interpreted as disparaging. Only with the combination of images and captions, can the audience be guided to this conclusion.

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Genre



Morticia and Chill

 (image: https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/hphotos-xtp1/t51.2885-15/s640x640/sh0.08/e35/12545347_1234120799936335_310464234_n.jpg)

Description


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Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia's expression can be interpreted as flirtatious and as a "come hither" glance toward the individual she (and the sharer of the meme) wants to watch a horror movie with and, more importantly, "chill". This is my favorite of the examples I've presented.

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Genre


Morticia and Karma 2.0

 (image: http://memeshappen.com/media/created/2017/10/Karma-just-took-a-meeting--With-Harvey-Weinstein-.jpg)

Description


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Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia's expression can be interpreted as smug satisfaction and is directed toward Weinstein (the receiver of the karmic smackdown. This inference is successful because of the added text and the assumption that the audience knows why karma is meeting with Weinstein.

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Memetic features


Does this meme show other features that spur memetic development, or features that seem to put an end to development? Parody? Satire? Nastiness? …. Or, is there another reason circulation of the meme has died?

Genre

Refer to Shifman, chap 7. She lists nine. There will be others. You may discover others.

Rhetorical Analysis

Consider the rhetorical situation that the meme overall and each meme addresses.

What makes this meme rhetorically successful?

What does each derivative argue?
How are those arguments related or connected?
Who is participating in the spread of this meme?
What characterizes the participants in the spread of this meme?
What elements enable the meme to spread and vary?
By what vectors does the meme spread? (Twitter? By way of meme-making sites? Instagram? FB? Others?)
What elements persuade others to put in the work of making those variations?

Rhetorical Effectiveness

As is demonstrated in the example derivatives, Morticia's expression is open to interpretive variations. In the original macro image, her expression can be interpreted as appreciative and flirtatious. Inference is drawn from the intended audience, those familiar with who Morticia is and maybe even knowing that the macro image is a screen shot from the Addams Family film—she is watching Gomez drive golf balls off the roof of their mansion. By adding text to the macro image of Morticia, the rhetor defines Mortcia's expression, resulting in the desired persuasion. An example of effective persuasion is the “Morticia and Bitchy Barbies” derivative. By photoshopping 2 memes together, the rhetor further alters the macro image, and in doing so, expands on the conversation. The bitchy Barbie squad now represent everyone who has ever denied anyone acceptance.

As we can see from the example derivatives, the Morticia macro image has been re-created numerous times through various meme generators, thus the knowledge that ease in re-creation is available. Ease in creation, inspiration, and minimal interpretation, are all the elements of persuasion needed to keep using this macro image for a multitude of variations. So, even though the example derivatives deviate from the original meme, it is important to my claim that the original macro image meets the criteria to spur memetic development and continued circulation. With the “Morticia and Karma 2.0” derivative, we can see firsthand what elements persuaded this variation: Morticia (a strong, confident woman), Karmic law in action (a meeting with Weinstein), Harvey Weinstein (a debaucher). Put it all together and the rhetor has Karma taking a meeting with Weinstein as Morticia looks on in smug satisfaction. This particular derivative can be re-created time and time again because, let's be real, there's always going to be someone somewhere whose actions are deserving of a karmic smackdown.

The implied rhetor of these example derivatives is Morticia. The implied rhetors are also those who create, recreate, and share the various meme derivatives. In most derivatives, they are also the actual rhetors. However, in some derivatives, the actual rhetor can vary. For example, in the “Morticia and Bitchy Barbies” derivative, the implied rhetor is not Morticia and the actual rhetor is not those who create, recreate, and share the various meme derivatives. Instead, the actual rhetor is what/whom the bitchy Barbie squad represent when saying, “you can’t sit with us." The intended audience then becomes Morticia and all those who outcasts who desire to turn the tables and deliver a most satisfying response that, once and for all, shuts down their "oppressor/s". Rhetor and audience are then brought together through recognition of discourse; this recognition motivates audience participation in the sharing and recreation of the meme.

The creation/recreation of the various example memes allow the actual rhetor to speak through the implied rhetor to the audience. The intended audience for the example derivatives are fans of Morticia/Addams family, dark humor, and underdogs FTW. However, the actual audience are essentially anyone who has access to the internet via computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. The rhetor's motivation is the opportunity to make a bold statement or speak a believed truth by using a combination of humor and iconic character. By creating/recreating and sharing the various example memes, it can lift some of the social constraints that not only the actual rhetor might feel toggled to, thus enabling the rhetor to make a statement/point sharply and quickly and, quite possibly, more freely, but it also lifts some of those constraints for the intended and actual audience.

These are the participants who are sharing these example derivatives, because they are familiar with Morticia/Addam's Family and understand/appreciate the dark, quirkiness of her behaviors. They also understand the context of the derivatives such as karmic law, bold coffee is uplifting, and letting someone know that they don't matter as much as they think they should, thus sharing what they can relate to. In a world that’s so full of “suck”, we savor those brief sensations of true satisfaction—of feeling pleased with a particular outcome. And it is for this reason that I say the presentational form is successful. If I based this statement on nothing more than the original image, it would be enough. I have used the original macro image (sans text) on numerous occasions to express satisfaction in an a particular action. I said earlier that the success of persuasion comes from the intended audience having some knowledge of who Mortica Addams is and what she’s about, however, I believe the real success derives from the intended audiences knowing what it means to feel pleased with either their own actions or in response to those of another.

The use of humor in the example derivatives is definitely a key component to their success. However, they’re also successful because of the rhetors use of pathos: “. . . the speaker must present causes for emotion . . . to arouse, intensify, or change the audience’s emotion” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 46). Although I have said that Morticia’s expression can infer satisfaction, appreciation and flirtation, they are not the only emotions that come into play. For example, in the derivative “Morticia and Psychos,” the rhetor may be trying to arouse hope in their intended audience—just find someone who knows you’re psycho and likes you in spite of it—the speaker could also cause change in emotion such as, don’t give up or stay positive. There is another emotion, one that the rhetor aroused in me, and that’s derision--so--well done, rhetor. Logos is also apparent in the example derivatives. This is “the reasoning itself . . . it is the unspoken relationships between the speakers’ statements and the conclusions they encourage the audience to draw” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 47). To illustrate, if I share the “Morticia, Coffee, and Witchcraft” meme on my Instagram, it’s because I want my intended audience to draw the conclusion that my coffee drinking style can wake the dead—and that I’m quite possibly a witch who knows exactly what it takes to wake them.

Although the primary way these derivatives persuade is through humor, not all will find them humorous. Aside from the obvious, who won’t find the content relatable—non-lovers of black coffee and witchcraft, horror films and chill—consider also the individuals on the receiving end of these derivatives (the ostensible addressees)—Bitchy Barbie squad, Harvey Weinstien—they most certainly will not find these derivatives humorous and worthy of sharing. The commonality in the example derivatives' arguments is finding satisfaction within an action. Whether that action is being witnessed or initiated, the end result is a pleasurable one. Three things enable these memes to spread and vary: Creation and reception mainly revolve around an understanding of the character of Morticia Addams, an appreciation of black/dark comedy, and the original image is definable and interchangeable, thus relatable, shareable, and, most importantly, successful.


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