I have been reading about internet memes and how and why derivative and satirical works get spread on the internet in preparation for a panel I am going to be on at CONvergence/SkepchickCon next week. It is an interesting topic I had never thought that deeply about. I am not looking at the comparison of memes to actual genetics as Dawkins might, but more at how and why certain ideas get copied, mimicked and spread in our culture and why people just like you and me are inclined to enter into the discussion via spreading our own derivative work.
Often times a piece of art or a youtube video or other bit of information spreads because it is originally introduced by an average person and then other average people feel welcome to enter into the (often) online conversation because they feel they are on the same level as the presenter of the original bit of information. In other words, we are more likely to copy or make fun of something that we feel is either on our level within our perceived peer group, or we feel superior to it. So you are more likely to create a derivative YouTube video of just some guy dancing in his underpants than you are of Michael Jackson dancing on a professionally run sound-stage. In part, this is because amateur production with webcams and at home set design is usually much easier to copy than professional productions. This of course isn’t always the case, as some professional products and productions lend themselves to mimicking and mockery (See sweded.) But in general, if the guy down the block can record it or make it in his bedroom, you probably can too and this leads to a higher number of derivative works and therefor a wider conversation and spreading of information started from one single event in the online community. Another interesting fact is that online memes are more likely to spread if they are funny or have some essence of humor that is based on gender traits such as flawed masculinity or if it evokes some other sense of superiority in the viewer.
So why do I bring this up? Probably because I have been reading about the topic and as someone with an interest in spreading information I have also stumbled upon an interesting couple of questions that relate to this blog specifically.
Many of the writers on this blog speak out for equal rights, feminism, atheism (and other hot-button topics) and in doing so open themselves up to various forms of critique and in many cases, outright harassment. Many of us have been parodied, satirized and mocked. Much of it has been downright vicious and from my view, totally uninspired, lazy and unfunny. Yet I am completely and totally amused with the satirical work of writer Mike Booth and actor Jeremiah McDonald with their “Dan Cardamon” YouTube series. It is a satire of the Men’s Rights Movement within atheism. Here is Mike and Jeremiah’s latest video:
I love this project. It takes the anger, arrogance, disregard for facts and apparent lack of self-awareness of the MRA movement and packages it as a funny and witty media project. Plus, the acting, writing and production is (in my opinion) really well done. It’s not lazy, yet has the appearance of just being an average Vlog that any average person could engage with. It is entertaining and accessible.
But why is it so funny to me when I find most other parodies on this issue terrible? Is it because it points out that these are just average, flawed humans that we can easily respond to in our own bedrooms with a cheap webcam? Is it funny to me because it makes me feel superior? Is it funny because Mike and Jeremiah have managed to make professionally produced videos that are satire yet they don’t outright insult or hurt anyone? Is it just funny because I feel like I am in on the joke?
What do you guys think? What makes good satire? What makes an internet meme primed for derivative work or parody and why do I love Dan Cardamon so much?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.
*featured image from the Dan Cardamon video linked above.