Maritime metaphors have always been part of the way we express ourselves about the internet. They are hardly used anymore, but verbs like “surf” or “surf” were used for a long time to explain our use of the Internet. Despite this disuse, it is fair to maintain the idea that the internet is like an ocean: it is not infinite but as if it were, it is full of all kinds of creatures and in it coexist binomials such as light and darkness, surface and depth, tenderness and violence.
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Precisely for this reason, any attempt to make a list of “the memes that explain the year 2021” would be as clumsy as wanting to classify the sea in a seven-minute reading. And at the same time, the only way for someone to propose an alternative path is to show one of the possible ones. So after this notice to sailors, here we go. Some of the viral incidents and memes that explain what happened in 2021:
The month of January was plagued with memetic incidents. The first of these was the assault on the United States Capitol promoted by Trump supporters who did not accept his electoral defeat. Dolors Boatella, one of the best digital chroniclers of our time, decided to do this crossover mixing another incident of antidemocratic insurrection: our 81 Tejero dressed in a fur hat and the flag of Spain painted on his face. A graphic nod to one of the protagonists of the assault on the Capitol: Jake Angeli, a young right-wing actor who entered dressed as a warrior sioux.
There are times when it seems that “if it snows in Madrid, it snows in Spain.” The concentration of media in the capital produces this phenomenon of media centralism. With Filomena it was not an exaggeration. Many people had a hard time and there were moments of panic as the city was not prepared for such a lot of cold, snow and ice. Fortunately, the solidarity of the citizens stood up to adversity. And the nets served as a balm of humor, producing thousands of memes, documenting how the Spanish confront the Russians generating unlikely situations surrounded by cold, or photomontages in which it seemed that the city council had awarded a contract to a specialized snow removal company known as Vader and Sons…
What will the memes look like from the future? Thinking about them from the past is already implausible. If we could just take a time machine, travel back to 1994 and tell someone I just saw in the movies Risky lies that 27 years later, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to post a message saying: “This wins Internet” in which he publishes another in which the film’s co-star, Jamie Lee Curtis, dances half-naked for Bernie Sanders, who is dressed in an austere but efficient coat, wearing a mask and wearing monkeys’ gloves. Que?
Memes are complex communication devices and analyzing them in isolation is complicated. At the end of January and for a good part of February, the Democratic senator became the protagonist of a wave of memes produced by the way he was dressed and his attitude during the inauguration ceremony as president of the one who won the primaries of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden. The austerity of his attire was explained by BuzzFeed News, which reported that Sanders received the gloves from Jen Ellis, a high school teacher from Vermont, the senator’s hometown. She said she sent them to her after Sanders lost the Democratic presidential election in 2016. Ellis specified on Twitter that the gloves were made of reused wool and lined with fleece.
Interestingly, most memes extol Sanders’s attitude, not the other way around. In the article Bernie Sanders, The Internet Loves You There is a selection of memes from the New York Times, but there are millions. And if you get tired, take a jump by the memes born from the aerobics teacher who accidentally recorded the coup in Burma or by the meme of “Parliament of Andorra“, other of the hits of the winter.
2021 was the year of vaccination. At least for wealthy countries. In December 2020 Araceli was the protagonist of thousands of memes to celebrate the first woman vaccinated in Spain. Throughout 2021, what was memetic was the repetition of images in which the people who were vaccinated celebrate it by sharing the moment in networks. One of the most iconic was without a doubt that of Dolly Parton, the 75-year-old American singer was vaccinated with a first dose of Moderna, which she helped finance with a donation of one million dollars. Parton was vaccinated at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where the vaccine was investigated. In the video you can hear how he covers his famous song Jolene and he adapts it to sing about the vaccine: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I beg you, please, don’t hesitate.”
The rise in the price of electricity has not stopped causing displeasure to the public. And along with the dislikes, jokes of all kinds have been made, many of them in the form of a meme. Besides Carol Anne in Poltergeist being forced to pay a pasture to run into the light, we were also able to see Gandalf changing his arrival time to the revolution to fight Sauron Electric Company, or Jack and Rose’s iconic sea scene in Titanic rewritten In the key of “it’s 3 in the morning and I’m going to iron, can I have the board?”. It is also not advisable to jump into hyperspace if it is not early morning. In short, Spain is a country with many defects, but doing group therapy through humor is not one of them. Rather the opposite. And if not, we just have to remember how one of the most terrible incidents in our recent history, the terrorist attack in Barcelona, was translated into a trail of memes after the threats of the Islamic State through a video starring a well-known yidahist as “El cordobés”.
Sometimes what goes viral is rabies. That was the case of the demonstrations following the homophobic murder of Samuel Luiz. More than a hundred concentrations in Spain and dozens in other countries, in addition to #JusticeforSamuel Y #XustizaparaSamuel, two hashtags that served as the common thread of the call on Twitter.
Unfortunately, LGTBphobia continues to harm those who live under non-normative identities. A study by UGT Guadalajara showed that “57.8% of LGTBI people have suffered derogatory comments or insults in their work environment.” At the same time, LGTBI communities are increasingly broad in networks, they generate spaces for mutual support or even narratives that subvert the hatred that is spilled towards them. As happened with Gaysper, the born meme cute-activist from a failed Vox meme.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma has captured much of the media attention after the summer in our country. Like any media storm, the content multiplies and again, despite the fear, humor emerges. Thus, @SuperFalete condensed into a meme featuring several dinosaurs about to be extinguished by the impact of a meteorite, two of the great moments that happened in the first days: the man who was heard saying in a home video just as the volcano began to erupt a few kilometers away: “There is time to eat without problem“The other expression was borrowed from Fátima Plata, a Canarian journalist who after more than four hours covering the possible eruption He told a colleague of his that he was going to the bathroom… not knowing that I had the microphone open and was still broadcasting. What the eruption of the volcano has made clear is that Spain is a country of humorists and opinionologists. As suggested by a meme that used the mythical Harold to say: “I’m tired of being an expert on Afghanistan, now I’m a volcanologist“.
Indeed, every electoral process is a trail of memes. The victory of Gabriel Boric, the 35-year-old young Chilean politician, changes the future of a country and makes the conservative political option, represented by José Antonio Kast, have to slowly regress and occupy a less visible space in politics. Boric’s victory is preceded by many chain events that prove that the functioning of contemporary politics is memetic: the students who snuck into the subway and they started protests that ended up being massive, A rapist in your way from the LasTesis Collective, a song that went viral all over the world, a surreal ranchera danced by various animals in support of Boric’s candidacy or a meme-shirt starring Pedro Pascal (protagonist of the series The Mandalorian) are some of the media content that have promoted the new Chilean president.
And there have been many more. Those caused by the man who was supposedly in a coma for 35 years (not in the end), the memes of “Evil be like“, the memes of the sad side and happy side of the bus, the memes of Agatha Harkness wink from Scarlet Witch and Vision, Pepe the Frog turned into a far-right meme, a meme of a dog turned into cryptocurrency, an old meme turned into a corrupt mayor, a festival of memes (the Memefest), many memes and virals on TikTok (one way to get started is to enter this vast category is through the careful selection that Estela Ortiz makes periodically in your instagram highlights), a memes strike against Ayuso and … cats.
On the internet there have always been and will always be cats. Memes and cats are almost synonymous. In fact, the year began with a lawyer who was unable to remove the cat filter on a video call while clarifying “I am not a cat” and ended with a girl who was supposedly nursing a cat very rare eyes on an airplane. In this case, one of the two stories is fabricated. But they were both memetic. As it will happen again in 2022, where we will see what are the incidents that mark our lives and what harvest of memes are generated around them and what they say about our society … Or what is the same, the anthropology of the future will! has crude!