The Most Important Memes of Our Lifetime

New York Magazine‘s critics on what the 2012 campaign has done to Internet humor:

Barack Obama has been called “the first meme president” and certainly this has been a meme-filled election. But for all the analysis of whether reducing campaign events to viral online humor is good or bad for democracy (consensus: bad), less has been said about what politics is doing to a once-uncorrupted comedic device. Scott Brown, New York Magazine theater critic and occasional composer of funny songs, takes up that question with Daily Intel’s Dan Amira, Vulture’s Amanda Dobbins, and the Cut’s Maureen O’Connor.

Scott Brown: When Obama uttered his “horses and bayonets” zinger in the third debate, we all pre­visualized the blizzard of memes it would set off—it felt that rote. Have presidential sloganeering and campaign gaffes fatally infected the great American free-range meme? Is any of this crap even funny anymore?

Amanda Dobbins: Sure, memes can still be funny. Within minutes of the “horses and bayonets” comment, I saw multiple jokes about a “horse_ebayonets” Twitter account, and I chuckled … though those were admittedly meta-jokes about the Internet’s collective inclination to turn every debate quip into a parody account. Maybe it’s just the way we meme now—the one-note, who-can-get-there-first comedy—that’s become exhausting.

Dan Amira: The genuinely funny memes are getting increasingly difficult to find beneath the avalanche of slapdash, low-quality efforts. Most of the Tumblrs and parody Twitter accounts that appeared instantaneously on debate night don’t offer anything approaching a clever, consistent take. A running list of photos, GIFs, and videos somehow relating to horses and/or bayonets is not exactly comedy gold.

A.D.: I’d also argue that our standards are higher in this election. Remember the remix of Howard Dean yelping in Iowa? Kind of unwatchable now, but it was all we had in 2004. Now we know that it’s possible, even easy, to Auto-Tune Obama’s speeches so that he’s singing “Call Me Maybe,” and we expect more sophistication from what has always been a pretty basic comedy formula…

[continues at New York Magazine]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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5 Comments on "The Most Important Memes of Our Lifetime"

  1. Calypso_1 | Oct 29, 2012 at 9:29 am |

    The fellow on the right in the photo must have some awesome chi.

    • Matt Staggs | Oct 29, 2012 at 10:03 am |

      Yeah, he’s like the “Neo” of the early 20th century Matrix.

    • Bayonet boy: Do not try and bend the bayonette. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.

      Neo: What truth?
      Bayonet boy: There is no bayonette.

      Neo: There is no bayonette?
      Bayonette boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the Bayonette that bends, it is only yourself.

      Neo: OW, Holy shit you just stabbed me in the chest!
      Bayonet Boy: Whoops…sorry, my bad.

      • Calypso_1 | Oct 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

        I’ve always wondered how readily an ‘iron shirt master’ would swap out a 4 gauge sheet metal ‘sword’ for a 1/4″ of high carbon steel.

  2. This meme of Obama had me curled over in a fit of laughter when I first saw it. It’s just pure gold…

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