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KRISH ASHOK
TECHNO BABEL

Krish Ashok is a blogger, humourist, techie, columnist, liitle bit violin player, lot of fool-player.

The Image Macro: Exploding Myths & Crashing Stereotypes

n Image macro is a kind of Internet meme. If you don't understand what a meme is, think of it as a fashion trend on the Internet, except replace dresses with pictures or videos with captions/subtitles on them. I'm simplifying, but as an analogy it works quite well. When is something in fashion? When several people sport clothes broadly along a certain theme. If ridiculous hats with flowers and fruits on top of them was in fashion, then you'd find people sporting hats with different kinds of flowers and fruit on their heads. It wouldn't all be the same exact fruit or flower combination that the originator of the fashion trend used. In an abstract sense, a meme is an idea or theme that kindles the creativity of many people to embrace and adapt. Let me give you an example

There is a meme called "Successful Black Man". It features the picture of a suave, handsome African American man in a suit. The picture by itself is making a statement by portraying an anti-stereotype. It's commonplace to assume that black people come only dressed in either hip-hop bling with gold and silver dental fillings and braces while wearing garments that were clearly designed keeping a larger herbivorous mammal in mind. The other dress code is, of course, prison overalls, because 1 in 9 adult black men in the US is in prison (it's true, go check it up). So when you have the picture of "successful", in terms of success as is normally defined by white people (because hip hop impresarios tend to swim in pools filled entirely with dollar bills) it becomes an anti-stereotype. Black people, in short, are not expected to become successful in the way white people become successful, so the picture of a black man in a suit is already cognitively dissonant to most average Americans.

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The top caption croons at you seductively like a mermaid on the deserted isle of bigotry, pulls you in, and then punches you in the face and shows your own ugly direction of thought in a mirror.

ow what the meme does is take this picture and use it to kindle the captioning creativity of the Internet populace in general and take precise potshots at these stereotypes in a uniquely humorous manner. A typical Successful Black Man meme has two captions, one on top of the image and one towards the bottom. Though they are separated this way, they are supposed to read as a single sentence. Let me give you an example: The top caption reads "I AM GOING TO BEAT MY WIFE AND KIDS". So you are already lulled into the standard stereotype of a drunk/addict black husband who revels in domestic violence. Then the bottom caption punches you in the face with the words "AT MONOPOLY". Simple. The top caption croons at you seductively like a mermaid on the deserted isle of bigotry, pulls you in, and then punches you in the face and shows your own ugly direction of thought in a mirror.

Some more examples. Top caption: "I made my name on the street". You assume: drug dealer. Bottom caption: "WALL STREET". Top caption: "I love Cocaine". Bottom caption: "By Eric Clapton". Top caption: "Lets all get high". Bottom caption: "grades in our exams". You now get the drift. It's addictive. Think about it for a few seconds and you can come up with an example and submit it to the interwebz and be part of the meme.

So last week a good friend of mine, Tony Sebastian, started an Indian version of this, except this one was called "Empowered Indian Woman". Since you understand the overall concept of this meme, you know what to expect. Top Caption: "A woman must always cover her head". Bottom caption: "With a helmet while driving". Top caption: "I was always asked to keep my head down". Bottom caption: "While playing a cover drive". It's addictive and it's already gathered several submissions. I don't think memes will change society but they do a great job of reminding us of our own biases.

 
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