Last year I was happy as hell when I downloaded a free meme app on my iPhone.  I was even happier when I saw that it was easy to use.  My mind raced as I thought about the countless images I could appropriate to my own ends (which usually meant a movie scene and a snippet of dialogue to go with it).

We’ve all seen the countless cat memes, and I do still love them (like the one with the ‘eated cookie’ – love it!), but now I could make my own, my own memes that nobody had seen or even thought of before.  I got the idea to do shots from my favorite movies, with the pictured actor’s dialogue.
“Aliens” leaped to my mind – not only one of my favorite movies but also the fave of several of my family members.  I would make some memes and send them along to impress.  My own memes.  For them.

The first ones I sent were of the “look what I can do!” variety.  My sister and my sister-in-law loved them and asked me how I made them.  I did “Why don’t we put her in charge?!” and “Express elevator to hell, going down!”  Those were some of the more popular lines from the movie, and frankly they are probably floating around on the interwebs, and though crafted by others, I don’t believe they were as well-crafted as mine.  Because they weren’t mine.  And like all meme-generators, we best get high on our own supply.aliens

Then with each successive meme release the reactions were shorter, a little distracted.  “Aliens Fatigue” was setting in.  So I decided to make “Aliens” memes with little known snippets of dialogue, like “Here, here and here,” and “Burke!”  These earned amused glances but I could smell the coffee, “Aliens” memes were over.  I had saturated my small market with 57 memes in a day and a half.  It was time to move on.

Though others were not quite as delighted, I never lost the excitement of meme production, so I started doing movies that I really liked, like “Do the Right Thing.”  I had “M-m-m-Martin, M-m-m-Malcolm” and “Get it? Got it? Good.” There were other ones that I got, that I vibed with.  If I felt someone was worthy I would pass it along.  If “Aliens” were my major label releases then “DTRT” was my Twin-Tone Records, a cultivated collection for the secret meme gormandizer.


A couple of ‘ooh-ahhs;’ then nobody (meaning my buddy Joe) cared.  I, however, had loved my 112th meme as much as I loved my 1st.  I wondered why drinking was never like that for me (though not for lack of trying).  I was putting words on a picture, why didn’t anybody get how cool that was?  We couldn’t do this in the 70’s.

So then I turned to movies that I didn’t even like that much, so I could show the sendee that I didn’t think it was a big deal either.  Well, it was so “not a big deal’ that I never sent any of them out.  I knew nobody would care.  I didn’t want to blow my future in the meme-iverse by getting a bad, or god forbid, boring rap.

I mean, I like "The Misfits" but.....

I mean, I like “The Misfits” but…..

I tried my hand at bands and their famous lyrics but that was a non-starter.  It was a cliché before it even began.  Nothing would be worse than a cliché.  I thought about people I knew, I realized and then decided I could elevate their status (however fleetingly – as meme half-lives are short) with a slick production from my meme-chine (like ma-chine, [yeah, that one didn’t really work]).  I realized years ago that I remember people by their repeated words and gestures; I would kind of fire them back at them as a way of honoring them, letting them know I noticed them.

As a kid I knew it could be pretty annoying, parroting others, but as an adult I realized….it was still pretty annoying.  But with the right tools this knack of mine could be put to use.

I decided to release a batch dedicated to my coworkers; there was Oumar and Alicia and Chaqevia and several others.  Everyone is meme-worthy, and generally they were delighted to see that I had noticed something that they’d often said and “immortalized” it.  But then I noticed something interesting, ver-r-r-y interesting (as Arte Johnson might say).

It started harmless enough

It started harmless enough

They would laugh and thank me, but then it came to pass that I would rarely, if ever, hear them say that thing depicted in the meme again. I know, because I observe things like that.  It’s as if they hadn’t noticed how repetitive they were and they had actually been ashamed.  I mean, how could someone not notice that they say “like” 43 times in a six minute span?  Oh wait, they’re Americans.

Shaming was the opposite result of my intentions.  I wanted to elevate, not break down.  I had shamed people (however inadvertently) for their clichés.  I had “clichémed” them.  This was terrible. Well, it was terribly funny.  Because I had this dawning realization that memes could be used for social engineering purposes, and like Arte Johnson’s Nazi, I could get used to social engineering!  As long as it’s, you know, more of the Werner Klemperer variety than the Joseph Goebbels.  Just to make that clear.

Would it not be great to deliver a meme to somebody and make them stop saying “Actually.”?  It can happen.  How about people who repeat the same dumb song lyrics over and over?  Just sneak up to them, take a picture, meme it, and serve it to them hot!  Boom!  I have stopped, in about six different people, embedded personal clichés dead in their tracks.  I have altered their behavior, maybe forever.  Memes are not just little amusing pep pills of “oh you like that too!” community.  They can be used to make people…….better, for want of a better word; and who wouldn’t want that?

Just try to use sparingly.

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