Capstone Project Proposal in Electronic Rhetoric | Christine Belgarde

Project

Analyzing the rhetorical effectiveness of memes shared on various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.

Objective

To determine the rhetorical success and effectiveness of 4 different sets of artifacts through an examination of each derivative, followed by a rhetorical analysis of each set. To further aid in my research, I will be referencing the texts Rhetorical Analysis: A Brief Guide for Writers and Memes in Digital Culture.

Project Design

I propose to pick up where I left off in my analysis of Rhetorical Success in Memes, as assigned in the E-Rhetoric course, through a series of weekly blog posts on different sets of artifacts.

  • Rhetorical Success in Memes artifacts
    • Work with Halloween/horror-themed memes (4 sets in total)
  • Methods of Rhetorical Analyses
    • Use templates and/or prompts from Success in Memes assignment to format my analyses.
  • Project Format
    • Create a new parent page (The Rhetorical Effectiveness of Memes) on my existing 13 Days of Halloween blog from which to publish my scheduled posts.

Project timeline

  • Weekly postings will be published by midnight every Sunday and a link will be emailed to you/instructor at the time of publication.
    • Week One—Collecting Memes
    • Week Two—Rhetorical Analysis
    • Week Three—Collecting Memes
    • Week Four—Rhetorical Analysis
    • Week Five—Collecting Memes
    • Week Six—Rhetorical Analysis
    • Week Seven—Collecting Memes
    • Week Eight—Rhetorical Analysis
  • Time allotted to write final paper (if needed)

Project References

Longaker, M.G. & Walker, J. (2010). Rhetorical Analysis: A Brief Guide for Writers. Pearson, 1st ed. Chaps 1-3.

Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chaps 1-6.

 


Rhetorical Success in Memes

(Elements of E-Rhetoric)

Morticia Addams Meme

 (image: https://i1.wp.com/www.addamsfamily.com/addams/anj02.jpg)

Description

  • The origination of this image comes from the film adaption of The Addams Family. The film came out in 1991 and was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. It was written by Charles Addams (characters), Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson; Anjelica Houston is Morticia Addams. The screenshot for the meme image is found a little more than 6 minutes (6:21) into the movie. Morticia is on the roof with Gomez watching him hit golf balls while sipping her morning coffee/tea. The facial expression for which the memes derive from is one of satisfaction and appreciation as she watches Gomez send a golf ball flying with a solid swing of the club. The following video shows the movie clip where the image was captured: The Addams Family Golf Scene

Notes on content

  • The example memes chosen are not things Morticia says in the movie, nor are they based on scenes from the movie.
  • The example memes all derive from Morticia’s facial expression in this particular image, which is satisfied and appreciative.
  • Because Morticia is sipping what we assume to be coffee or tea while giving a sidelong glance of satisfaction and appreciation, sometimes the image macros will be about coffee or tea.
  • Because the character Morticia is described by her creator, Charles Addams, as being a witch, the image macros will occasionally group coffee and witchcraft in the same meme.

Notes on form

  • Screenshot from a movie clip.
  • Can be found in non-animated form or gif form, but for the purpose of this assignment, I chose examples of non-animated form.
  • Since the character of Morticia Addams originated in cartoon form, the original image and example memes would be considered a live-action form, as brought to life by the actress Anjelica Houston.
  • Morticia Addams is an iconic character thus identifiable to many, and relatable to some.
  • Genres: Gothic, Black comedy, fantasy, horror

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • Morticia, giving a sidelong glance of appreciation to Gomez, while holding a cup and saucer. She’s looking quite satisfied.
  • Keying
    • Pleased: Morticia’s expression in the screenshot is a sidelong glance of appreciation. She looks on in satisfaction while sipping a cup of coffee/tea.
    • Tone: funny–dark humor.
    • Style: descriptive.
    • Register: teen to adult, amateur
  • Communication function
    • Emotive: The example memes exist because of the look on Morticia’s face in the original image.

Memeticness

This is the original image; there are no variations–yet.

Specify the kind of variation

  • none

Memetic features

  • original image
  • isolated screenshot taken from the movie The Addams Family
  • The creative potential for this image originates from the expression on Morticia’s face as she raises a cup of coffee/tea/hemlock to drink.
  • Isolated screenshot is simple. “Simplicity is an important attribute contributing to the creation of user-generated versions of the meme.”

Genre

  • Gothic fiction
  • Black comedy
  • Horror

 

Morticia and Karma

 (image: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bw0Qc9TCUAAeiWD.jpg:large)

Description

  • Single use of image.
  • Text is added using a simple white font.
  • Unsure as to whether this is the original image macro, however it is the most generated.
  • Does not necessarily connect or relate to other derivations other than text style and font color.

Notes on content

  • Original image now includes text: “That moment when you witness karma in its full, glorious splendor.” It is not clear if Morticia is speaking or if it’s simply an observation. For people who believe in karmic justice, this meme is identifiable/relatable.

Notes on form

  • This meme was made at an online meme generator, as shown in the lower, right corner of the meme. Meme Generator claims to be the first online meme generator.
  • An original (or duplicated) image is uploaded, text is added (there are no limitations), and then one can send & share.
  • Much like a Wiki page, a meme can be changed countless times by anyone who has access to the image and a meme generator.
  • Text is placed on image so as to not obscure Morticia’s facial expression (the inspiration for the captions added). Genre: humor, communication.

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • The participants of the creation and distribution of this meme are more than likely fans of Morticia Addams and believe in Karma or believe Karmic justice has been served to an individual they most likely feel wronged them in some way.
  • Keying
    • Tone: amused, mocking
    • Style: descriptive
    • Register: Teen to adult, amateur, Relatable and inclusive to anyone who is familiar with the character of Morticia Addams and the rules of Karma.
  • Communication function
    • metalingual: used to establish mutual agreement–paybacks are a bitch, emotive: oriented toward the addresser and his or her emotions–satisfaction, amused

Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia’s expression can be interpreted as smug satisfaction and directed toward the person/s receiving the karmic smackdown. This inference is successful because of the added text.

Specify the kind of variation

This is a remake of the original image. By including text at the top and bottom of the macro image the creator of the meme sets it up (top text) and delivers the zinger (bottom text). The action is a karmic smackdown. The subject is the one receiving the karmic smackdown. And the end result is the shared satisfaction by the creator, distributor, and viewer of having witnessed said karmic smackdown.

Memetic features

  • Whimsical: This 1991 version of Morticia Addams is definitely a part of our pop culture. She is iconic. Therefore, the majority are familiar with her dark humor and participation in black comedy.
  • Superiority: I defend this by pointing out that the creator/viewer/sharer is not displaying a superiority over Morticia, for she is not the subject. The subject is the receiver of the karmic smackdown and the satisfaction the creator/viewer/sharer experience, as a result, can be described as a one-upmanship, thus superior.
  • Positive humor: Really, this image macro can only work as a positive humor if experienced from the observer’s stance and not the receiver’s. But really, isn’t that what karma’s all about, “us” enjoying when it happens to “them” and not vice versa?
  • Simplicity: this derivative is a remake of the original image by simply adding text. Both the character of Morticia and the concept of karma are widely known, thus this meme is relatable and shareable.

Genre

  • I don’t feel like this macro image fits any of Shifman’s 9 genre choices. I thought maybe “stock character macros”, however, I feel like this is specifically describing photo stock images. But the original image being used for this derivative is a screenshot of a character in a movie. The only way I would be willing to put this macro image in the stock character category is if I’m referring to the original image as a stock macro on a meme-generating website.
  • Other potential genres: humor and melodrama

 

Morticia, Coffe, and Witchcraft

 (image: https://pics.me.me/i-like-my-coffee-the-sameway-ilike-my-witchcraft-dark-17669337.png)

Description

  • Single use of image.
  • Text is added using a simple white font.
  • Does not necessarily connect or relate to other derivations other than text style and font color.

Notes on content

  • Original image includes text that, although doesn’t mimic previous meme’s caption, duplicates text style and font color. Caption reads: “I like my coffee the same way I like my witchcraft . . . dark, bold, and powerful enough to conjure spirits.” In this derivative, Morticia is the speaker. For people who love drinking coffee and feel it is a ritualistic experience, this meme is identifiable/relatable.

Notes on form

  • This meme was made at an online meme generator (memes.com), as shown in the lower, right corner of the meme.
  • Memes.com works the same way as Meme Generator: An original (or duplicated) image is uploaded, text is added (there are no limitations), and then one can send & share.
  • Text is placed on image so as to not obscure Morticia’s facial expression (the inspiration for the captions added). Genre: Gothic, humor, communication.

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • The creators and distributors of this meme are more than fans of Morticia Addams. They are also people who really love their coffee. People who really love their coffee are usually of the mindset “the stronger the better” or “the darker the blend the better”, and if you have a dark sense of humor to go along with it, you create/share a meme such as this.
  • Keying
    • Tone: farcical, dark humor
    • Style: descriptive–Morticia (and the people that share this meme) describe how they like their coffee . . . and their witchcraft
    • Register: teen to adult, amateur
  • Communication function
    • referential: communication, which is oriented toward the context, or the “outside world”–Morticia is communicating how she likes her coffee, in turn, anyone who shares this meme, is communicating the same thing. “I” becomes “all”, all who like their coffee strong af.

Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia’s expression can be interpreted as not only satisfied but knowing–as in–the caption is an inside joke that can only be truly appreciated and understood by a specific audience.

Specify the kind of variation

  • This is a remake of the original image. Once again, by including text at the top and bottom of the macro image the creator of the meme sets it up (top text) and delivers the zinger (bottom text). The relatability of this derivative isn’t in the majority practicing witchcraft, but rather it’s found in the majority loving their coffee–in a major way. I believe this image macro casts even a wider net than just coffee lovers and people who have a “dark side”. The caption is a play on words mimicking a memorable line from the 1980 movie parody, Airplane: “I take it black, like my men!” This, of course, has also inspired entire lists in which to fill in the blank: “I like my coffee like my men, _.” Therefore, I think this derivative could also be categorized as an imitation.

Memetic features

  • Whimsical: As mentioned before, this 1991 version of Morticia Addams is definitely a part of our pop culture. She is iconic. Therefore, the majority are familiar with her dark humor and participation in black comedy. And in this case, also as a practicing witch.
  • Simplicity: this derivative is a remake of the original image by simply adding text. Anyone who is a fan of Morticia and/or coffee understand that it goes deeper than that–it’s a cult following. This knowledge and appreciation make this meme relatable and shareable.
  • Incongruous humor: I hesitated with this choice. So, let’s unpack my reason for choosing this as its form of humor. Shifman says that “comedy derives from an unexpected cognitive encounter between two incongruent elements. If I go off of Shifman’s explanation of the incongruity theory of humor alone then I believe that black coffee and witchcraft are 2 incongruent elements that, when brought together, are definitely an unexpected cognitive encounter. However, if I’m explaining the humor as relatable to creator/viewer/sharer than I would have to lean more toward congruous humor instead. Congruous, of course being the opposite of incongruous, means “agreement or harmony”. The majority who find this macro image relatable are in agreement that black coffee should be dark, bold, and powerful–congruous. Imagining black coffee strong enough to conjure spirits as with witchcraft is humorous.

Genre

  • Again I would point out and argue that I don’t feel like this macro image fits any of Shifman’s 9 genre choices. I thought maybe “stock character macros”, however, I feel like this is specifically describing photo stock images. But the original image being used for this derivative is a screenshot of a character in a movie. The only way I would be willing to put this macro image in the stock character category is if I’m referring to the original image as a stock macro on a meme-generating website.
  • Other considered genres: gothic, humor, communication

 

Morticia and Psychos

 (image: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/9b/e7/c1/9be7c112f6aca2977f111a3c9f6a1191--addams-family-morticia-addams-family-quotes.jpg)

Description

  • Here, we have amateur hour in the land of meme-making and sharing. Yes, this meme includes the original image, and yes, it has a watermark. However, this particular watermark lays claim to this artifact in a way that would suggest that they don’t want anyone replicating their caption and/or creation. When, essentially, all a person would have to do is take the original image to a meme-generating site, and slap the same caption on it, sans watermark and hideous pink border. In fact, I’ve seen this very meme without them.

Notes on content

  • Original image includes text that duplicates text style and font color of other derivations. However, this one adds a garish pink and white polka-dot border with a matching watermark in scripted font. Caption reads: “All you really need is someone who sees the psycho you are . . . and likes you anyway.” In this derivative, the speaker is unknown. As for ideologies–I’m uncertain–psychos need love too or find someone as crazy as you are, to have a successful relationship–it’s unclear to me. The image does not match the caption and the distraction of the border and watermark, I feel, makes it difficult for others to identify with and/or relate to. The creator should have used Debbie Jellinsky’s image instead of Morticia Addams’s.

Notes on form

  • I believe the artifact was constructed in one of 2 ways: original image was uploaded to a meme generator (signature font tells us as much) and then it was uploaded to some other type of editing software to erroneously add the pink border and watermark, or image and caption already existed and was then uploaded to an editing program and altered to claim ownership (the pink watermark). Genre? Absurdist.

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • According to the watermark, The Queen of Sass is the creator and distributor of this meme, and in a very hit and miss manner. Other’s who may be participating in the distribution of this meme could possibly be people who have been told (in past failed relationships) that they’re psychotic and not what they’re looking for in a relationship. Or maybe people who simply want to find the Fester to their Dementia (or vice versa). If the latter, then those are the characters the meme creator should have used–not Morticia.
  • Keying
    • Tone: farcical, gullible
    • Style: informative, fantasy
    • Register: I guess adult, definitely amateur
  • Communication function
    • Conative: oriented toward the addressee and available paths of actions–orientated toward psychos, finding who sees you’re psychosis and likes you anyway
    • I refuse to acknowledge the possibility of metalingual (mutual agreement) or poetic (artistic)

Memeticness

In this derivative, the caption, paired up with the image of Morticia, implies that Morticia is a psycho thus her expression is being interpreted as the look of a mentally unstable person or “unhinged”. Annoyingly, the creator of the meme is not only misinterpreting Morticia’s expression but the embodiment of this character.

Specify the kind of variation

  • I’m calling this a remix. The bones of this derivative follow the same structure as the previous two examples: original image and the inclusion of a caption presented in white, box letter text. However, it also has an appalling pink and white border and a matching watermark. In this derivative, the relatability is not found in knowing who Morticia is and what she embodies, nor is it in the expression on her face fittingly matching the caption (because it doesn’t) so that the viewer/sharer arrive at the correct interpretation. No, the relatability is found in the caption and the belief that there’s hope in finding another who likes “them” in spite of the fact that “they’re” batshit crazy.

Memetic features

  • Flawed masculinity: Not so much in the way that Shifman (2014) examples it (“men featured . . . fail to meet prevalent expectations of masculinity either in appearance or behavior . . .”), but more as a presumption of the type of male that likes psychos. You know what, on second thought, I believe this type of male actually does fit Shifman’s example of flawed masculinity, both in appearance and behavior.
  • Incongruous humor: I chose this one because psychos looking for love is definitely an “unexpected cognitive encounter.”

Is there reason circulation of the meme has died? Yes, not only is the audience that might find this meme relatable or shareable too small, but the watermark kills this derivative stone dead.

Genre

  • Photoshop: Doesn’t exactly fit Shifman’s (2014) genre example of “reaction photoshop”, however, this macro image has clearly been altered with some sort of photo editing to include the border and watermark
  • Misheard lyrics: Again, I am not using Shifman’s (2014) genre example as intended. I’m using it to show that although the creator did not hear something correctly, he/she most certainly did not interpret her choice of character (the face of psycho) correctly. Big mistake–huge.
  • Other possible genres: Above, I mention absurdist. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to more thoroughly analyze this derivative–I irrevocably stand by it.

 

Morticia and Bitchy Barbies

 (image: https://i.pinimg.com/564x/7c/27/d8/7c27d8be52bd3e8886b60429c36f1a83.jpg)

Description

  • This artifact merges the original image of Morticia with an image of 3 Barbie girls with what can only be described as bitchy expressions–maybe displeasure.
  • Text is added using a simple white font with black border.
  • Unsure of origination.
  • Does not connect or relate to other derivations other than text style and font color; it is the only one of its kind that I came across.

Notes on content

  • The top image is of the 3 displeased Barbies and includes text that is a slight variation on the 2 previous artifacts, in font and color. Caption on top image reads: “You can’t sit with us.” In this first derivative, the 3 Barbies are the speaker.
  • The bottom macro image is Morticia (our origin image) with text identical to the top macro image. Caption reads: “I don’t fucking want to.” In this second derivative, Morticia is the speaker. The combination of looks being cast and captions presented, lead the audience to conclude that Morticia is responding to the Barbies girls. For anyone who has felt like an outcast, has ever pitted creepy girls against normal girls, this meme is identifiable/relatable.

Notes on form

  • Construction of artifact and software used is undetermined. Editing software was used to merge the 2 images into 1 while keeping the 2 original images unaltered: photo collage app (such as Pic Collage) or computer editing software (possibly, Photoshop) are 2 possibilities.
  • Text is placed on both images so as to not obscure the Barbie girls and Morticia’s facial expression (the inspiration for the captions added). Genre: drama, parody

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • Participants: Barbie girls, Morticia, and creator of artifact.
    • The macro image is a visual representation of the creator’s reaction to exclusion. The Barbie girls are representative of those that are “popular”, “in-crowd”, “norms”. Their expressions show annoyance and re-enforce the caption as being unwelcoming. Morticia is representative of those that are “unpopular”, “outcasts”, and “interesting”. In this instance, her expression can be interpreted as smug.
    • The distributors of this artifact are those who find Morticia’s reaction relatable and triumphant.
    • One possible manner in which it’s distributed would be to show self-acceptance in one’s individuality. Another would be what I like to call the “Hammer time” distribution–“can’t touch this”.
  • Keying
    • Tone: direct, acerbic
    • Style: narrative
    • Register: teen to adult, amateur
  • Communication function
    • emotive: oriented toward the addresser and his or her emotions–the creator of the image macro is expressing his or her feelings after being denied a place to sit by those that the creator obviously takes issue with on a grand scale.

 

Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia’s expression can be interpreted as disparaging. Only with the combination of images and captions, can the audience be guided to this conclusion.

Specify the kind of variation

  • This is a remix of the original image. Here, we have a split image. The top image is of 3 Barbies with catty expressions–representing the “cool/popular” kids. Then we have the original image of Morticia (albeit cup slightly higher)–representing the outcasts–directly below. Both frames have text in the common white, box lettering. The top frame is a combination of Barbie expressions and text that infers the Barbies are throwing some shade Morticia’s way. The bottom frame is a combination of Morticia’s expression and text that infers Morticia is deflecting the shade with some of her own. The fact that this derivative is delivering a popular kid smackdown is both relatable and shareable to any viewer/sharer who may have felt the sting of exclusion, and more than likely never had the guts to stand up to it the way Morticia is so satisfyingly.

Memetic features

  • Positive high arousal: Although this macro image may not elicit an “awa” or a “wow”, it does encourage a “hell yeah” thus having the potential to arouse the viewer/sharer emotionally and spur them into sharing the content.
  • Superiority: Shifman talks about people taking pleasure in scornfully imitating others to publicly display their own superiority, however, I don’t think that’s exactly what’s happening in this derivative. Here, the superior (Barbie’s/plastic people) become the inferior by those they perceive as being inferior (Morticia/unconventional).
  • Humor: I would consider this to be situational humor. This derivative is not using situational humor to address a political issue, but rather a social issue (societal stereotypes, exclusion).

Genre

  • Reaction photoshop: In this derivative, the original image (Morticia) has been photoshopped in with another macro image (Barbies) and she is having a reaction to what the Barbie’s are “saying”. I understand that I may be oversimplifying here, and possibly missing the mark altogether as per Shifman’s description of reaction photoshop, but I think it fits.
  • Other genres: Drama–it’s a good ole fashion cat fight.

Morticia and Chill

 (image: https://13daysofhalloween.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/c34d8-12545347_1234120799936335_310464234_n.jpg?w=376)

Description

  • Single use of image macro presents a black and white version of the original.
  • Black background has been changed to white.
  • Added is black and chosen font tells us this meme was not created using a standard meme generator.
  • Does not necessarily connect or relate to other derivations other than the use of original image, and even that’s been altered.

Notes on content

  • Slight variation of original image (cup is closer to Morticia’s mouth) and is now presented in black and white and includes text: “Horror films and chill?”. The choice to edit the image to black and white actually adds to the horror film feel. Morticia’s look can be interpreted as an appreciative, sidelong glance. The question, along with the interpretation of Morticia’s expression, implies that Morticia is asking the question. This meme is directed at people who are familiar with the saying, “Netflix and Chill” and enjoy horror films and–well–chilling.

Notes on form

  • Construction of artifact and software used is undetermined. However, judging by the editing done to image, my guess would be any editing app (such as Snapseed, maybe even Instagram) or computer editing software (possibly, Photoshop).
  • An original (or duplicated) image is uploaded and altered, text is added but does not mimic the original “Netflix and Chill” saying–nor does it need to.
  • Text is placed on image so as to not obscure Morticia’s facial expression (the inspiration for the caption added). Genre: Gothic, humor, communication.

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • The creator of the artifact enjoys the past time of watching horror movies and chilling, because of the latter, the creator obviously would like to watch horror movies with someone favorable thus increasing the chances of a potential hookup. By using humor and wit, the creator of the artifact can use it as a buffer to proposition anyone they’re “interested” in.
  • Keying
    • Tone: frank, playful
    • Style: persuasive
    • Register: teen to adult, amateur
  • Communication function
    • Conative: oriented toward the addressee and available paths of actions–the creator of the image macro is addressing a person of interest. The available paths of actions are watching horror movies and “chilling”.

Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia’s expression can be interpreted as flirtatious and as a “come hither” glance toward the individual she (and the sharer of the meme) wants to watch a horror movie with and, more importantly, “chill”. This is my favorite of the examples I’ve presented.

Specify the kind of variation

  • This macro image is an imitation of all the Netflix and Chill memes that saturate the internet, except here, the word Netflix has been replaced with “horror films”. I believe this is also a remix because the original image has been edited to a black and white, and in this variation, the cup is also closer to the mouth. This is not only relatable and shareable for fans of the horror film genre, but also for those that are fans of watching a movie that inevitably leads to “chilling.” Editing the original image to black and white with a dash of over-exposure was a nice touch because it now gives it a classic horror film vibe.

Memetic features

  • Simple Packaging: Shifman (2014) says, ” . . . when people understand something quickly and intuitively they are happy to forward it to others.” This derivative fits the description perfectly. You can’t throw a rock without hitting someone who is familiar with the phrase “Netflix and Chill.” That, along with the fact that a ton of people are fans of the horror genre, simply sweetens the viewer/sharer pot. Using an image of Morticia as the face for “horror films and chill”–that’s the cherry on the sundae.
  • Humor: Shifman (2014) says, “. . . people wish to amuse their friends and be associated with wittiness . . . it also augments the tendency to imitate and remake content.” By imitating and remaking the “Netflix and Chill” phrase, this derivative succeeds in being both amusing and witty.
  • Playfulness: I chose playfulness because simply by adding the caption “Horror Films and Chill”, Morticia’s expression infers flirtation. Viewers/sharers may find this appealing as an “icebreaker” or “come hither”.

Genre

  • Stock character macros: as I’ve mentioned previously.
  • Parody: “An imitation of style with deliberate exaggeration for comedic effect.” This derivative is imitating “Netflix and Chill” and Morticia’s inferred expression (including the raised cup to her lips) is the deliberate exaggeration for comedic effect.

 

Morticia and Karma 2.0

 (image: https://i2.wp.com/memeshappen.com/media/created/2017/10/Karma-just-took-a-meeting--With-Harvey-Weinstein-.jpg)

Description

  • Single use of image.
  • Text is added using a simple white font, associated with most meme generators.
  • Is connected/related to the most popular derivation: “That moment when you witness karma in its full, glorious splendor.”

Notes on content

  • This meme is a recreation of the karmic smackdown, and as such, remains not only identifiable/relatable for people who believe in karmic justice, but also to those who were victimized by their own personal version of Weinstein or not and simply believe the man and his actions are despicable.

Notes on form

  • This meme was created at an online meme generator site called Memes Happen (as shown in the lower, right corner of the meme.
  • I’ve determined this to be a duplicate of the original image because the image lacks sharp lines and clear colors; it’s muddled/pixelated. The text that has been added, however, has sharp lines and a crisp, white font. I did attempt to do a character search of Morticia on Memes Happen and nothing turned up, thus re-enforcing my guess that it was a poorly uploaded image.
  • Much like a Wiki page, a meme can be changed countless times by anyone who has access to the image and a meme generator. This derivative is a perfect example of this, as it’s a more recently done meme (Harvey Weinstein subject) and it is a recreation of the witnessing of karma in its glorious splendor macro image.
  • Text positioned on image is a typical meme generated format: first few words on top, second few words on bottom, as to not obscure Morticia’s facial expression (the inspiration for the captions added). Genre: humor, communication, political

Notes on stance

  • Participation structure
    • The participants responsible for the creation and distribution of this meme are, of course, fans of Morticia Addams and/or believe in Karma, but they are also people who are familiar with the Weinstein scandal and are pleased that a karmic smackdown has finally been served.
  • Keying
    • Tone: amused, mocking, vengeful
    • Style: descriptive
    • Register: Teen to adult, amateur, Relatable and inclusive to anyone who is familiar with Karmic law ( for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction–what goes around comes around) and the Weinstein scandal and applaud the movie mogul’s downfall via a staggering 83 accusers.
  • Communication function
    • metalingual: used to establish mutual agreement–paybacks are a bitch
    • emotive: oriented toward the addresser and his or her emotions–satisfaction, amused

Memeticness

In this derivative, Morticia’s expression can be interpreted as smug satisfaction and is directed toward Weinstein (the receiver of the karmic smackdown. This inference is successful because of the added text and the assumption that the audience knows why karma is meeting with Weinstein.

Specify the kind of variation

  • This is derivative is not only a remake of the original image, but it is also an imitation of the original karma meme. By including text at the top and bottom of the macro image the creator of the meme sets it up (top text) and delivers the zinger (bottom text). The action is a karmic smackdown. The subject is the one receiving the karmic smackdown–Weinstein. And the end result is the smug satisfaction shared by the creator, distributor, and viewer of having witnessed said karmic smackdown.

Memetic features

  • Whimsical: This 1991 version of Morticia Addams is definitely a part of our pop culture. She is iconic. Therefore, a large majority are familiar with her dark humor and participation of black comedy.
  • Superiority: As I defended in the first version of the karmic derivative, the creator/viewer/sharer is not displaying a superiority over Morticia–she is not the subject. The subject is the receiver of the karmic smackdown–Weinstein and the satisfaction the creator/viewer/sharer experience as a result, can be described as a one-upmanship.
  • Positive humor: Really, this image macro can only work as a positive humor if experienced from the observer’s stance and not the receiver’s. I’m sure if Weinstein were to see this, he would neither find it humorous nor positive.
  • Simplicity: this derivative is not only a remake of the original image, but it’s also an imitation of the karma derivative. Both the character of Morticia and the concept of karma are widely known, as is the Weinstein scandal, thus this meme is relatable and shareable.

Does this meme show other features that spur memetic development, or features that seem to put an end to development? Parody? Satire? Nastiness? …. Or, is there another reason circulation of the meme has died?

  • I believe this meme has both the potential for further memetic development and the probability of dying out.
    • Dying out: As with any scandal, it’s only interesting until the next one comes along. Therefore, Weinstein taking a meeting with karma (at least in the world of memes) will die out to make room for the next scandal of epic proportions. That being said, I believe the next scandal that comes along can also spur memetic development.
    • Memetic development: Although the Weinstein version of this meme will more than likely die out, there is still room for development as the next subject of heinous acts comes along. By simply swapping out Weinstein’s name for another, one can Lazurus this derivative back into circulation. Parody? Satire? Nastiness? Yes, to all.

Genre

Refer to Shifman, chap 7. She lists nine. There will be others. You may discover others.

  • Stock character macro
  • Other potential genres: humor, melodrama, non-fiction

Rhetorical Analysis

Consider the rhetorical situation that the meme overall and each meme addresses.

  • Occasion and Exigence
    • Creation and reception mainly revolve around an understanding of the character of Morticia Addams and an appreciation of black comedy.
    • Most common circumstances and discussions are karmic observations and outcast turnabout delivering a triumphant outcome over their “oppressor/s”. Rhetor and audience are brought together through recognition of discourse; this recognition motivates audience participation in the sharing and recreation of the meme.
  • Context/Discourse
    • The cultural trends this meme and its variations draw upon are the Addam’s family movies, the character of Morticia Addams, Gothic lifestyles, the outcast/underdog winning the day, and coffee addiction.
    • The general type of discourse these meme variations draw on is epideictic–” . . . praise or blame in the present . . . it forms attitudes and affirms or critiques values and beliefs” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 13). And although epideictic discourse is defined as “not leading immediately to actions” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 13), it does, in this case, lead to the action of sharing and recreating the meme.
  • Forum and Genre
    • Here, I will identify the forum as the “technological medium[s] or the virtual site[s]” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 13) in which the rhetor and audience meet. Although the creator of the original image can be identified as Paramount pictures and Anjelica Houston (this sounds like crap–fix it later). Although the creators and re-creators of these meme derivatives are unknown (unless identified by those created on a meme-generating site), the forums on which they’re shared include Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, GIPHY, and various meme-generating sites.
    • Basing types of genre off of Longaker and Walker’s description of “recognizable and recurring types of speech” (2011, p. 14), I include the following genres: black comedy, parody, Gothic, and horror. In addition to this, I’ve selected from Shifman’s (2014) list of 9 meme genres and selected “Stock Character Photos” as the best fit, for the following reason: ” . . . memes belonging to this family do share two features: they use image macros, and they build on a set of stock characters that represent stereotypical behaviors” (Shifman, 2014, p. 112).
  • Kairos
    • “Virtually the whole art of rhetoric boils down to the ability to say what is timely and appropriate at any moment and the ability to create or modify kairos, and to set up the moment when a particular statement can be fitting and persuasive” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 10). (use the Harvey Weinstein meme as your example)
  • Rhetor
    • The ostensible rhetor is Morticia. The implied rhetor is Morticia. The actual rhetors are those who create, recreate, and share the various meme derivatives.
    • “Both the implied and actual rhetors’ motivations, presuppositions, and intentions” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 36) follow:
      • motivations: The creation/recreation of the various example memes allow the actual rhetor to speak through the implied rhetor. The motivation is the opportunity to make a bold statement or speak a believed truth by using a combination of humor and an iconic character.
      • presuppositions: By creating/recreating and sharing the various example memes, it lifts some of the social constraints the actual rhetor might feel toggled to, thus enabling the rhetor to make a point sharply and quickly, and, quite possibly, more freely.
      • intentions: I believe these are a combination of motivations and presuppositions. The actual rhetor is speaking through the implied rhetor to make a point sharply and quickly with no explanation needed–if done effectively. By using humor and a “familiar face”, the intention of the rhetor is to freely express a thought or opinion with humor so that it may be shared and imitated by others.
  • Audience
    • Ostensible addressee: For the above macro image examples, the ostensible addressees are those who are finally getting what’s coming to them, lovers of strong, black coffee and witchcraft, psychotic encouragement that love is out there, the popular/bitchy/beautiful people shut down, fans of horror who might be down to chill, and Harvey Weinstein.
    • Intended audience: For the above macro image examples, the intended audience are fans of Morticia/Addams family, dark humor, and underdogs FTW
    • Actual audience: For the above macro image examples, the actual audience are essentially anyone who has access to the internet via computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.

What makes this meme rhetorically successful?

What does each derivative argue?

  • Morticia and Karma
    • Claim: Having the opportunity to witness karmic law in action is deeply satisfying.
  • Morticia, Coffee, and Witchcraft
    • Claim: Drinking dark, bold coffee is powerful enough to conjure spirits.
  • Morticia and Psychos
    • Claim: There is someone out there for everyone–even psychos.
  • Morticia and Bitchy Barbies
    • Claim: That being denied something “they” think “you” want and being OK with it, is its own form of denial.
  • Morticia and Chill
    • Claim: That horror films + chill = winning
  • Morticia and Karma 2.0
    • Claim: Once again, having the opportunity to witness karmic law “take a meeting” is deeply satisfying.

How are those arguments related or connected?

  • The commonality in derivatives’ arguments is finding satisfaction within an action. Whether that action is being witnessed or initiated, the end result is a pleasurable one.

Who is participating in the spread of this meme?

  • The initial response would be the intended audience who, as mentioned previously, are fans of Morticia/Addams family, dark humor, and underdogs getting the upper hand (so to speak). However, given who I’ve previously identified as the actual audience (anyone who has access to the internet via computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.), this seems the more probable answer. But what if we take “anyone” a step further than simply those who have access to the internet via various devices, and let’s include those who have seen the various derivatives and done nothing but talked about them. To illustrate, tonight I was talking about memetic analysis and this paper. Curious, the person I was explaining this to asked for examples of the memes with which I was working. I described a successful derivative (witnessing karma in its glorious splendor) and I described an unsuccessful derivative (psychos need love too). By doing this, she became curious and did a Google search of the 2 described memes thus sharing a meme was initiated via word of mouth.

What characterizes the participants in the spread of this meme?

  • The participants are those that are familiar with Morticia/Addam’s Family and understand/appreciate the dark, quirkiness of her behaviors. They also understand the context of the derivatives such as karmic law, bold coffee is uplifting, and letting someone know that they don’t matter as much as they think they should, thus sharing what they can relate to.

What elements enable the meme to spread and vary?

  • Two things enable these memes to spread and vary: it’s a combination of Morticia Addams and the look on her face. The original image is definable, interchangeable, and relatable.

By what vectors does the meme spread? (Twitter? By way of meme-making sites? Instagram? FB? Others?)

  • Morticia and Karma origin and date: Meme Generator, 9/1/14, all-time most popular
  • Also found on:
    • Meme’s Bot, Memegen, Memes Happen
    • Pinterest
    • Imgflip

What elements persuade others to put in the work of making those variations?

  • As shown in the derivative examples, Morticia’s expression is open to interpretive variations. In the original macro image, Morticia’s expression can be interpreted as appreciative and flirtatious. Inference is drawn from the fact that we know she is watching Gomez drive golf balls off the roof of their mansion. By adding text to the original image of Morticia, the rhetor infers what Morticia’s expression is, resulting in the desired interpretation.
  • With the Morticia and Karma 2.0 derivative, we can see firsthand what elements persuaded this variation: Morticia (a strong, confident woman), Karmic law in action (a meeting with Weinstein), Weinstein (a debaucher). Put it all together and you have Karma taking a meeting with Weinstein as Morticia looks on in smug satisfaction. This imitation can be re-created time and time again; there’s always going to be someone somewhere whose actions are deserving of a karmic smackdown.
  • As we can see from the previous example, the Morticia macro image has been re-created numerous times through various meme generators, because of this, we know that ease in re-creating is available. Ease in creation, inspiration, and minimal interpretation, are all the elements of persuasion needed to keep using this macro image for variations.

Rhetorical Effectiveness

As is demonstrated in the example derivatives, Morticia’s expression is open to interpretive variations. In the original macro image, her expression can be interpreted as appreciative and flirtatious. Inference is drawn from the intended audience, those familiar with who Morticia is and maybe even knowing that the macro image is a screenshot from the Addams Family film—she is watching Gomez drive golf balls off the roof of their mansion. By adding text to the macro image of Morticia, the rhetor defines Morticia’s expression, resulting in the desired persuasion. An example of effective persuasion is the “Morticia and Bitchy Barbies” derivative. By photoshopping 2 memes together, the rhetor further alters the macro image, and in doing so, expands on the conversation. The bitchy Barbie squad now represent everyone who has ever denied anyone acceptance.

As we can see from the example derivatives, the Morticia macro image has been re-created numerous times through various meme generators, thus the knowledge that ease in re-creation is available. Ease in creation, inspiration, and minimal interpretation, are all the elements of persuasion needed to keep using this macro image for a multitude of variations. So, even though the example derivatives deviate from the original meme, it is important to my claim that the original macro image meets the criteria to spur memetic development and continued circulation. With the “Morticia and Karma 2.0” derivative, we can see firsthand what elements persuaded this variation: Morticia (a strong, confident woman), Karmic law in action (a meeting with Weinstein), Harvey Weinstein (a debaucher). Put it all together and the rhetor has Karma taking a meeting with Weinstein as Morticia looks on in smug satisfaction. This particular derivative can be re-created time and time again because, let’s be real, there’s always going to be someone somewhere whose actions are deserving of a karmic smackdown.

The implied rhetor of these example derivatives is Morticia. The implied rhetors are also those who create, recreate, and share the various meme derivatives. In most derivatives, they are also the actual rhetors. However, in some derivatives, the actual rhetor can vary. For example, in the “Morticia and Bitchy Barbies” derivative, the implied rhetor is not Morticia and the actual rhetor is not those who create, recreate, and share the various meme derivatives. Instead, the actual rhetor is what/whom the bitchy Barbie squad represent when saying, “you can’t sit with us.” The intended audience then becomes Morticia and all those who outcasts who desire to turn the tables and deliver a most satisfying response that, once and for all, shuts down their “oppressor/s”. Rhetor and audience are then brought together through recognition of discourse; this recognition motivates audience participation in the sharing and recreation of the meme.

The creation/recreation of the various example memes allow the actual rhetor to speak through the implied rhetor to the audience. The intended audience for the example derivatives are fans of Morticia/Addams family, dark humor, and underdogs FTW. However, the actual audience are essentially anyone who has access to the internet via computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. The rhetor’s motivation is the opportunity to make a bold statement or speak a believed truth by using a combination of humor and iconic character. By creating/recreating and sharing the various example memes, it can lift some of the social constraints that not only the actual rhetor might feel toggled to, thus enabling the rhetor to make a statement/point sharply and quickly and, quite possibly, more freely, but it also lifts some of those constraints for the intended and actual audience.

These are the participants who are sharing these example derivatives because they are familiar with Morticia/Addam’s Family and understand/appreciate the dark, quirkiness of her behaviors. They also understand the context of the derivatives such as karmic law, bold coffee is uplifting, and letting someone know that they don’t matter as much as they think they should, thus sharing what they can relate to. In a world that’s so full of “suck”, we savor those brief sensations of true satisfaction—of feeling pleased with a particular outcome. And it is for this reason that I say the presentational form is successful. If I based this statement on nothing more than the original image, it would be enough. I have used the original macro image (sans text) on numerous occasions to express satisfaction in a particular action. I said earlier that the success of persuasion comes from the intended audience having some knowledge of who Morticia Addams is and what she’s about, however, I believe the real success derives from the intended audiences knowing what it means to feel pleased with either their own actions or in response to those of another.

The use of humor in the example derivatives is definitely a key component to their success. However, they’re also successful because of the rhetors use of pathos: “. . . the speaker must present causes for emotion . . . to arouse, intensify, or change the audience’s emotion” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 46). Although I have said that Morticia’s expression can infer satisfaction, appreciation, and flirtation, they are not the only emotions that come into play. For example, in the derivative “Morticia and Psychos,” the rhetor may be trying to arouse hope in their intended audience—just find someone who knows you’re psycho and likes you in spite of it—the speaker could also cause change in emotion such as, don’t give up or stay positive. There is another emotion, one that the rhetor aroused in me, and that’s derision–so–well done, rhetor. Logos is also apparent in the example derivatives. This is “the reasoning itself . . . it is the unspoken relationships between the speakers’ statements and the conclusions they encourage the audience to draw” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 47). To illustrate, if I share the “Morticia, Coffee, and Witchcraft” meme on my Instagram, it’s because I want my intended audience to draw the conclusion that my coffee drinking style can wake the dead—and that I’m quite possibly a witch who knows exactly what it takes to wake them.

Although the primary way these derivatives persuade is through humor, not all will find them humorous. Aside from the obvious, who won’t find the content relatable—non-lovers of black coffee and witchcraft, horror films and chill—consider also the individuals on the receiving end of these derivatives (the ostensible addressees)—Bitchy Barbie squad, Harvey Weinstien—they most certainly will not find these derivatives humorous and worthy of sharing. The commonality in the example derivatives’ arguments is finding satisfaction within an action. Whether that action is being witnessed or initiated, the end result is a pleasurable one. Three things enable these memes to spread and vary: Creation and reception mainly revolve around an understanding of the character of Morticia Addams, an appreciation of black/dark comedy, and the original image is definable and interchangeable, thus relatable, shareable, and, most importantly, successful.