Rhetorical Analysis

Related image

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

  • Occasion and Exigence
    • Once again, creation and reception mainly revolve around an understanding of the character of Morticia Addams and an appreciation for the gothic lifestyle.
    • Most common circumstances and discussions point out that one can be soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover. She is the original goth girl–want to be like her–simply ask, WWMD? 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 Addams family 1960’s TV series, the character of Morticia Addams, Gothic lifestyles, living the creepy girl life by Tish’s example, and being soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover.
    • With this collection of artifacts, I believe there are 2 general types of discourse being drawn on: 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. Deliberative–“(also called symbouleutic or advisory) addresses future actions or policies” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 13).  Artifacts 3, 4, and 5 all fit within this type of discourse–advising and addressing future actions.
  • Forum and Genre
    • Once again, the forum in which rhetor and audience meet is identified as the “technological medium[s] or the virtual site[s]” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 13). If I wanted to “count the rings” on the original image to discover who the creator(s) is/are, I would find the series creator (David Levy), producer and head writer (Nat Perrin), and TV studio (General Service Studios). But for this, my final analysis, I’m going to simply credit Carolyn Jones. She truly brought Charles Addams’ character to life. Be that as it may, for this collection of artifacts, the creators and re-creators are unknown (unless identified by those created on a meme-generating site), the forums on which they’re shared include: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, 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, Gothic, and fantasy fiction. In addition to this, I’ve once again selected “Stock Character Photos” from Shifman’s (2014) list of 9 meme genres because it’s moldable and shapeable 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” (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). I go back to this quoted material time and time again because it is the meat on the bone when it comes to all the Addams memes I’ve analyzed–not just this collection. This is one of the reasons I saved 1960’s Morticia artifacts for last because even though this character has been around for over fifty years, she is still meme-worthy when it comes to the creator saying something “timely and appropriate”, and her expressions and personality are what aid in the creator’s ability to “set up the moment”.
  • Rhetor
    • Once again, as we come full circle, 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)  are as follows:
      • 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 communicate a warning or deliver a caution before one moves forward or acts upon something by using a combination of wit and an iconic character.
      • Presuppositions: By creating/recreating and sharing the various example memes, it allows the actual rhetor to communicate a warning or deliver a caution through the social channels without feeling bound by social constraints thus allowing the rhetor make their point more succinctly in one neat little package.
      • Intentions: As with my analysis of Morticia and Gomez artifacts, I believe these are a combination of motivations and presuppositions. The actual rhetor is sometimes speaking through the implied rhetor(s) to make a point “quickly and clearly” (Longaker & Walker, 2011) with no in-depth examination needed–only if done effectively. By using a familiar face and relying on the assumption that the audience is familiar with the complexities of Morticia’s personality, the rhetor can communicate a warning or deliver a caution with precision and wit.
  • Audience
    • Ostensible addressee: For this collection of artifacts, the ostensible addressees are those who can finally embrace their creepy cuteness without fear of complete ostracization (thank you, Tish), listen to the lies no more, bar negativity and toxicity from their lives, and ask WWMD before they act.
    • Intended audience: For this collection of artifacts, the intended audience are fans of Morticia Addams, the creepy girl lifestyle, and believe that one can be soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover.
    • Actual audience: For this collection of artifacts, 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–original goth girl
    • Claim: Morticia is not only the original goth girl, but also made it cool to be one.
  • Morticia is listening but not believing
    • Claim: She’s heard it all before so choose the next words spoken, wisely.
  • Morticia says, wipe your feet
    • Claim: It is not cool to muck up her mind/thinking/perspective with negativity and toxicity.
  • WWMD
    • Claim: Before acting on something, ask–What would Morticia do?

How are those arguments related or connected?

  • The commonality in derivatives’ arguments is embracing the creepy girl lifestyle through communication. Whether that communication is deciding not to be a pushover or asking WWMD, the end result is one of personal acceptance.

Who is participating in the spread of this meme?

  • Participants are the intended audience who, as mentioned previously, are fans of Morticia Addams, living the creepy girl life by Tish’s example, and being soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover. They are also the actual audience (anyone who has access to the internet via computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.) as well as those who have seen the various artifacts and shared them through conversation.

What characterizes the participants in the spread of this meme?

  • The participants are those that are familiar with 1960’s TV series Morticia Addams (don’t act like there isn’t a difference) and understand/appreciate the dark, quirkiness of her personality and behaviors. They also understand the context of Gothic lifestyles, living the creepy girl life by Tish’s example, and being soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover, thus sharing what they can relate to.

What elements enable the meme to spread and vary?

  • Three things enable these memes to spread and vary: Morticia Addams, her expression, and the belief that she is the quintessential goth girl–making the original image definable, interchangeable, and relatable.

By what vectors does the meme spread?

  • Morticia–listening is not believing created at Meme Center
  • Also found on:
    • Tumblr
    • Pinterest
    • Facebook

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 direct and piercing. By adding text to the original image of Morticia, the rhetor infers what Mortcia’s expression is, resulting in the desired interpretation.
  • Because Morticia is a perfect balance of creepy and glamorous, we can see first hand what elements persuaded the “Morticia original goth girl” variation: Among her many high-five worthy qualities, her creator (Charles Addams) uses the words “original” and “ruined beauty” to describe her thus making her the Queen of Goth, IMO.
  • As we can see from the sample artifacts, the original Morticia macro image has been re-made and remixed in various ways, because of this, we know that ease in re-creating is available in a multitude of ways. As I’ve said throughout this project: ease in creation, inspiration, and minimal interpretation, are all the elements of persuasion needed to keep using this macro image for continued memetic success.

Rhetorical Effectiveness

As we can see from the example artifacts, the original Morticia macro image has been re-created numerous times and in various ways, 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. A perfect example of continued circulation would be “Morticia–original goth girl”. With this derivative, we can see firsthand what elements persuaded this variation: Among her many high-five worthy qualities, her creator (Charles Addams) uses the words “original” and “ruined beauty” to describe her thus her fans have dubbed her the Queen of Goth. Then by stating she has paved the way for cute creepy chicks, the creator pays tribute to Morticia and in turn, makes it relatable and shareable for other fans of her, as well. This particular derivative can be re-created (and has been) time and time again.

The implied rhetor of half the example artifacts 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 “WWMD” and “Morticia–original goth girl” derivatives, the implied rhetor is not Morticia. Both the implied and the actual rhetor are the creators, recreators, and those who share the meme derivatives with an audience. Thus, the creation/recreation of the example memes allows the implied rhetor/actual rhetor to speak to the intended audience. The intended audience for the example derivatives are fans of Morticia Addams, living the creepy girl life by her example, and knowing one can be soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover. 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 communicate a warning or deliver a caution before one moves forward or acts upon something by using a combination of wit and an iconic character. By creating/recreating and sharing the various example memes, it allows the actual rhetor to communicate the warning or delivered caution through the social channels without feeling bound by social constraints, thus allowing the rhetor to make their point more succinctly in one neat little package.

The participants who are sharing these example derivatives, are familiar with 1960’s TV series Morticia Addam’s (as I mentioned earlier) and understand/appreciate the dark, quirkiness of her personality and behaviors. They also understand the context of Gothic lifestyles, living the creepy girl life by her example, and being soft-spoken and laid back without being a pushover, thus sharing what they can relate to. Example derivatives of this would be “Morticia listening but not believing” and “Morticia says wipe your feet”. Both of these derivatives deliver some form of warning: “if you’re going to hang with me, leave your negativity at the door” and “think twice before you give me the same old same old.” In correlation to the last one–we live in a world that’s so full of negativity and jerks, and it’s important for us to channel our inner Tish and take no crap. The rhetor can communicate a warning or deliver a caution with precision and wit. 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–the nuances of her facial expression (direct and piercing) and body language (self-confident and expectant). 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 audience knowing what it feels like to block negativity and toxicity from their lives and to have the confidence to be who they truly are.