Rhetorical Analysis

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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 characters of Morticia and Gomez Addams and an appreciation for their relationship.
    • Most common circumstances and discussions are perfect couple/love story and having a mutual love for Halloween. 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 movies, the characters of Morticia and Gomez Addams, Gothic lifestyles, an epic love, and Halloween.
    • Once again, I believe the general type of discourse that these particular artifacts draw on is epideictic–” . . . concerned with praise or blame in the present . . . it forms attitudes and affirms or critiques values and beliefs” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 13). This collection of memes are a strong example of what Longaker and Walker (2011) are defining. By using Morticia and Gomez’s relationship as an example, the creator(s) are forming attitudes and affirming values and beliefs (13) in what constitutes as a successful relationship and/or epic love story.
  • Forum and Genre
    • This one seems to be applicable to each collection of memes I’ve analyzed thus far. The identifiable forums are 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 and Raul Julia, the creators and re-creators of these derivatives are unknown (unless identified by meme-generating sites). The forums on which they’re shared include the usual: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and the not so usual: Horroroftruant.comm-y-s-w-e-e-t-v-a-m-p-i-r-e, Lila Hiddles Cosplay as well as various meme-generating sites, or any place you may be sharing the derivatives in a face-to-face conversation, for that matter. I’m told they do happen–these conversations–still exist. Weird, right?
    • 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 in no particular order: romance, a wee bit of horror, Gothic, and fantasy fiction. As I’ve stated previously, in regards to Shifman’s (2014) 9 genres, I struggle to find a niche in which to place my collection(s) of memes–without redefining the terms.
  • 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” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 10). With this collection of memes, the main topic is love and the subjects are a “perfect couple” and those who aspire to this achievement. Yet, even though these derivatives are about romance or “finding the one” they still have the setup and punchline. Longaker and Walker (2011) explain, “If properly setup, and delivered at the right moment, the punchline is funny” (p. 10). If the punchline is funny such as “Morticia + Gomez = love connection”, it will more than likely be found relatable, thus shareable. If, however, the derivative(s) are “delivered without its setup or if the setup is mishandled, the punch line will probably not be funny and may not even make sense” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 10. “Morticia and Psychos” is a perfect example of a mishandled setup–or simply a mishandled everything.
  • Rhetor
    • The ostensible rhetors are Morticia and Gomez. The implied rhetors–“. . . the unseen person behind the text that the reader creates” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 16)–are not only Morticia and Gomez, but sometimes are the creators and participants of the derivatives as well. The actual rhetors–” . . . the flesh-and-blood person who created the text” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 16)–are those who create, recreate, and share the various 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 derivatives allows the actual rhetor to communicate through the implied rhetor (sometimes Morticia and Gomez, sometimes creator and participants). The motivation is about love, the belief that the subjects are a “perfect couple”, and those who aspire to this achievement or “finding the one”, by using a combination of humor, declarations and/or comparisons, and iconic characters.
      • Presuppositions: By creating/recreating and sharing the various derivatives, it frees the actual rhetor to show his or her aspirations of “finding the one” (or, if found) succeeding at having a loving and passionate relationship that, importantly, stands the test of time.
      • Intentions: 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” (2011) with no in-depth examination needed–only if done effectively. By using familiar faces and relying on the assumption that the audience is familiar with the consensus that Morticia and Gomez are a model example of the perfect couple, the rhetor can define (through comparison) what truly is an epic love or what constitutes as a “keeper”.
  • Audience
    • Ostensible addressee: For this collection of artifacts, the ostensible addressees are those who believe that two people don’t have to die tragically to achieve epic love status, iconic couples doing marriage right, what specifically makes that “special someone” special, and, once again, a love for Halloween and horror.
    • Intended audience: For this collection of artifacts, the intended audience are fans of Morticia and Gomez (as an iconic couple), romance, and Halloween and horror.
    • Actual audience: For this collection of artifacts, once again, 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 Gomez–epic love story
    • Claim: Two people don’t have to die tragically to achieve epic couple status.
  • Morticia + Gomez = love connection
    • Claim: She loves horror and Halloween–score.
  • Morticia and Gomez, meet the Downeys
    • Claim: This is what being invested in each other looks like.
  • Gomez to her Morticia
    • Claim: Woman seeking devotion and passion, Gomez style.
  • Morticia and Gomez are Halloween
    • Claim: What could be better than Halloween every night and being together?

How are those arguments related or connected?

  • The commonality in the derivatives’ arguments is finding love. Whether that action is being experienced or sought, the end result is a desirable one.

Who is participating in the spread of this meme?

  • Participants are the intended audience who, as mentioned previously, are fans of Morticia and Gomez Addams, Halloween and horror, and an epic love story. 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 through conversation.

What characterizes the participants in the spread of this meme?

  • The participants are those that are familiar with Morticia and Gomez Addams and admire/appreciate the devotion, passion to each other as a couple. They also understand the context of the derivatives such as Halloween is life, horror, and what determines a relationship to be an epic love story 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: pop icons Morticia and Gomez Addams, their combined expressions, and the belief that they are a perfect couple. The original image is definable, interchangeable, and relatable.

By what vectors does the meme spread?

  • Morticia and Gomez–epic love story artifact: Memes.com, all-time most popular
  • Artifacts also found on:
    • Horroroftruant.com
    • Lila Hiddles Cosplay
    • m-y-s-w-e-e-t-v-a-m-p-i-r-e
    • Pinterest
    • Tumblr

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

  • As shown in the derivative examples, Morticia and Gomez’s expressions are open to limited interpretive variations. In the original macro image, Morticia and Gomez’s expressions can be interpreted as adoring and ardent. Inference is also drawn from the creator and participants knowledge (and agreement) that they are the perfect couple; their love story is epic. By adding text to the original image of Morticia and Gomez, the rhetor not only draws on Morticia and Gomez’s expressions but also the participants’ mutual admiration of the two as a couple thus resulting in the desired interpretation.
  • With the “Morticia and Gomez–epic love story” derivative, we can see firsthand what elements persuaded this variation: Morticia and Gomez in a loving embrace with Gomez aredently kissing Morticia’s hand while she gazes at him adoringly. The text–“Forget Romeo and Juliet, I want a love like Gomez and Morticia”–communicates the belief that Morticia and Gomez have the better love story, even though Romeo and Juliet’s has been defined as one of the greatest of our time. This derivative has high potential for further memetic development by simply replacing any couple that has been given the title of “epic love story”, e.g. Tristian and Isolde, Jack and Rose, it can continue to be relatable and shareable.
  • As we can see from the majority of sample artifacts, the original Morticia and Gomez macro image has been re-made and remixed 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 continued memetic success.

Rhetorical Effectiveness

With the example derivatives, Morticia and Gomez’s expressions provide limited interpretive variations. But that’s okay because inference is not solely drawn from their expressions, nor the added text. For this collection of artifacts, inference can also be drawn from the audiences knowledge of Morticia and Gomez’s status as a perfect couple–an epic love story. In the original macro image, their expressions can be interpreted as adoring and ardent. Inference is drawn from the intended audience: those not only familiar with who Morticia and Gomez are but who most likely see their relationship goals as their own, as well. By adding text to the macro image of Morticia and Gomez, the creator communicates their own relationship goals and/or qualities they’re looking for in a mate, thus resulting in the desired persuasion. An example of effective persuasion is the “Morticia seeking Gomez” derivative. By altering the original image so that Morticia and Gomez are now in black and white, and doing a “fade to black” with the background,  the rhetor puts a “spotlight” on Morticia and Gomez in a loving embrace. The added text in a standard, white font initiates the conversation, “I’m just a Morticia, looking for my Gomez.” Neither Morticia nor Gomez are the implied rhetors, but rather someone describing themself as being like Morticia (a Morticia). This derivative is effective because their love for one another is undeniable. Not only for people who identify with Morticia maybe not so much in the fact of who she is as an individual but more so because they appreciate the way Gomez treats his lady, identifying this as an important element to the success of their relationship. 

From the example derivatives, we can see that the original macro image has been re-created numerous times, in various ways, thus proving that ease of re-creation is available in various forms. Ease of creation, inspiration, and with minimal interpretation, are all the elements of persuasion needed to continue to successfully use this macro image for a multitude of variations. So, even though the example derivatives deviate from the original meme, it is important in the support of my claim that the original macro image meets the criteria to spur memetic development and continued circulation. With the “Morticia and Gomez are Halloween” derivative, we can reason that passion is the inspiration and motivation, for only fans who have a deep love for both Halloween and their mate would be persuaded by such a variation. The creators and participants of this meme are presumably not only fans who appreciate Morticia and Gomez’s passionate relationship but also feeling passionate about Halloween. For them, Halloween is much more than a holiday–it’s a way of life. Halloween is life, therefore, Morticia and Gomez are Halloween.

The implied rhetor/s of these example derivatives are not always Morticia and Gomez. Sometimes the implied rhetors are also the actual rhetors (those who create, recreate, and share the various meme derivatives), as well. The reason being that the implied/actual rhetor(s) are making an observation and/or comparison to the epicness of Morticia and Gomez’s love story. A perfect example of this would be the “Morticia and Gomez meet the Downeys” artifact. The original macro image and the merged image are virtually identical in points of embrace and expressions. But this is not where the similarities end. If that were the case, this derivative would not achieve memetic success. No, what makes this one successful is that the very criteria that elevates Morticia and Gomez to epic love/perfect couple status are also what elevates Susan and Robert Downey Jr. to it, as well–they haven’t “settled”, they’ve made concerted efforts with each other, they’re passionate about each other, and, most importantly, they are invested in maintaining the success of their relationship. In this derivative, the creator is not drawing inference on expressions and added text alone but is also drawing on the well-known belief that Morticia and Gomez are, in many ways, the perfect couple/love story. Morticia and Gomez’s expressions of adoration and earnestness do, in fact, inspire this derivative. However, the creation of this artifact was not inspired solely by something Morticia and Gomez are experiencing (or Susan and Robert, for that matter) but rather what the creator and participants are experiencing–not one, but two epic love stories.

The creation/recreation of the various example memes still allows the actual rhetor to speak through the implied rhetor to the audience, even though Morticia and Gomez are not always the implied rhetor(s). The intended audience for the example derivatives are fans of Morticia and Gomez Addams, Halloween and horror, and admirers of their epic love story/perfect couple status. However, the actual audience is essentially anyone who has access to the internet via computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. The rhetor’s motivations are opportunities to make known their criteria for love/a successful relationship looks a lot like that of Morticia and Gomez. And when I say this, I’m not necessarily referring to the fact that their “creepy and spooky”, no, it’s more bare bones than that.  I’m talking about the fact that this is a couple who truly love each other and have for a long time. And what’s even cooler than that is the fact that they’re still into each other–excited–passionate–involved. These are the driving force behind the creation/recreation of these derivatives.

One of the best uses of humor in the example derivatives is found in the “Morticia + Gomez = love connection” meme and it’s definitely a key component to the derivative’s success. However, it’s also successful because of the rhetor’s use of pathos: “. . . the emotion of the audience. This mood or feeling motivates the audience to believe or do something” (Longaker & Walker, 2011, p. 46). The text with this derivative reads: “If she loves horror and Halloween, treat her like the ghoul she is.” Although Morticia and Gomez’s expressions still infer adoration and ardency, they are no longer the only emotions (nor expressions) that come into play. Now, we have a second macro image of the 1960’s Morticia and Gomez, and they’re expressions infer a different set of emotions–60’s Morticia’s expression is intense and direct, if not a wee bit “off” and 60’s Gomez’s expression is clearly pleased and excited, as if to say “hell yeah.” With this derivative, the rhetor’s message is that if she likes the cool things that [you] find important, treat her well/right, and don’t let her go. Halloween and horror are the perfect examples of what’s important in a relationship when Morticia and Gomez are the macro images. Replacing “girl” with “ghoul” is effective wordplay that’s funny. 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). This is one example meme where the perfect couple status does rely on the audience’s knowledge that Morticia and Gomez are “creepy” and “spooky.”

These are the participants who are sharing these example derivatives because they are familiar with Morticia and Gomez Addam’s and understand/appreciate the dark, perfection of their relationship. They also understand the context of the derivatives such as two people don’t have to die tragically to achieve an epic love status, other living couples who have achieved epic love status, love Halloween and horror–she’s a keeper, and the ultimate comparison of feeling like every night is Halloween, thus sharing what they can relate to. In a world that’s so full of crappy relationships and early termination because there’s such an unwillingness to put in the effort–be devoted to someone, we savor those rare instances of great love stories/perfect couples. The commonality in the example derivatives’ arguments is defining desires through examples. Whether that which is defined is being observed or experienced, the message is clear. As previously mentioned, three things enable these memes to spread and vary: Creation and reception mainly revolve around an understanding of the characters of Morticia and Gomez Addams, an appreciation for their unflagging devotion to each other, and the original image is definable and interchangeable, thus relatable, shareable, thus the presentational form is successful.