The meme goes up too
Who would have thought that an unusual post announcing the breakup of two friends would one day be worth more than 8 million rupees? In 2015, the ‘Friendship Ended With Mudassir’ meme was not initially uploaded as a meme, but a Facebook post announcing a ‘life event’ – at a time when the app didn’t. hadn’t redesigned its Life Events feature. So what exactly has happened over the past five years that has made the position valuable? The Pakistanis have arrived.
Pakistani social media users often turned to the now-even model when talking about a politician’s exit from a party, a split within a party or disagreements between officials, etc. The newly transformed meme has now been sold for $ 51,000 via NFT (non-fungible tokens).
And if we haven’t recovered from the jaw drop moment mentioned above, here’s another surprise in store for us Pakistanis: The “disappointed” Pakistani fan has reached Hong Kong’s first “memes museum”.
It can now be said (and proudly) that one of Pakistan’s top exports is the meme. On TikTok, the hashtag ‘wowgrape’ has over three million views (the app is currently banned in the country, so it is not possible to mention the actual number). On Tanmay Bhat’s YouTube channel, a review video of Pakistani memes posted six months ago has nearly four million views. The five-part videos “Pakistanis are wild” (a compilation of witty replies and tweets from Pakistanis) have a total of 26 million views (Part one of the video was posted four months ago.)
Pakistani social media users use memes to talk about almost everything. The viral video Nach Punjaban with the [at]The goharhayat watermark is perhaps the most widely used meme template when it comes to political and social commenting on Twitter. Each video has at least 12 captions that brilliantly mention the latest news update. Pakistan’s Aunt Gormint reached new heights of popularity when the late Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan made a phenomenal knockoff of the viral meme. Before that, someone on the internet photoshopped the aunt in the iconic Che Guevara poster, turning her into a pop culture icon.
The annual Aurat March – which often draws ridiculous reviews – uses funny slogans to reflect what it means to be a woman in an ultra-conservative society like Pakistan. While Walkers may not have had the help of popular memes yet, the unique taglines they use to get the message across are a league of their own. Images of the following slogans “Mujhe kya pata tumhara moza kahan hai” [How would I know where your sock is] and ‘Lo beth gaye sahi say’ [I have sat down properly] are always shared on social networks. The latter is the perfect commentary on how Pakistani women are watched.
Using pop culture as a political tool is a centuries-old tactic that has been widely used to reach large audiences. In 2016, the moment of Obama’s mic drop was instantly transformed into a GIF. Also in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s official Instagram account posted, and then quickly deleted, an Indian film clip to suggest that the opposition was conspiring against the government of the day. Ahead of the 2018 general election, social media sites were inundated with images from an Indian film “Nayak” which showed corrupt opposition leaders joined hands to make the tenure of the newly elected journalist who became Crooked Prime Minister.
Ironic quotes and witty slogans have always been a defining feature of protests around the world. However, entering memes into the political arena seemed (and still is) risky. So why are tech-savvy young protesters willing to risk contempt? The answer is: brevity, shareability and virality.
The Internet is changing very quickly. Short-lived hashtags and viral posts are the only way to reach over a billion people online. Memes have proven to be the most effective way to describe complex ideas and field scenarios in the simplest possible words (brevity), in the shortest possible time (virality), and on relatively uncensored platforms (shareability ).
This hectic life does not give anyone the luxury and privilege of taking a break and reading about what is going on in the world. Newspapers and magazines are quickly getting thinner and digital sites come up with listings to grab people’s attention. Reading long articles and editorials to understand the political scenario of a faraway land is a thankless task, and many people won’t be happy doing all the hard work. However, they’re likely to stop scrolling to take a look at a meme.
Before memes entered the political arena, there was a time when people used SMS (shayari) poetry to joke about the policies of the then PPP-led government and in total disregard of the will of the people. Then-Home Secretary Rehman Malik announced that anyone who joked about then-President Asif Ali Zardari, via email or text message, would be sentenced to jail. This decision showed how the authorities politicized poetry and funny messages.
Today, the PTI government’s insistence on banning TikTok is not only similar to that of the PPP, but also shows that the ruling party is a bit reluctant to allow people to use a platform to voice their opposition. .
Millennials and Gen Z are using exploitables (object labeling, 4-fold movie scenes, and online comics) to generate unique memes to discuss ongoing conflicts and political events. These models save people from setting the context and the horrors of getting stuck in the write-delete-rewrite cycle using the suppress cycle of euphemisms when voicing their opinion.
For example, instead of writing a 900-word Oped about the PTI’s constant applause for overseas Pakistanis, one can use the distracted boyfriend meme template to show how the ruling party (the boyfriend distracted) constantly staring at overseas Pakistanis (the other girl) and, in the process, ignoring Pakistani residents (the girlfriend) who helplessly and in utter confusion wait for the ruling party to notice them .
Or, instead of writing lengthy Facebook posts about how the elite and those charged with governance enjoy perks and privileges (as announced in the budget), the Christmas sweater meme with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal as elites and Ryan Reynolds as poker face as Pakistani will get the job done.
Ahead of the 2018 election, many political parties, especially the PTI, made the most of the social media tools available. Many Facebook pages have popped up to form a narrative against existing political parties. The seemingly non-partisan pages regularly posted memes about how the Youth Party – the party that promised to bring change – was not only the savior we all needed, but also the most option. “Cool”, in a way getting people to support a party for what the internet calls “swag”.
Memes are a universal language. In 2019, Indian students and activists protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). They used the ‘Ok, Boomer’, ‘Baby Yoda’, ‘Gordan Ramsay Idiot Sandwich’, ‘Marie Kondo’ Does it Spark Joy ‘meme templates to make strong statements against the government, creating their own definition of a non-violent demonstration.
At the 2017 Women’s March, a man held up the “It’s okay” sign, an image of a dog sitting on a dining chair in a burning room, and it is widely used to criticize “Holocaust deniers. “. The “C’est bien” sign had the image of a White House on fire. Outside the White House stood former US President Donald Trump with a cup of coffee in his hand. The bubble said: “That’s good”. Through the reference to the Internet meme, the protester let it be known, without specifying it, that the then president had no interest in tackling the country’s crises.
Recent protests in Myanmar have also seen protesters using memes as a tool to fight the military coup.
In today’s highly digitalized world, people are often criticized for their “lazy activism” and for being “keyboard warriors”. But they know how to connect with a larger audience and make their voices heard. Gen Z may have sent the wrong message when they tried the Tide Pod challenge. But now they are preparing for unforgettable political movements. They will pave the way for political change. And, years later, the history of the world will mention the Exploitables to remember their contributions.
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The writer is associate editor at The News.