I thoroughly enjoy memes, both as a new form of transgressive rhetorical transmission and because they are usually funny. My first response to the announcement of Paul Ryan was to create a McKayla Maroney meme (Spoiler: She wasn’t impressed with Romney’s choice). Much as we appreciate the works of Shakespeare or Mozart for elevating defined rules of meter and form into art, there are a number of defined internet memes. Rather than manipulating random pictures, the truly genius meme artist uses the same images that already blanket the internet — images that convey particular categories of messages — to create specific memes.
A new tumblr collects some of the best Paul Ryan related memes floating around the internet. I’m going to review a few of the best:
- Ryan Gosling is the subject of the “Hey Girl” meme that pairs images of the actor with faux seductive text. This is probably the most popular Paul Ryan-related meme because it gives us Paul Ryan Gosling…get it?
This is meme building at its finest. Did you know that Paul Ryan wants to cut government assistance to help the poor and elderly afford heat in harsh wintery areas? Now you do! Instead he wants “competition” even though there’s no explanation for how this would work. The reason most energy in this country is delivered by geographically monopolistic utilities is that energy is not a commodity whose price improves with “competition” and indeed often becomes more costly. You can build a better car — you can’t really build cheaper electricity, especially when every competitor has to build massive electrical plants (sunk costs) just to enter the market.
- “Success Kid” started with a picture of the above child seemingly celebrating on a beach (hence its original name “I Hate Sandcastles”). Now divorced of that background (which is called “Animal Style” for those keeping score), a “Success Kid” meme often displays ironically improper celebration.
This example not only sneaks in the fact that Paul Ryan’s effort to “save” Medicare will double the costs of health care for seniors (per the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office), but also implants the electoral foundation of the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan, specifically banking on “age warfare” or at least “age indifference.” The young often lack the foresight to worry about Medicare. If Romney can take the electoral wishes of current seniors off the table by telling them that their benefits will be untouched, the Republicans can bank on the natural urge of young voters to trade their long-term best interests for a short-term benefit.
- This is impressively literal. In an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, facing a besieged city, his friend Patrick suggested to save their home by taking it and pushing it somewhere else. This spawned a category of memes formulaically as “We should X and Y [location]” to highlight the futility of the suggestion.
If some people have barely any money and others have a lot of money, who should be coddled? And like the residents of Bikini Bottom who wanted to beat up Patrick after this suggestion, we should stand up to the “job creator” myth — if a rich person wants more money to create jobs we can offer a targeted cut, but we need to get out of the business of giving blanket cuts and hoping that an extra on the Kardashians is going to invent the new Ford Motor.