In his blog, Henry Jenkins points out that not all videos, text or images that are spread throughout the internet necessarily qualify to fit the concept of a meme. Many describe a meme as a media virus that is spread throughout the internet, infecting cultures and ideas while being transmitted from person to person. Jenkins argues that in order for a medium to be culturally relevant, it must have an underlying idea that shapes the way people think and holds meaningful content, rather than ‘junk’ content. Jenkins says that many internet ‘memes’ are comparable to snacks; items of no nutritional value and exist to satisfy our remedial desires.
I believe that in order for a meme to be culturally relevant, it must introduce an idea that holds great influence in the way culture evolves. While many pictures and videos may go viral, a true meme must cultivate a true impression that changes the way we look at life or popular culture. While many images or videos gain popularity due to humorous or interesting content, they add nothing to culture and do not influence how people think. Therefore, a true meme must gather popularity while simultaneously culminating new ideas and though processes.
In his blog, Jenkins also stresses that memes are to culture the way that genes are to genetics. They are passed naturally and create new perspectives as they are transmitted. It is because of this argument that the notion of a media virus is dismissed. This is because the term virus is assumed as infection and transmission that occurs outside the realm of one’s control. A meme is a conscious existence with underlying motives and popular consequences.
In my opinion, the most popular and influential meme of recent years has been the ‘epic fail’ images and videos. It is has gained popularity because this media introduces a humorous and ironic side to underlying human imperfection. In a way, it also introduces the idea that society needs to stop taking things so seriously and find humor in one thing or another. Though a side effect of the epic fail series may be the encouragement of erratic, dangerous or otherwise stupid behavior, it does shine light on natural fallibility and the impression that it is all around us, therefore our own faults are not as serious as we assume they are.
The epic fail meme calls on various elements, such as logos, ethos and pathos in its content. This meme uses logos in its images by displaying examples of failed attempts at accomplishing a certain goal, no other logical argument is needed; the images speak for themselves. Ethos is called upon by the sheer popularity an image receives; the more times an image is viewed, the greater influence it has on future audiences. Pathos is the humorous or ironic content that the image displays; the epic fail series most often draws upon the viewers sense of humor as a source of influence.
The epic fail meme qualifies as cultural phenomenon under the circumstances described by Henry Jenkins. The meme has gone beyond the confines of the internet and is being used in everyday social context. People are now aware of, and looking for, instances of failure. Because of its influence on cultural evolution, the epic fail series has caught the attention of audiences everywhere.