Putting A Meme To Rest
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

Putting A Meme To Rest

Looking at the birth, growth and shifting message behind the Harmabe meme

Putting A Meme To Rest

If you’ve been paying attention to Internet memes in the past two months, chances are you’ve seen the name Harambe on your screen at least once. Or, if you’re like me, too many times to count.

Originally, only the name of a gorilla who got shot, the death and memorial of Harmabe has joined the ranks of Guy Fieri and Dat Boi as a punchline of online comedy spreading rapidly through social media channels. Depending on which crevices of the Internet you regularly rotate through, your familiarity with the meme and its origins may be slim, so let’s back up.

On May 28, Haramabe was shot and killed by Cincinnati Zoo officials after a three year old child fell into his pen. Following his death, many mourned for the loss of the endangered animal, while others criticized both the mother's poor parenting and the Cincinnati Zoo's decision to shoot the animal.

People freaked out online, too. A petition on change.org titled "Justice for Harambe" currently has over 500,000 signatures, and the hashtags #JusticeForHarambe and #RIPHarambe have been circulating since he died.

However, as with all things taken too seriously by certain groups, comedians arrived to do their job and make them look stupid. A modification of the petition’s title became the rally cry of the comedic gravy train and the “Dicks out for Harambe” meme was born. Whip out your penis and a gorilla may rise from the ground. Clever social commentary, the joke was well received and went viral.

Yet in the short time since it's creation, the Internet has dragged the once-innocent joke into racist territory. Initially unrelated, obvious parallels between the shooting of a large black gorilla and the recent police shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling — namely the lack of hesitation to open fire, the memorials and media coverage — became too much for internet trolls to ignore.

The message behind the meme shifted from mocking animal rights activists and helicopter parents outraged over the improper handling of children and gorillas into mocking the memorial of black victims of police injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole.

Lettuce Dog, a website and social platform for memes, recently uploaded this photo on instagram explaining the inherit racism behind the Harmabe meme stating that it "decenters and trivializes the recent slayings of unarmed black men by police as well as the Black Lives Matter Movement," and that it perpetuates "the myth of black sub-personhood through the ironic memorial of a dead gorilla."

Brandon Wardell, the comedian who championed and originally popularized the meme, has recognized the issue and condemned further use, stating in a tweet, "i have 2 kill it." Clearly, comparing the shooting of a gorilla to the shooting of black men is racist, but whether the rest of the internet will stop posting the meme will likely be determined by attention span rather than social conscious.

The life cycle of a meme is a short one. Always on the lookout for the newest thing, the Internet will leave Harambe alone as soon as the next trend appears. Usually harmless combinations of goofy photos and text, the next meme will surely follow suit, but what Harambe has shown us is how quickly the meaning behind a meme can change and how people will continue to laugh simply because they recognize a joke. As members of the audience, it's our job to remain critical, to be aware of what we're laughing at and know when to hold our tongues.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

New England Summers Are The BEST Summers

Why you should spend your next summer in New England.

Marconi Beach

Three years ago, I chose to attend college in Philadelphia, approximately 360 miles away from my small town in New Hampshire. I have learned many valuable lessons away from home, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Pennsylvania. One thing that my experience has taught me, however, is that it is absolutely impossible to beat a New England summer.

Keep Reading...Show less

Fibonacci Sequence Examples: 7 Beautiful Instances In Nature

Nature is beautiful (and so is math). The last one will blow your mind.

illustration of the fibonacci sequence

Yes, the math major is doing a math-related post. What are the odds? I'll have to calculate it later. Many people have probably learned about the Fibonacci sequence in their high school math classes. However, I thought I would just refresh everyone's memories and show how math can be beautiful and apply to physical things everywhere around us with stunning examples.

Keep Reading...Show less
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments