Rhetoric of Memes

Biologist Richard Dawkins first introduced the term meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.  The word meme came from the Greek word mimeme, which means to imitate. Memes are imitated and shared across cultures.  According to Curry Chandler, “Dawkins identifies three qualities associated with high survival in memes: longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity.”

A recent meme features Ryan Cummings, a 13-year-old cheerleader from North Carolina. According to Buzzfeed, the teen is a member of Cheer Extreme Allstars. The picture was taken during their performance at a competition a few weeks ago.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/victoriasanusi/what-attitude?utm_term=.pwQn898Ae#.lwvN9L9vw

Thirteen-year-old Ryan Cummings at her cheer competition.

Naturally, she became a meme.

Sassy Cheerleader

Cummings’ facial expression become the epitome of the meme- cheerleaders are known for making fierce expression during competitions, and her expression was especially relatable. This specific meme reads, “When a customer asks for your manager and your manager says the same thing you just said.” As of 2014, an estimated 4.6 billion people worked retail, so it’s easy to see why this meme gains traction.

As a retail employee and manager, I’ve been in this situation many times. Customers tend to doubt what associate tell them, so they decide to move on to management. Cummings’ expression suggests that customers can be annoying and distrustful of associates. The meme appeals to all aspects of the rhetorical triangle.

Animal memes have also gained popularity, so I decided to try my hand at memes. Meet Max — he’s more human than a dog, and we love him. In my meme, the audience is aware of the cultural aspects of owning a dog. Owners will ask their dogs if they’ve been a good boy (or girl) and reward them with a treat. Audiences see Max sitting with pride, so they can understand that he really is a good dog and proud of it! The unstated purpose is that dogs are good and pure, and feel emotions.

 

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