How memes help popularise different forms of entertainment

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It is crazy to think how meme culture has developed in the last 10 years. The original meme formats, such as Success Kid and Bad Luck Brian, have now been all but discarded, and instead we are left with limitless possible memes that continue to expand even now. That is the things with memes — there is no real age at which people cannot enjoy them, because they are so diverse. “Facebook moms” tend to enjoy minion memes, dads will enjoy dad jokes within a meme, and there are some which suit NSFW and “normie” personalities.

But where does this wide range of memes come from? Memes tend to originate from the entertainment industry, whether that is film, music or gaming. Ones which usually blow up are those which are already from established artists or franchises. On the other hand, meme culture has some crazy effects, and as will be shown, such as helping something become popular or can even change an audience’s view on something. This has potentially led to some studios seeming to play into this corner of the internet, but we’ll come back to that later.

Film Industry

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Arguably the most popular memes tend to come from the biggest franchise releases of the year. 2018 and 2019 are arguably the biggest examples of this in recent memory, with Marvel’s Avengers films providing some of the most well-used memes that are still made now. A lot of the film has now become a meme of sorts, with some dramatic scenes being undercut by the thought of it now being repurposed as a joke online.These tend to involve Thanos, who has become some sort of a “meme icon”, where anything he says or does becomes a meme. In a similar fashion…

Star Wars, especially the Prequels, has the same issue, if you want to call it that. Weirdly, the memes were not present when the films were released, and it was only 10 years later that they became popular. For example, there are over 100 memes in the end of the trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, alone. Weirdly enough, unlike the Avengers where Thanos tends to be the focus of the memes, the characters of the Prequels all get a healthy helping of memes, even characters who are not that important to the story, such as Ki-Adi-Mundi and the Clone Troopers. There are further differences to Marvel and Star Wars memes, such as their effect. Whereas the Avengers films were already popular, the Prequels were long hated by original fans, due to issues with story and dialogue. Now, a lot of fans love the films, thanks to the memes that have come from them. Another difference is who uses them. Prequel memes tends to be amongst the Star Wars community, and rarely leave that area. Marvel memes are enjoyed by all, regardless of whether they watch the films or not. Whilst some may be used referencing the movie, others provide a funny quote to be woven into a relatable situation.

I could not end this section without referencing the king of movie memes, Shrek. Arguably the biggest source of memes, enjoyed by all young people, with so many new formats still being discovered today. If it was not for the memes, the franchise would not be as iconic as it is today, enough said. Really, it is the first proper film series made eternal through the internet, before Star Wars and Marvel, and will never be forgotten. Whilst some parts of the fandom take it to places it should not go (looking at you, Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life), the fact that people have memorised every single line and get wed as the characters shows you the power memes can have for a film’s longevity.

Music Industry

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Now, the music industry benefits from meme culture in a few ways. The first is simply people posting edits of music videos, which may mock it or add to it. The biggest example that comes to mind is Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, which when it was released became the largest template for editors to add other videos or funny things to. This led to the song being everywhere - on the radio, on the TV, on the news, everywhere. Would the song have done as well if it was simply just released? Most likely not. Another older example is Nickelback’s Photograph, where people would edit the image the lead vocalist held at the start of the video. Whilst Nickelback may be disliked by many, their music video has recieved plenty of views due to the culture.

Another way in which music is incorporated into memes is as the background for another video. This can range from classical music (i.e. Mozart’s Lacrimosa) to the biggest pop or rap tracks currently out. Again, though, sometimes unknown artists become known overnight due to their song becoming part of a trend. Songs like “Shooting Stars” and “Say So” were popularised due to memes and TikTok, and it was probably unlikely they would have reached this audience half as quick without meme culture. As I have mentioned in previous articles, artists may intentionally make songs that can trend on these social media platforms, like Drake’s Toosie Slide.

Finally, there are artists who are memed by fans or just people who don’t like them. The last few years saw the rise, and fall, of Tekashi 6ix 9ine, who became a popular meme icon, with videos of him running or livestreaming becoming pretty big without it being intentional. Other rappers, such as Drake and Tyler the Creator, are more liked by society, but their memes tend to be due to their eccentric personalities being funny to people, rather than at the expense of the artist.

Gaming Industry

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Gaming memes have evolved over the years. What used to be inside jokes about certain games has evolved into formats where the viewer does not even need to have played the game to find it funny. Compare Skyrim and Todd Howard memes to Among Us. Skyrim memes tend to be about glitches in the game or certain dialogue encounters that only players would understand, and Todd Howard memes tended to focus on him releasing the game on every single platform possible. However, something like Among Us has been made popular through the fandom’s use of memes and as a person who has never played the game, they are easy enough to follow and understand with only a basic grasp of what it entails. Seriously, it’s not hard to guess what “Sus” and “Venting” is based on little knowledge of the game’s mechanics, and takes even less brain power to get the shape of the characters is akin to various common items. But, this has helped keep the game relevant long past its very simple premise, similar to Fortnite’s continue popularity.

A further way that memes help video games is bringing them back to the mainstream. Take Minecraft — whilst it has always had a loyal following and people who have fond memories of it when it first came out, it was losing popularity and a viewership on Youtube. Now, thanks to several big youtubers and streamers playing it again, its users have doubled in 5 years, being a lot higher than the original release of the game and its heyday 7 years ago. But it is not only prominent internet celebrities that have boosted its player-count. Reddit and Instagram have made the game more popular, thanks to their subreddits dedicated to it and the memes on the hashtags of Instagram. Whether it be parody songs, funny/cool builds or simply inside jokes to do with the game, it is in people’s faces a lot more, which has boosted sales and everybody’s appreciation of it.

Is this the future of marketing?

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With how important memes and internet culture is now to the entertainment industry, it is likely that companies and labels will look to make their content more “meme-friendly” and invite people to joke about their content. Just like cross promotions with different fast food chains and toy companies, the future of marketing could be appealing to the younger generation through easy to produce memeable content.

The Sonic movie is a good example of clever strategy. The original design for Sonic (above left) was an absolute abomination, that rightly everybody hated, enough to meme the living hell out of the design, and the posters in which it was featured. The studio “took” the criticism, and redesigned Sonic (above right) to be more accurate to his original appearance, to which the internet applauded and stated they would support the movie. Unbelievable! They got free promotion (remember, any press is good press) from people sharing their content all over every social media app, and then got plaudits for fixing something so awful that it was obvious it was not the actual design they were going to use. The movie did really well before Coronavirus hit, and has now got a sequel in the works. They used meme culture to make a successful movie, and don’t be surprised if more studios follow suit.

One area of concern for this method was the “meme law”, which would have allowed artists to copyright claim any of their content used by others in memes. This would have destroyed the reputations and credibility of companies and ruined the meme community, but luckily it has not passed, yet. However, Sony Music still strikes down memes using any of their songs, which is clearly the wrong way to go. Instead, they should allow people to use their songs creatively, as this is the future for the industry.



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