USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital
Digital
Humor

Keith Country Day School Student Body Meme

IMG_7081The following is the background of the meme account of Keith School and a description of a meme about the student body of Keith School from a conversation with NC. Attached is the respective meme.

 

Started in 2016, the seniors of Keith Country Day School created the @keithcountrymemeschool Instagram account. The purpose of the account was to mock and tease the faculty and school rules. Every year, one senior runs the account and takes into consideration the ideas of his/her peers. The memes are a collection of spin-offs of already well-known memes and original memes. Some of the memes even have faculty members’ faces photoshopped onto the picture. The account was made private, so as not to let faculty members see the page. Below is the description of a meme from the page, described by the senior from the class of 2018 who created it.

 

NC: This meme is a spin-off of the popular meme with a surprised boy gesturing and looking at a butterfly in the right-hand corner and a caption at the bottom asking a question. If you want to see other examples of this meme, you can look up “butterfly man meme” in a search engine. I did a spin-off of that meme by photoshopping Keith’s image on the boy’s face, photoshopping “54 people” on top of the butterfly, and making the bottom caption says, “Is this an student body?” Kids who follow the account find the meme funny because Keith School is an incredibly small school with a smaller student body than most, but it always boasts that it is constantly getting more of student body and getting bigger every year; it’s funny because that’s so untrue, haha. In reality, Keith is actually losing student body members, and has never been smaller than it is now.

 

My Interpretation:

It’s obvious that the students at Keith Country Day School have little respect for the school, making fun of enrollment numbers through this meme. It seems that Keith is trying to make an attempt to hide that they are struggling, not only with enrollment numbers but also financially as an effect of it. The students see the school struggling and can easily poke fun at the weakness of the institution, especially if they know they won’t be caught doing so with a private meme page.

Digital
Humor

Keith Country Day School Lead in the Water Meme

IMG_7080The following is the background of the meme account of Keith School and a description of a meme about lead occurring in drinking water at Keith School from a conversation with NC. Attached is the respective meme.

 

Started in 2016, the seniors of Keith Country Day School created the @keithcountrymemeschool Instagram account. The purpose of the account was to mock and tease the faculty and school rules. Every year, one senior runs the account and takes into consideration the ideas of his/her peers. The memes are a collection of spin-offs of already well-known memes and original memes. Some of the memes even have faculty members’ faces photoshopped onto the picture. The account was made private, so as not to let faculty members see the page. Below is the description of a meme from the page, described by the senior from the class of 2018 who created it.

 

NC: This meme is kind of like a 2.0 version of a previous meme published on the page. In the previous meme, the joke was about how if your water wasn’t filtered by reverse osmosis, it wasn’t good enough to drink, a concept that started when the school brought in some fitness guru and she had the strangest rules she insisted people follow if they wanted to be healthy, including the reverse osmosis thing. So, the picture in the meme shows the lady spitting out the water in the picture with the caption “When your water isn’t filtered by reverse osmosis.” I redesigned that meme as this one, to fit another one of Keith’s long list of problems. It was released earlier that week that students and faculty should stop drinking the drinking fountain water in the school’s buildings because it had just come to the school’s attention that there were high levels of lead in the water, unhealthy for anyone to be drinking. Keith students found this funny though because it’s such a “Keith” thing to happen; of course, our school would have lead in the water, it’s already so run down and has so many other problems that it really wasn’t that surprising. So, all I had to do was cross out the reverse osmosis part of the original meme and put in “filled with lead” at the end and the meme was even funnier in my opinion because now it was poking fun at Keith. Kind of like, we were such high-class, fancy, private school kids, that we only drank water with lead in it.

 

My Interpretation:

Keith School is a private school, and although I’m sure that not everyone who attends is incredibly wealthy, there are definitely enough kids who are that earns the school its reputation for being very expensive and high quality for rich kids. So, it’s easy to see how, when mistakes as bad as lead being found in the water are made by the school, it makes them look really bad, especially with the reputation they have made for themselves. This, along with other happenings at the school, pokes holes in this reputation, and allows for the students who attend the school to make fun of how dingy, worn down, or ridiculous the school is for having such a bad lead problem. It seems that this irony is what makes the meme funny to the students.

Digital
Humor

Keith Country Day School “I Pledge” Salt-Bae Meme

IMG_7082

The following is the background of the meme account of Keith School and a description of a meme about the “I Pledge” honor code at Keith School from a conversation with NC. Attached is the respective meme.

 

Started in 2016, the seniors of Keith Country Day School created the @keithcountrymemeschool Instagram account. The purpose of the account was to mock and tease the faculty and school rules. Every year, one senior runs the account and takes into consideration the ideas of his/her peers. The memes are a collection of spin-offs of already well-known memes and original memes. Some of the memes even have faculty members’ faces photoshopped onto the picture. The account was made private, so as not to let faculty members see the page. Below is the description of a meme from the page, described by the senior from the class of 2018 who created it.

 

NC: This one is another version of the salt bae meme, which is the guy who kind of looks like Johnny Depp sprinkling salt onto what I assume is food that’s outside the frame of the picture. I changed it up for Keith by making the caption says, “when you write ‘I Pledge’ at the top of your test.” It’s funny because on every test you take at Keith, students must write “I Pledge,” which basically means they pledge not to cheat on the test. So, the meme makes fun of it because it’s like when you add that to the top of your test, you’re being kind of extra, kind of throwing those words in like an extra topping to spice things up like you would with salt on food.

 

My Interpretation:

In meme culture, the salt-bae meme might be one of the most popular memes out there. It’s very easy to come up with captions for the picture, depending on respective circumstances. Keith School is the only high school I’ve heard of that has this honor code rule of writing “I Pledge” at the top of an exam. Although I understand the reasoning behind the honor code, I can see how high school students can so easily make fun of it, just because their friends at other high schools most likely do not have to write those words. So, as Keith is known for having a high-class education reputation, and in a way, being “extra,” it would make sense that this meme is funny to the students who follow the page. Salt-bae is all about being “extra”, adding a little extra salt/spice to his dish, while Keith is “extra” by having their students write “I Pledge,” distinguishing them from any other high school in the area.

Adulthood
Customs
Digital
Folk Beliefs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Determining Marriages from the Chinese Zodiac Calendar

Context:

My informant is a 55 year old woman that immigrated from China to America in her early 30s. She is a mother, a registered nurse, and also a teacher in nursing school. This conversation took place in a hotel one evening, and the informant and I were alone. In this account, she explains the significance behind the Chinese Zodiac calendar in relation how marriages or compatible partners are determined. I asked for the story behind this folklore because I know the Chinese zodiac calendar holds a lot of importance to the informant, for she has discussed it a lot with me in the past. She told me that she doesn’t remember how exactly she learned all of this; rather, it’s so integrated into Chinese culture and talked about so often that it almost seems like common knowledge that everyone will learn one way or another. Because her English is broken, I have chosen to write down my own translation of what she told me (while still trying to stay true to her performance), because a direct transcription may not make as much sense on paper as it did in conversation (due to lack of intonation and the fact that you cannot see her facial expressions or hand motions in a transcription). In this conversation, I am identified as K and she is identified as S.

 Text:

S: “In China, we have these zodiacs to, um, see what type of animal you are. For example, this year is the Year of the Pig, so everyone born this year will… have the Pig as their zodiac animal. I don’t remember exactly how it works, but, um, like, the Zodiac calendar lines up with the lunar year—everything we do and believe is connected to what point of the lunar year we’re at. So you can see why this zodiac calendar is so important. We even use it to, um, determine marriages. For example, if a person’s zodiac animal is a Chicken, they can’t marry someone who’s a Dog because chickens and dogs always fight in real life; symbolically, this means that these two, if they get married, will fight for the rest of their lives. Eventually, all of this fighting will break their marriage. Basically we turn to the zodiac calendar to look at, uhh, compatibility. Before Chinese people couples get married, they want to look at each others zodiacs and then look at this other thing called a ‘huang li,’ which determines which years and days they should get married.”

 

K: “Who else can’t get married?”

 

S: “I know that Pigs are considered perfect matches with Tigers, but, um, though I honestly can’t tell you why. I do know that Pigs, in Chinese culture, represent wealth, riches, and, like, will bring lots of happiness, so most people want to marry someone who’s zodiac animal is the year the Pig. People also want to get married the Year of the Pig, and especially want to have children the Year of the Pig.

 

Thoughts:

When I was a kid, my parents would always talk about our zodiac animals—my father is a sheep and my mother and I are rabbits. They would always talk about how their love was meant to be because, in the Chinese Zodiac calendar, sheeps and rabbits are considered perfect matches. Because it was so integrated into my childhood, I think I started to take on the characteristics and personality traits that were expected of a “Rabbit.”

After being told this folklore, I looked up what the expected traits of a Rabbit were, and the weaknesses include “timid” and “hesitant”—though I’ve grown out of it now, as I child, I rarely spoke to anyone because I was too nervous. Strengths of a Rabbit include being polite, generous, and responsible, which were all things that I was (and still am) known for among my family, friends, and peers. Because these traits of our Zodiac animals are so true to who we really are, it’s hard not to take these animals so seriously. As I’m getting older, the concept of marriage is becoming more and more relevant, so it’s natural that my Chinese parents, relatives, and the informant (who is also a Chinese relative) are starting to talk about my Zodiac in the context of marriage. Rabbits are apparently extremely compatible with most other Zodiac animals, according to my family, so perhaps that’s why they’re so confused as to why I’m not in a relationship yet/ thinking about marriage yet.

 

Digital
general
Humor

Venezuelan Power Outage Meme

Context: This meme was sent to me after we discussed the usage of Whatsapp in by Venezuelans to spread jokes, especially concerning the current Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and recent power outage that swept the nation in March 2019.

Piece:

venezuela meme

Exact Translation: What is the sensation of living in Venezuela? Something like this but without light.

Holistic Translation: What does it feel like to live in Venezuela? Something like this but without power.

Background: The informant is a middle aged Venezuelan woman who lives in Boston. She sent this meme via Whatsapp to me as a part of a meme chain. She initially received it from a family member who also sent it through Whatsapp.

Analysis:This meme is part of the new wave of folklore being spread through the Internet. In particular, Whatsapp, a communication app, has become a way for people to communicate globally without the restriction of being in different nations. Whatsapp usage is widely used by Venezuelans, and in recent years has become the mode of communication for families who have migrated due to the dictatorial regime. Whatsapp is not only used for regular communication, but also to share jokes and memes among the Venezuelan community. The informant stated that they receive new jokes or memes daily from family members and continue the pattern by sharing to more contacts.

This meme in particular is a great example of a Disaster Joke. This form of joke is used as a coping mechanism surrounding a traumatic disaster or situation in order to release stress or tension. This joke insinuates that living in Venezuela– which is currently dealing with massive food shortages, high crime rates, lack of medicine and massive power outages– is like being stuck on the edge of a cliff, which is bad enough, and then not having any power. This meme is humorous because of its extreme imagery relating to the already horrifying situation and then the addition of the power outage on top of the bad crisis, showing a form of ironic humor. It is remarkable that a community undergoing such horrific circumstances has the ability to deal with it in such a lighthearted way, most likely because it is the only true way to cope.

 

 

Digital
Legends
Narrative

Purge the Legendary Pokemon

1:

The Pokemon video game franchise has a long history of fan-circulated legends and hoaxes. One such hoax was created during the 4th Generation of Pokemon games, utilizing Pokemon Diamond for Nintendo DS. A false pokemon named Purge, whose graphics did not resemble anything close to any other Pokemon found in the game, was featured in a number of videos on Youtube. These videos purported the existence of Purge as well as building on the lore of how to obtain it.

2:

The Informant was an avid Pokemon player in primary school, as was her twin brother. The two would watch a large number of videos on Youtube about secret/fake Pokemon and try to use their instructions in order to unlock the secret Pokemon for their selves. The Informant said that she and her brother also talked to other children on the playground about these hoaxes (as though they were not hoaxes). One such way that they discussed how to obtain Purge was to “evolve a Bidoof in a specific way on some particular route, and you have to be holding a specific item”. She identified Purge as being the Fake Pokemon that she was the most invested in.

3:

This tradition in particular is founded in Internet Culture because of the nature of sharing screen recordings of the supposed gameplay. Doctored screenshots and gameplay footage being shared across epistemic groups have the ability to spread like wildfire, and the members of those groups are supposedly people who deeply enjoy the popularity they receive from the group that they belong to (in this case, the fanbase of the Pokemon video game franchise). When the informant was voraciously consuming this sort of content, she was still in primary school and had enough free time to spend hours on investigating digital legends.

Digital
Legends
Narrative

紅衣小女孩 | Red-Shirted Girl in the Mountain

1:

When people travel through the mountains (台中風動石, a mountain whose name the Informant tells me loosely translates to “Wind Moving Rock”), they will sometimes see a little girl dressed in red. If she begins to follow you, “bad things happen”. The Informant goes on to suggest “maybe the girl will possess you”, and explains that “you have to say other people’s names or you will be possessed until you die”.

2:

The little girl is believed to be a “Mountain Spirit” which has transferred their self into a little girl, wearing red. One family, between 1999 and 2000, went up to this mountain and recorded videos of their family walking through the trail in a line. When they reviewed the footage, they saw that there was a girl in the line of family members who was not a part of their family. She stands out because of the red she is wearing. One of the family members ended up dying afterwards, and the video was given to a TV Station in order to broadcast it. The Informant stated that “some people say that it’s maybe because the resolution of the video is too low” and implied that the presence of the girl was just a visual aberration due to the VHS-era technology it had been recorded on.

The story was made into a movie in 2015 called “The Tag-Along”.

3:

The elements of Nature Spirits being mixed with technology (VHS cameras, potentially capturing the existence of such a spirit) is interesting in that it creates a mystical story related to the cultural heritage and geographic identity of Taiwan that can still be recorded and distributed via the then-40-year-old infrastructure of television stations.

Childhood
Digital
Folk Beliefs
Game
Legends
Magic

Urban legend: Momo

Main Piece:

Informant: Oh my god Momo, can we please not talk about Momo oh god. Momo is this like, texting game that some of my friends play at school. You know what WhatsApp is? Yeah, so like, my friends will text this number and whoever is behind it will respond and ask them to do weird stuff. Like watch a scary movie with the lights off. Apparently the number once asked some girl to kill herself. I’ve never texted it so I’m not too sure. Yeah also the photo is this absurd picture of the ugliest doll you’ve ever seen.

Interviewer: Where did you hear about Momo?

Informant: At my high school.

Interviewer: What do you make of it?

Informant: The doll is terrifying. I try to not think about it that much.

Background: The informant is a freshman in high school here in Los Angeles. He just recently moved from Woodstock, NY, so I asked him if he’s learned about anything new since he started at a new school. This interview was recorded and I got his father to sign his release form.

Context: I had previously heard of the internet phenomena that is Momo and wanted to get the interpretation of someone within the its target audience. After doing some research on my own I was able to learn about the backstory regarding this piece of cyberlore. Allegedly, the Momo came about from a Spanish speaking Facebook group and evolved into the mainstream when it was introduced to the US in the summer of 2018. The WhatsApp number that children text asks them to complete a series of bizarre and dangerous tasks. Momo reached a tipping point when a 12 year-old girl was found dead shortly after messaging the number. Momo is represented by the same doll every time, which I have attached below. Interestingly enough, the Momo doll wasn’t created with the intention of its current function. The Momo sculpture was created by a Japanese company that makes props for horror movies. However, the sculpture is supposedly based off of the ubume, which is supposedly the spirit of women who die in childbirth.

Analysis: As digital technology has progressed, we are now coming face to face with an entirely new subsection of folklore. These pieces of cyberlore are incredibly viral and mainly target children on the internet. Slenderman was the first of its kind and Momo is an extension upon the principles which gave Slenderman its cult following. These pieces of cyberlore speak to the effectiveness of global communication in spreading folklore. Now we are able to communicate across the globe in a manner of seconds. This kind of cyberlore, contrasted with memes, serve to shock the consumer and play on the gullible nature of younger individuals.

 

momo

Digital
Folk speech

Wombo Combo

Context:
Playing Super Smash Bros with some friends at my house and one of my friends, S, keeps shouting “Wombo combo” while beating us all. S is a 20-year-old male from California who plays Super Smash Bros a lot.

Piece:
S: *hits me and another person in the game rapidly* “WOMBO COMBO BABY”
Me: “Did you come up with that or did you hear that somewhere?”
S: “Aw nah man, LumpyCPU said it in an old YouTube video but it’s hilarious.”

Discussion:
The video is only 49 seconds and it is clear why S appreciated its value; it’s hilarious. It sounds like two young men getting over excited about their victory in an older version of the game and screaming at the top of their lungs “WOMBO COMBO”. It is clear in the video that other people appreciated the new slang and it created a sense of unity amongst players of this game. It also is a good way to get people around you to laugh by screaming a nonsense phrase that clearly demonstrates excitement.

Reference:
The original video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD_imYhNoQ4

Digital
folk metaphor
Folk speech

“Where We Dropping?”

Context:
While discussing familiar folklore in class I sat with a few young white male peers and the conversation of video game folklore came up. It was clear that all of us were familiar with Fortnite and we realized how much slang has been created from the game. One student, Chris , exclaimed that we would all be familiar with the phrase “where we dropping?” but, most people, especially those who do not play the game, would not understand what this means.

Piece:
A few of us were circled around discussing folklore when Chris said “yeah and ‘where we dropping’, you guys all know what that means! We are going to Tilted Towers hahaha, but if I said that to my mom she would think that I am dropping something from my hands. It’s definitely only something people who play Fortnite would understand.”

Discussion:
This is a commonly used phrase when playing the game Fortnite because everyone playing the game starts out in the sky in a flying bus and, when you play with a team you all want to drop from the bus and land in the same place. Thus, everyone will ask each other “where are we dropping?” It’s a strategic term that millions of people understand because of the mainstream culture of this game but, not everyone in the world knows, and it is certainly not taught in a textbook.

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