USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital
Digital
Game
Humor
Legends
Narrative

Pokémon and the Mystery of Mew

Context

The year is 1998: Following the release of games Pokémon: Red and Blue, the new games are popular throughout the United States. However, this was not always expected, as it was a game that was released very late into the Game Boy’s life cycle during its Japanese release. Then a question arises: how did the game become so popular? The best answer perhaps comes from the elusive Pokémon that was only available through an in-game glitch – the 151st Pokémon, Mew. The informant shares one of these urban legends on how to capture the elusive Pokémon, and why it was so important in the success of the games as a whole.

Informant Information

The informant is older brother to a friend of mine, and he has played the original Pokémon games when they were released in the United States at the age of 6. While he has stopped playing the newer games, he has a first-hand, nostalgic experience on the first generation of Pokémon – the subject of this entry.

Informant: “Mew was the shit. All the kids were talking about it all the time in class! I heard that you had to use dig* next to this one truck to get it, but when I tried, no dice. That was better than this one kid, though – he was told that he had to beat the Elite Four** exactly 100 times to catch Mew… he did it and absolutely fucking nothing happened. Nothing.”

*A Pokémon move usable outside of battle
**The four trainers encountered before facing against the strongest trainer: the champion

Collector: “[laughs] Did anyone you knew at the time actually have a Mew?”

Informant: “Not anyone I personally knew, but I always heard that somebody knows a person who does – I personally think they were all lying. I don’t think anybody in that elementary school actually knew how to get a Mew. That’s probably what got them talking, you know? It was the mystery of it that was so cool.”

Analysis

The urban legends created and circulated by players on how to obtain Mew added to the mystique of the Pokémon: This added to the desire to obtain it, resulting in more urban legends, and this positive cycle resulted in the extended popularity of the Pokémon franchise. Another key reason for the popularity of these urban legends came from the lack of widespread Internet usage during the time. Since a quick search from Google was unavailable in 1996 – or any other search engine, for that matter – it was much harder to verify or dispute the urban legends since only a handful of players outside of Japan knew how to obtain Mew through an in-game bug and how those steps worked. Overall, the Pokémon franchise was able to create folklore, and therefore create a large folk following through Mew, ensuring the franchise’s success over later generations.

Digital
Humor

Gachimuchi

Context

Gachimuchi refers to the originally Japanese style of Internet meme originating from the Japanese video streaming website Nico Nico Douga. Initially beginning with the submission of a gay pornographic wrestling video with a deceptive title circa 2008, it eventually evolved to take the form of a mash-up, where specific sound clips originating from said pornography were extensively sampled to cover existing musical pieces or create new sounds. This style of trolling later spread to nearby countries of South Korea and China, and recently Europe and the Americas through video streaming communities such as Youtube and Twitch.

As more of these videos are made through existing video samples, there is a regular cast of characters, and inside jokes have formed around many of them. Billy Herrington in particular achieved international stardom, visiting Japan and China multiple times, “thanks to the unexpected later success of his pornographic work”.

Analysis

At a fundamental level, Gachimuchi is very much a misunderstanding of homosexuality, just in the opposite direction than usual, at least in the case of Asia. Gay men are typically seen as feminine by Asian cultures at large, but the widespread popularity of Gachimuchi led to a warped view of homosexuality – although gay men were no longer seen as effeminate they became part of an internet joke on an international scale. This is definitely one of many growing pains in Asia’s struggle in achieving social justice.

On the other hand, Gachimuchi showcases the creativity of its own folk group; content creators like HIWIRE reached a point of musical refinement where their take on Gachimuchi resembles electronic dance music productions (taking influences from various genres of house) rather than poorly sampled mash-ups of gay pornography. With the resurgence in western listeners and attention, this meme has been, and will be on the rise for a while.

Digital
Game
Humor

Yorick walks into a bar…

Joke: “Yorick walks into a bar. There is no counter”

Context

In the online video game League of Legends, five players play against another team of five players. Players choose a specific character to take into battle before the game starts, Yorick being one of them. The original meaning of this wordplay is that it is impossible to counter Yorick – at least at the time.

The Informant

The informant is my younger brother. He is an avid player of the game, playing on a daily basis. He said the joke in self-deprecation after a losing a game against a player who used Yorick. When I asked him where the joke was from, he said that he first heard the joke in game back in 2012, when Yorick was a strong character to use. He added that because the joke got very popular around the game’s community, it is still used when complaining about characters that are too strong.

Analysis

The example presented is pertinent as the joke was powerful enough to create other variants, such as:

“Jax walks into a bar. There is no counter.” (another character that was very strong at one point)

The meaning of the message is quite clear: The performer of this joke acknowledges that a certain character is too powerful through the use of witty language. Unsurprisingly, the joke is now commonly referenced throughout the community whenever something seems too strong. As a joke that has reached idiomatic levels of acceptance in its folk community, its influence is well demonstrated.

Digital
general

Unimpressed Lizard

 

The unimpressed lizard is a meme that depicts a hand holding a lizard the size of a finger. This lizard’s careless facial expression lead it to become one of the internets most sought after memes in 2014 – starting on the website Reddit. Like most memes, the people gave it a sense of variation by cutting out the head and placing it on human bodies in various contexts (see photos). The informant is an avid Redditor and it is he who showed this piece for the first time. He states that it isn’t connected to any sub-culture beyond those who use memes It is used by many as a way to express their lack of care or coolness towards something.

When it comes to memes there seems to be this gravitation towards almost exagerated expressions or if mild in nature are associated with some absurd context, such as the Unimpressed Lizard. In fact the expression of being unimpressed is a frequent thematic in meme expressions.

The informant states what he finds so appealing is as mentioned, the absurd association of a lizard acting unimpress. It is the human like nature applied to such a small and insignificant creature who is emulating human nature. Furthermore the contexts that people put this lizard in adds greater value he believes.: “What’s better than an unimpressed lizard in crude form? An unimpressed lizard in sponge bob pajamas.” Each scenario the lizard has been put in is more absurd than the next.

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Digital

North Eastern/Western Mix Up

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Insight from Informant:

“For those who live on the west coast and aren’t too educated in mid-western and eastern schools, people tend to assume North Western (NW) and North Eastern (NE) are one in the same and are located in Chicago, when in fact only North Western is located in Chicago and North Eastern is located in Boston. This has aggravated attendees of NE for quite some time. So much so that a meme had spawned to share with those who make the mistake of blending the two.

The meme was created by a senior eight or so years ago and started to spread across various forms of NE social media groups. The informant discovered it during his first year of school at NE after being invited to a private school Facebook group.

The informant thinks the meme is cheesy, but the message resonates enough to make it worthwhile. He’s considering altering the design and re-sharing it.

 

My Thoughts:

Having been to NE, i’ve experienced first hand the attitudes towards this matter so I can certainly appreciate it. For those who are unfamiliar with the school don’t know that NE is a great school but it has always been considered a lessor school to NW, at least in terms of the public eye. Which is certainly part of why people get so furious, when they have to correct the person, they have to automatically put themselves in the inferior boat. This meme functions as sort of a catharsis for those who feel the pain.

It terms of the aesthetics of the meme, I am in agreement with the informant in that the choice of face doesn’t lend to the comedic copy. Humor is of course subjective, but I would certainly like to see a new iteration.

Digital
Humor

“What People Think I Do / What I Really Do” – Public Relations Edition

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Context (Informant):

Being in PR there’s a lot of misconception about what the job entails. As the meme shows, the different types of people in your life perceive it differently. There are many different iterations of the “What People Think I Do / What I Really Do”, including various PR versions, but this one sums it up the best. A lot of new publicists or those climbing up the ladder within a PR firm post this image on there Twitter or Facebook to poke at those who constantly question or mix up the understanding of the job.

Thoughts (My own):

The “What People Think I Do / What I Really Do” meme started circulating in 2012 when someone posted one about being a science student. Since then it has been adapted for dozens of jobs. A trend with all of them is the friends perception is almost always the most glamorous, followed by the parents. Knowing the informant and what her job entails, at the end of the day it really can be seen from any of these perspectives. But the degree to which one of these perspectives dominates is dependent on your position and level of experience. Nonetheless is humorous and often very telling of a job, which is why I think this meme has the appeal that it does.

 

Digital

And his name is John Cena

Background

John Cena is a well-known WWE wrestler and Hollywood actor. In 2012, a prank call aired on a local radio station (“Z morning Zoo”) where the DJs repeatedly played a sound clip advertising John Cena’s wrestling career to a wife who was fed up with her husband’s obsession with WWE wrestling. Two years later (2014), the channel “RuinCommentsOfficial” uploaded a recording of the prank call to YouTube which gained over 20 million views. Another year after that (2015), the sound clip from the video resurfaced as a popular meme on on Vine, an internet platform where users can post 6 second video clips. Several other websites, such as Reddit and Tumblr, also contributed to this trend. Since then, hundreds of thousands of versions of the John Cena clip have appeared across the internet.

Context

The sound clip from the radio station prank call and a video of John Cena will pop up in the middle of a video which was seemingly about something unrelated to John Cena and WWE wrestling. There is usually no connection between the interrupted video and John Cena. Occasionally, the John Cena audio clip is mixed with a preexisting video meme.

Text

The prank call video that the meme originated from:

A compilation of John Cena vine:

Thoughts

Far more people participated in the spreading of the John Cena meme than actually watch WWE wrestling or are fans of John Cena, so there was a reason people were drawn to this folklore than actually had a personal investment in the subject matter. However, because of the way the meme originated, internet users were able to adapt the collective internet “inside joke” of the John Cena audio clip to fit into any other type of video that may interest them. Therefore, every person who came across the John Cena meme could contribute their own take on the joke and no one needed to even know who John Cena really was to join in on the laughter feel connected to the internet community.

Digital
Humor

Doge

 

 

Background

Doge is a slang term for the word “dog.” The most typical form of the meme contains a Shiba Inu dog staring at the camera with what looks like an approximation of a skeptical human face. Written over the image (usually in comic sans font) are sentences with intentionally poor grammar (Ex: very wow, much concern, so scare).

Context

The image is circulated on forums across the internet, most often on Tumblr, Reddit, and 4chan. There is no real specific time that is is supposed to be used, other than when the poster finds it to be humorous. However, after the image and internal monologue phrases went viral on the internet, companies, news broadcasters and politicians began to utilize them when trying to reach a younger demographic.

Text

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Use in American politics

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Thoughts

This piece of folklore combines several things that are consistently popular on the internet: cute animals and bad grammar. There seems to be little reason for the initial circulation of the image other than that it made people laugh. However, the continued use of the meme seems, for many, to be a way to identify oneself as a member of the internet community. The use of the image or phrases by politicians and companies seems to be a somewhat misplaced attempt to connect with the “younger generation” who spends more time on the internet. These attempts are usually mocked in online forums, proving that the point of the meme, as folklore, is to connect a certain group of people (common internet users), and when it’s used outside of that context, it doesn’t carry the same weight.

Digital
Humor

Mmmm whatcha say

Background

In the second season of the television show The O.C. (airing in 2004), the final scene of the season finale depicts the shooting and death of one of the shows characters. The scene utilizes a slow-motion effect along with Imogen Heap’s folktronica song “Hide and Seek,” including the infamous line “mmmmm whatcha say.” Ten years later, in 2014, the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live did a parody of this scene, playing off of the humorous contrast between the character’s death and the more upbeat pop song. This SNL skit went viral. Following that, parodies of this parody began popping up across the internet and a new meme was born.

Context

Whenever there is a video of someone falling or getting hurt in a humorous way or a television/movie character dies, someone can edit the video into slow motion with Imogen Heap’s song playing over it. This is popular on many platforms across the internet including YouTube, Vine, Tumblr, Reddit, and 4chan.

Text

Scene from The O.C.

SNL Sketch

Compilation of use on the internet

Thoughts

It amazes me how many layers of group knowledge exist in this piece of folklore. The Imogen Heap song that is used in the episode of the O.C. and which is an integral part of the meme was, itself, a folktronica song, meaning that it synthesized existing folk music with popular music. When it was used in the episode, the O.C. was a fairly popular television show, but it was still obscure enough that it was strange for SNL to make a parody of it 10 years later. Furthermore, once the reworking of this parody became an internet sensation, more people were participating than who even watched the SNL sketch which was only somewhat viral by internet standards. Because of this, it appears that most people perform this piece of folklore don’t even know very much about where it came from. Instead, it seems their reason for performing it has more to do with the connection they feel to the internet community.

Digital
Folk speech

I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now

Background

Tumblr user chardonnaymami posted a transcript of a conversation about virgin mai tias that included the phrase “I came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now.” Over the next several weeks, the phrase was used in thousands of copy posts, molding to fit any number of situations. It reaches a point where people began to parody the phrase often enough that it would be impossible to understand some jokes if you didn’t have the background knowledge to recognize the original phrase.

Context

This meme was spread mostly on the popular blogging website Tumblr. It would mainly be used after some sort of criticism to sarcastically complain about being criticized or challenged.

Text

Original Post

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Examples of the spread of the phrase

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Self-aware meme

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Thoughts

This piece of internet folklore probably caught on so quickly because it addresses a problem that many people face on the internet: trolls and incessant criticism. By enacting this popularly used phrase, users could playfully deal with situations that are normally uncomfortable and hard to deal with. Furthermore, once the meme reached a certain level of popularity, it became almost necessary to post some form of the phrase to establish one’s self as a real part of the community. If you didn’t get the joke, it meant you clearly hadn’t been paying very close attention.

 

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