Let memesplain Harambe
August 16, 2016 12:13 PM   Subscribe

On July 27, Abby Ohlheiser at The Washington Post explained how “the Internet won’t let Harambe rest in peace”, and Brian Feldman at New York Magazine tried to characterize “the dark internet humor of Harambe jokes.”
As of today, the fact that over 60,000 people now want Harambe to be a Pokémon has prompted another hot take from Ben Guarino at the Post. For a business angle, Fruzsina Eordogh at Forbes explains how Harambe can grace indie tees but remain “too dark for brands”. Meanwhile, Brett Milam of Cincinnati.com has a rundown of the gorilla’s appearances, and Kaitlyn Tiffany at The Verge reviews recent memes and declares Harambe to be one of three Memes of the Summer.
posted by Going To Maine (68 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 


Memes of the Summer.

Holy crap am I getting old.

(the Harambe jokes are often pretty funny though)

Here is a Fanfare post about an episode of Reply All that covered this topic (I haven't clicked through enough of the links to determine if the episode was cited or not)
posted by sparklemotion at 12:19 PM on August 16, 2016


When I find myself in times of trouble, mother mary comforts me, speaking words of wisdom,

Harambe
posted by The Whelk at 12:23 PM on August 16, 2016 [42 favorites]


I'm Rick Harrison, and this is my meme shop. I work here with my old man and my son, Big Hoss. Everything in here has a story and a price. One thing I've learned after 21 years - you never know what is gonna come through that door.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:25 PM on August 16, 2016 [22 favorites]


Someone I know very, very well works at the zoo in question. They are SO SICK of all of this. Everyone is heartsick, every day, about what happened. They're all having such a hard time healing because people just won't let it go.

I know people think it's funny. But to the people involved in it, it's tragic and sad and they feel absolutely terrible.
posted by cooker girl at 12:25 PM on August 16, 2016 [53 favorites]


I hate the Harambe meme. It doesn't even rise to the level of dead-baby jokes. None of these people would ever give a good goddamn about that animal, who died in a tragic, racially charged incident that will follow a young boy forever.

But then, this meme is not for me. I'm not actually a mother, but I am very momlike, and some jokes are NOT 4 MOMZ. With such things I have made my peace.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:25 PM on August 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


Memes of Summer.

Out on the road today, I saw a Dat Boi sticker on a Cadillac...
posted by bondcliff at 12:26 PM on August 16, 2016 [66 favorites]


The Reply All episode transcended all my expectations of what it is like to feel old (and I myself am a millennial). Me and my roommate over the past three years will frequently share memes and imgur links with each other.... But we were both pretty busy this spring and I hadn't heard of harambe until that podcast. Then they got two staff writers from Mtv News to explain a Marina Joyce meme and they sounded like they goddamned 17 years old. Anyways listen to it and then yell at some kids to get off your goddamned lawn
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:27 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


None of these people would ever give a good goddamn about that animal, who died in a tragic, racially charged incident that will follow a young boy forever.

Really? Because isn't the whole point of the meme that we are surprised at how much we are all saddened by that gorilla's death?
posted by sparklemotion at 12:28 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Oh shit? Dat boi! Did you ask him waddup?
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:28 PM on August 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Out on the road today, I saw a Dat Boi sticker on a Cadillac..."

Cadillac makes unicycles now?
posted by I-baLL at 12:30 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


me too thanks
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 12:31 PM on August 16, 2016


*edit*

Never mind, someone already linked to the Reply All episode up above. The meme itself is worth a few chuckles but it also feels very gross in many ways, like a very human thing to do, to mock this death. It can still be funny but it feels wrong.
posted by Fizz at 12:34 PM on August 16, 2016


I know people think it's funny. But to the people involved in it, it's tragic and sad and they feel absolutely terrible.

It can be both things. Humor is often like that. If you take an empathic look at just about anything being made fun of it's often cruel.

I also think many of the people making fun feel absolutely terrible.

I'm mortified we keep animals in zoos.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:34 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


And Harambe of course plays prominently in that other top Meme of the Summer, posted earlier.
posted by Kabanos at 12:35 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Really? Because isn't the whole point of the meme that we are surprised at how much we are all saddened by that gorilla's death?

I don’t think so. I think the meme is just a thing without any meaning. You can’t get from real sadness to “BUSH DID HARAMBE” or Harambe staring in at Donald Trump as Trump eats fried chicken with a knife and fork. But then, that’s why I made the post. Because I don’t get Harambe.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:35 PM on August 16, 2016


Like all other pop culture, the only worthwhile meme culture was produced when I was in high school and college for people the same age as myself. Both the youth, with their Harambe jokes and dat bois, and the old people with their Minion obsession are producing inferior meme cultures.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:36 PM on August 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


This stock joke was tired by day five. The serious posts about it were tired in July. Day 80 let's do this
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:39 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


What I'm saying is that I can care about Harambe memes once I get a picture of him riding Barbaro in heaven and not before.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Really? Because isn't the whole point of the meme that we are surprised at how much we are all saddened by that gorilla's death?
One of things that fuels the popularity of #Harambe is its role as meta-commentary on our own collective un-proportional emotional reaction to the difficult, moral decisions made by others far removed from us... it makes us feel uncomfortable and thus allows us to confront what about the situation makes us uncomfortable in a less charged context of internet sarcasm.

It reminds me a little of "Get That Fetus, Kill That Fetus" song from this season of Bojack. At first I thought the song was outrageously dark and giggled guiltily, then I felt extremely uncomfortable with the song being so central to the plot, then realized the reason the song is able to make me laugh without getting nauseated is because its clearly more representative of the ghoulish perception of women who seek abortion held by the extreme pro-life than it is representative of any real woman facing a that choice. The song probably strikes a lot of people as akin to #deadbabyjokes but honestly it helped me unpack a little bit of discomfort I have with extreme pro-life and extreme pro-choice.... which is guess is what humor is supposed to do?
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:48 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm mortified we keep animals in zoos.

That's definitely an opinion you can have, and I'm not sure stating it belongs in this thread (though I did open the door, I suppose), but good zoos* do some amazing conservation and keeping-species-alive work. The people my loved one works with (and my loved one as well) are incredibly devoted to conservation, animal behavior, and the actual animals they care for. At the Cincinnati Zoo, for example, there are at least four manatees that are alive and well today (and living back in the wild) because of their rehabilitation at the zoo. And there are two manatees now at the zoo who are being rehabilitated to eventually be released back into the wild. They would be dead now otherwise.

*yes, there are some bad zoos and they should be shut down.
posted by cooker girl at 12:48 PM on August 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


...but remain “too dark for brands”.

Guess we're not getting a lot of...

Brands Saying Haram-Bae
posted by griphus at 12:51 PM on August 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


I was annoyed by Harambe memes until someone pointed out how many of the jokes are a parody of the memorials you see after every new racially charged police shooting. Now I'm just sad and disappointed. I guess I should be grateful people even remember Harambe' name.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:01 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just made this comment over in chat, but the vibe I've been getting (as an admittedly old fart Gen-X millenial edge case) is that there's an ugly racist undertone to the jokes. But then I guess that's true for pretty much everything on the internet.
posted by Existential Dread at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was annoyed by Harambe memes until someone pointed out how many of the jokes are a parody of the memorials you see after every new racially charged police shooting. Now I'm just sad and disappointed. I guess I should be grateful people even remember Harambe' name.

But are they making fun of those memorials or making fun of the idea that the shooting of a gorilla seems to capture Americans' hearts more that the shooting of a human being? (I think there has been some of each.)
posted by atoxyl at 1:05 PM on August 16, 2016 [20 favorites]


I've seen too many Harambe "jokes" directed at Gabby Douglas and Leslie Jones to find the mere mention of this poor animal's name anything but distasteful at this point.
posted by OolooKitty at 1:07 PM on August 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was annoyed by Harambe memes until someone pointed out how many of the jokes are a parody of the memorials you see after every new racially charged police shooting. Now I'm just sad and disappointed. I guess I should be grateful people even remember Harambe' name.

Really? I haven't seen that angle to Harambe memes, my experience has mostly been general "goodnight sweet prince" type posts (plus the wonderfully nonsensical 'dicks out for Harambe'). All in all, my read of Harambe memes, at least at first, was that it was making fun of the fact that (white) people got so furious about a gorilla getting killed in ways that they don't about actual humans being killed - that turning the grief about Harambe up to 11 was a way to shine a spotlight on how public outrage and grief can be so thoroughly misplaced (see also: Cecil the lion).

Though the Internet is a huge place, and it's only natural that the same meme would appear very different ways to different people in different places.

On preview, atoxyl beat me to it.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:10 PM on August 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


Really? Because isn't the whole point of the meme that we are surprised at how much we are all saddened by that gorilla's death?

Exactly. Well, with two other added elements: mocking both the media over-coverage of Harambe's death (at the perceived expense of more pressing societal issues); and the hyper-vigilantism of people who demanded JUSTICE 4 HARAMBE.

Take the "dicks out for Harambe" thing. The New York writer doesn't seem to get it, dismissing it as basically Dadaism. Which I mean, it is to a point. But the meme is a play on rap slang, where "dicks" means "guns." Popularized by Young Thug.

So it's a call to avenge Harambe with your guns, while also (mainly) invoking the absurdist visual, that everyone whipping out their penis for a gorilla's death will somehow make the world a better place.

I'm sure some people have made it a racist meme, because the internet does that, but the majority of what I'd seen was mocking more the hagiography of Harambe, at the expense of ongoing social unrest, than anything else.

On preview: atoxyl and Ixapica got it.
posted by joechip at 1:12 PM on August 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


You can’t get from real sadness to “BUSH DID HARAMBE” or Harambe staring in at Donald Trump as Trump eats fried chicken with a knife and fork. But then, that’s why I made the post. Because I don’t get Harambe.

Well... Bush did Harambe directly flows from Bush did 9/11, which is another absurdist take on a tragedy (with a little satire about conspiracy theories worked it).

Harambe staring a Trump's chicken also makes sense if you look at it in light of people who treat eating certain foods with a fork and knife as a "tragedy" (in the jokey sense, obviously)
posted by sparklemotion at 1:17 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


You can’t get from real sadness to “BUSH DID HARAMBE”

Yes you can. There is not one correct way to process sadness.
posted by mcmile at 1:26 PM on August 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I long for the simple days of Winter Is Coming
posted by beerperson at 1:27 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Here's an example of someone finding racist hypocrisy in the sincere outpouring over Harambe. But I'm not saying it's never a racist meme or primarily an anti-racist meme either - I think it's become a meta-joke on the whole contemporary framework of (social- and other) media outrage regardless of the specifics of the underlying story or legitimacy of emotional response to that story.
posted by atoxyl at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Harambe died because he shared the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Let's talk about the race thing:

I was annoyed by Harambe memes until someone pointed out how many of the jokes are a parody of the memorials you see after every new racially charged police shooting. Now I'm just sad and disappointed.

I've seen too many Harambe "jokes" directed at Gabby Douglas and Leslie Jones to find the mere mention of this
poor animal's name anything but distasteful at this point.


There's more to unpack here, but I'll point to the linked WaPo piece that mentions that much of the parody memorial stuff came out of Black Instagram. And to the extent that Blacks in the U.S. feel like we are seen as no more than animals, jokingly embracing an actual gorilla can be a reasonable catharsis at the same time as pointing out a.) the bullshit epidemic of gun violence facing Black american men, and b.) people are crazy sad about this one gorilla right here.

I luckily haven't seen any Harambe jokes directed at Douglas or Jones. I'm not doubting that a good chunk of them are racist. But there are a good chunk of knock-knock jokes that are racist -- it doesn't poison the whole genre.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:31 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Out on the road today, I saw a Dat Boi sticker on a Cadillac...

I said oh shit waddup
Harambe ain't comin' back
He's never coming back
I thought I knew what memes was
What did I know
Those days are gone forever
I should just let 'em go but
posted by GuyZero at 1:33 PM on August 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


my neighbor writes for Forbes so i guess now i know where to go for meme explanations
posted by beerperson at 1:43 PM on August 16, 2016


i have a colleague who is into these and my comment to her was "this is going to be really weird for historians to explain; 'back before we drove gorillas to extinction because we're horrible, we thought it was funny to make jokes about one who was shot in a tragic incident'"

that said, I had not considered the angle that sparklemotion mentioned. but I have an...uneasy relationship to the whole thing, at least the stuff that has popped up on my (admittedly overwhelmingly non-black) social networks.
posted by dismas at 1:55 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I only like one Harambe meme and this is it.
posted by telegraph at 2:32 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Harambe was born and lived in a cage that pretends not to be one and died for reasons he could never have understood.

I think a lot of people can relate.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:32 PM on August 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


is that there's an ugly racist undertone to the jokes.

I've seen so many Harambe "jokes" directed deliberately and dismissively (very often as a response to commentary on police killings of Black people) at outspoken Black activists on Twitter that it's not an undertone. I actually didn't know it was not 100% at all times intentionally a racist meme and was shocked at some of the comments here about it being kinda funny. I guess the memo isn't fully distributed yet.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:46 PM on August 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Like all other pop culture, the only worthwhile meme culture was produced when I was in high school and college for people the same age as myself. Both the youth, with their Harambe jokes and dat bois, and the old people with their Minion obsession are producing inferior meme cultures.
posted by Bulgaroktonos


Then you're going to love my new old-fashioned take on this: "Harambe ate my balls"
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:47 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Harambe was born and lived in a cage that pretends not to be one and died for reasons he could never have understood.

I think a lot of people can relate.

They can also relate to this meme! when u do not view yr fears as a trap which restrains u but as a vehicle which u must use to navigate the world
posted by Going To Maine at 2:52 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


lol, ok, what was Harambe about? (Past tense because if it wasn't already over, an FPP with Forbes explainers would surely do it) Odes and songs to Harambe long after the actual incident faded from public imagination were a barbed reminder of the predictable, disappointing, compressed, manipulative emotional cycle of news and twitter discourse in a year when everything is happening all at once as we flit from brief spurts of sadness and outrage and anger and whatever else from one moment to the next, always gearing up for the next thing to care about and talk about before it's forgotten and irrelevant. Ohhh, yall cried so hard (and so publicly!) for poor, noble, beautiful Harambe - and became instant zoo experts, and parenting experts - and we knew it would all be over in a week at best, and in that same week more senseless, unfathomable violence on the black community happened and it was all just more STUFF to talk about for a few days before moving on. "You care more about Harambe than black bodies in the streets" clashed with "the Harambe incident was itself a proxy for police brutality" and a thousand other takes, some heartful and some performative and all, in aggregate, exhausting, and a coping mechanism from various people on the weird/left seeing their timelines flooded with this charged ephemerality was to really absurdly draw this thing out well past all reason and well past the point everyone moved on, as a constant jab in the eye, a reminder of brief insanities, seeing how far we could push the tired social media conversation to its breaking point. It signals the end of something, and lots of us are all feeling it, and rather than articulate it in boring square explanatory comments like this one we're at least having some gallows fun before the ship finally sinks...
posted by naju at 3:18 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


If you think the tragic death of a zoo animal becoming a meme to be haphazardly thrown into the conversation on any occasion at the slightest excuse by the sort of people who like to do that sort of thing is a new phenomenon, maybe you're too young to remember the time when Jumbo the Elephant was (as one newspaper put it) schmucked by a train in 1885.
posted by sfenders at 4:06 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


if it wasn't already over, an FPP with Forbes explainers would surely do it)

Going by Google Trends, Harambe might be peaking but it isn’t over. Which is, perhaps, the ultimate definition of privilege: to steal a meme and then not let it end.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:21 PM on August 16, 2016


You would think dicks out for Harambe is a nonsensical slogan until you're partying on a rooftop and people are exposing themselves.

Somehow, this became a rallying cry for exhibitionism as well and I'm seeing tits out for Harambe on Twitter, elsewhere online, and IRL.

Is this easily explained as people looking for an easy excuse to expose themselves? (Not that I mind, more power to everyone that's not hurting other people with these actions.)
posted by RichAndCreamy at 4:23 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've spent my entire life realizing I've never been invited to the right parties.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:38 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Harambe might be peaking but it isn’t over

I mean it's well played out (even with the joke being extending Harambe long past his conversational shelf life) and oversaturated and most of the originators have moved on to other things. Something can be gaining mainstream popularity and 'over' at the same time I think.
posted by naju at 4:40 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Something can be gaining mainstream popularity and 'over' at the same time I think.

I would think that going mainstream generally entails sacrificing the original cultural payload, sure. I guess to me a meme being over means that I don’t see it anymore. (e.g. o the huge manatee) while a meme not being over means that I still see it around. I’m not sure how lolcats fit into this. I think they’ve achieved the transcendent state of simply being a thing that exists.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:55 PM on August 16, 2016


There is something refreshing about escaping needing/being expected to know/keep up with these things. Places which are generally pointed to as breeding grounds for memes are uniformly terrible, so the output ends up terrible. In youth, there were expectations that one would have to keep up with these things.

But now I'm free! Free at last! (Now if only I could afford a lawn...)
posted by CrystalDave at 5:04 PM on August 16, 2016


idk, it's cultural literacy. As with any culture, lowbrow or high, no one is holding a gun to your head, and reasons for not engaging can be perfectly understandable. But lack of knowledge also doesn't strike me as particularly worth celebrating, at the same time.
posted by naju at 5:39 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


> I actually didn't know it was not 100% at all times intentionally a racist meme and was shocked at some of the comments here about it being kinda funny

I read a thread today of a Trumpter and a a non-Trumpeter arguing. The non-Turmpeter had a Pepe avatar, and the Trumpeter called them out as a hypocrite for it. Their interlocutor was flabbergasted that Pepe could have any alt-right connotation.

In conclusion: memes are like an onion.
posted by postcommunism at 9:10 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]




Yeah, the memes mean this, the memes mean that, but does it matter, and does anyone really care? Like, who are these articles even for? People confused by things they keep seeing all the time on the internet, which they are on enough for that to be an issue, but don't know how to google?

It just looks an awful lot like "content creators" in the media hoping you don't notice their desperate trend-chasing clickbait bullshit is desperate trend-chasing clickbait bullshit. Journalism!

Besides, anyone who is looking for answers in memes is asking the wrong end of the elephant. If something has become a mainstream supermeme, that just means the internet has digested that bit of culture. Thoroughly. These articles are the journalistic equivalent of a German toilet for a human centipede.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


What is a German toilet?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:28 AM on August 17, 2016


Twenty dollars, same as in town.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:36 AM on August 17, 2016


Meme Lives Matter
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:42 AM on August 17, 2016


Werner Herzog discussed Harambe recently with Katie Notopoulos on the Internet Explorer podcast.
posted by SarahElizaP at 2:53 AM on August 17, 2016


Super Deluxe tells us why Hillary Clinton is the queen of dank memes. Including Harambe.
posted by emjaybee at 7:33 AM on August 17, 2016


Really? Because isn't the whole point of the meme that we are surprised at how much we are all saddened by that gorilla's death?

No. That's not the point of the meme.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2016


If we can clone Dolly, why not Harambe?
Prior art: a Change.org petition for "the nerd who cloned Dolly" from "porn horse", and a Reddit proposal to crowdsource:
https://m.reddit.com/r/Harambe/comments/4x53xj/why_dont_we_start_and_indie_fundraiser_to_clone/

I'd contribute.
posted by Baeria at 11:10 AM on August 17, 2016


If we can clone Dolly, why not Harambe?

I briefly assumed we were talking about Dolly Parton, and my heart skipped a beat.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:31 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Harambe: Stop making memes of our dead gorilla, Cincinnati Zoo pleads

I don't think the Cincinnati Zoo realizes how the internet works.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]




And now this thread itself has been mentioned in Vox. The circle is complete.
posted by Pyry at 6:42 PM on September 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


Delightful! Also in that Vox article that make the same mistake I did:
Harambe has been declared the “Meme of the summer,” and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
But The Verge didn’t declare Harambe the meme of the Summer. It declared it a contender for the meme of the summer but ultimately gave the title to “don’t talk to me or my son ever again” Which is BULLSHIT, but still.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:14 PM on September 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Which is BULLSHIT, but still."

Yeah, that really rustles my jimmies.
posted by I-baLL at 8:24 AM on September 2, 2016


And now this thread itself has been mentioned in Vox. The circle is complete.


From that article: "Harambe, though, is a different kind of meme; it’s Schrödinger’s meme, both ironic and sincere."

Sounds like something I said above.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:01 PM on September 11, 2016


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