Harambe: The Social Impact

By Felipe Bueno, Trending Writer

For a few short days, the internet exploded with news that a seventeen-year-old silverback gorilla was shot in order to save the life of a three year old child that had climbed into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. A plethora of opinionated individuals, civil rights activists, and most importantly, ‘memesters’ took to social media to discuss Harambe’s death. Some refuted the idea that he should have been killed, some placed the blame on the parents, and a majority simply created memes. Usually, when an event like this occurs, the internet immediately seems to forget that it ever took place. However, memes about Harambe continue to appear everywhere on social media, and even people cannot seem to figure out why.

To understand why Harambe cannot seem to die, no pun intended, we must first understand what a meme is, and how it behaves. The term ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene, who likened the cultural phenomena to the natural selection of genes in biological evolutions. He stated that a meme is “any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator,” with a replicator simply being any organism with the ability to replicate (in culture that could mean fashion, music, and trends).  He went on to say that “Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans… (Who) do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time.”

The Harambe phenomena began out of people’s outrage in his death, and this anger was met with satire that gave birth to Harambe memes. As Karl Marx stated, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” What we experience now is the subsequent farce. People do not make Harambe jokes because they are trying to be insulting. They do it because the jokes have been around long enough that they have become a common punchline. This punchline has become amalgamated with multiple other memes propelling its popularity forward. I make Harambe jokes because you make Harambe jokes, and we all make them because we all understand them and are not sick of them yet.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.

Contact Felipe at

felipe.bueno@student.shu.edu

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