I get this love-at-first-sight feeling whenever I encounter a new term.  Especially one that describes an idea I didn’t know had a name.

I fell hard for the term internet meme.  The ‘meme’ concept as a cultural signifier goes much deeper, but the aspect of it that really stole my heart was the internet meme.  Wiki describes an internet meme as a “catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an inside joke.”

Although I’ve never participated in an internet meme actively (by making a response video to a youtube clip, or an animated gif that captures the essence of a moment), I do spread the links around when they make me laugh, which is really the lifeblood of a meme.  Each one is a little pyramid scheme.

I came across this beast one day, and it blew my mind. This is an ambitious project to chart the timeline of different Internet/Cultural Memes!

We all receive links from friends and pass them on to a couple people through IM, email, twitter or social networking posts, so it sometimes feels like these inside jokes are only among our small social circles.  But the combination of easy transmission, cubicle culture and the 6-Degrees theory makes these links go viral so quickly that it creates the bizarre effect of an inside joke that a million people are in on. (CF – Being RickRoll’d while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade)

I wonder about how memes affect our perception of a story.  For instance, the recent Christian Bale meme, where he lost his s#it on the set of Terminator Salvation:

(NSFW – Foul language, violent undertones, cussing in a Welsh accent)

Which in turn spurred this inevitable (and surprisingly catchy) techno remix:

Both of the above videos went viral, but as a fan of Christian Bale (full disclosure), I was pretty curious about how the story ended. Did he apologize? Did his publicist make an apology for him? So I investigated, and of course there was an apology:

Here’s what troubles me.  The KROQ interview adds a lot of information to the story:

  1. Even though the rant only appeared on Youtube last week, the event occurred last Summer!  (Publicity stunt?)
  2. Bale apologized to the DP, did not get him fired, and continued working/communicating with him throughout the project.
  3. Christian Bale thinks that it’s okay for Michael Phelps to smoke weed.

None of these are insignificant details (except for #3 which is merely irrelevant) but the tragic part is this – the radio interview was NOT viral.  Statistical breakdown as of this post:

Rant video views:  973,349

Rant techno remix views:  1,858,745

Rant apology views: 2,545

Population of Swaziland: 1,141,000

So even if you might have been swayed by Bale’s humility and self-deprecating charm in owning up to his douche-baggery…  nobody linked you on that part of the story, so the impression that most of the population of Swaziland is left with is that Christian Bale went on a tirade set to phat house beatz!

Squidhelmet answers your questions before you even ask them:

  • Celebrities have it tough in this meta-modern world, so don’t judge Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff or Tom Cruise by their highly publicized moments of human weakness!  You may be asking yourself: wouldn’t we be better off by just closing our eyes and pretending there’s nothing beyond 30 Rock, Night Rider and Top Gun?  Yes.
  • Don’t forget, Youtube is full of the embarassing moments of common people as well.  Are these of less value than the embarassing moments of celebrities?  Yes.
  • What do I do if I find I’ve become an internet meme, Squidhelmet?  I don’t know, ask MetaFilter.


UPDATE: 2/8/09

This meme has spawned many great response videos, so on the suggestion of my friend Philosophistry, I’m going to collect a few on this post so we can all trace the proud history of Christian Bale’s unfortunate moment.  Enjoy!

Tracy Morgan Goes Off

Christian Bale vs. Bill O’Reilly (Illustrates meme cross-over!)

Christian Bale Takes David To The Dentist (Mash-Up) [Illustrating further meme crossover, this David After Dentist meme caught on around the same time]

Stephen Colbert gives his own special tribute to the Christian Bale meme:

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3 Responses to “Requiem for a meme… (I can’t be the first one to think of that title)”

  1. polly says:

    YAY! BLOGBLOGBLOG! And what about the latest, “Christian Bale takes David to the Dentist?” What a rife day Tuesday was for internet memes.

    Also, I can only listen to Christian Bale’s rant when set to techno music. The real thing makes me feel weird.

  2. blandperson says:

    I really love the dance remix.
    oh and the title of your blog is pretty amazing-
    even if someone has thought of it, I will credit you
    with it.:)

  3. mr. rendon says:

    I am a m@ta-modern hipster. I only watch memes of memes.

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