Memetic narratives


As one of the prominent media artifacts of contemporary culture, memes take great advantage from the use of tropes, and offer excellent examples for the use of framing theory in communication. The niche of surreal memes is part of this game as well.

In his Morphology of the Folktale (1928), Vladimir Propp describes 31 narrative functions and seven spheres of action, or characters, that he identifies as base for his analysis of tales and their construction. His work has been subsequently explored by Algirdas Julien Greimas and Erving Goffman, who integrated it through the concept of the “actant” and the frame analysis method. These theoretical references can be helpful when trying to understand how these narrative patterns influence our conception of reality - or of fictional worlds.

The surreal meme world is such a world, with its legends, rules, charts and historical eras. But beyond being a collective alternate reality fanfiction made with memes, mainly between YouTube and reddit, it also represents the most radical attempt by the memesphere to cut out all references to our plane of reality: be it politics, media celebrities, pop culture or commercial brands. And since memes thrive on references and quotations, surreal memes had to create a whole universe - or, to be more precise, a multiverse - full of them. To complete the task, it also generated stories to populate it, with heroes and antagonists, quests and legends.

Who created this world, and why?

The main hero of the surreal multiverse, a poorly made 3D head known as “Meme Man”, first became popular on weird facebook, where he was featured on the popular “Special meme fresh” page in a comic known as “Layers of Irony”. While the 3D element might point to the professional background of its creators (other recurrent elements are the use of zalgo text and lovecraftian references), the crucial element to understand surreal memes is irony.

These memes were born in an age when memers were desperately trying to escape cooptation by the mainstream, adding layers upon layers of irony to their creations. Surreal memes thus mark the moment that irony hits singularity, opening the gates to another dimension.

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