I mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I decided to excise a number of the memes that were going to be part of my book. It was sufficient for a meme to be excluded that I did not envisage being able to write anything of interest (to me) in the commentary on it. I have now set myself the goal of posting the excised memes here, in an occasional series, and trying to write something of interest (to me) about them, thus proving my decision to exclude them mistaken! Also, in this parergonal space around the book, I will write about the memes without the pretense that their maker is someone other than myself. I am curious to see how this affects the nature of my writing about the memes.
This was an occasional meme that appeared (on March 10th, 2016) in the comments on another meme, which will not be excised, “I thought your boat was longer than it is”:
“Aye” is actually, in my opinion, not a bad meme overall, and there would have been some quite interesting stuff to write about it. I think my decision to get rid of it was made in a fit of “throw-it-out” house-cleaning that perhaps went too far!
Its interest lies in the fact that the dramatic scene it represents is unlike any other in the corpus of memes I created and stands in an interesting relation to the slap. The language for eliciting votes in a meeting is highly codified and both Batman and Robin are just following procedure, as far as their speech is concerned. In no other meme do I have the Dynamic Duo performing to a kind of script. In fact, the imposition of the ‘already written’ script (as it were) onto a surprising choice of image almost reverses the normal way that image macros work, where an ‘already given’ image is modified by spontaneous and freely-composed text. Overlaying the image with this text means that Batman’s response, in which he goes along with the process initiated by Robin, is accompanied by a simultaneous rebuke. Is the slap an objection to Robin’s having called for a vote? Is it an embodied “Nay,” which cannot be explicit given the limits of the form? Is it, itself, part of some rule-governed activity, so that, despite appearances, the scene depicted is not one of vote-taking but merely includes that language as part of another formally specified activity?
I mentioned above that the meme was an occasional one, produced in the context of the back and forth engendered by the posting of another meme. In response to that other meme, actor Marc Brudzinski kindly commented that he was “living in the golden age of Batman memes.” He went on to muse about how textbooks might be written in the format of Batman memes, to which I replied: “Right? Learning outcomes would go through the roof. (And what if all bureaucratic nonsense documents were written this way, too?).” After a few further remarks, Brudzinski wrote “or what if in a meeting, ‘making a motion’ meant ‘slapping the chair of the meeting.’ ‘Seconding a motion’ could be ‘slapping the chair of the meeting again.'” I responded with “Or seconding could be slapping the person who made the motion? And then to vote, everyone could slap the person next to them.” And then, in the next comment, the meme “Aye” appeared.
This exchange, funny and charming as it is, lies behind the reason my zealous ‘tidying up’ of the memes to be included in the book swept up “Aye,” despite its manifest virtues. In my mind, my book has always been many things. When I first had the idea for it, and a little while thereafter, one of those many things was a record of what I called the Batman Meme Project. This included the posting of the first 50 or so memes on Facebook, along with the parerga to those postings, the back-and-forth with people who, in their different styles, chose to engage with my obsession. As those events have receded into the past, and other (sometimes more grandiose) goals have coalesced around my project, that original motivation has appeared of less and less interest to me. I am, in a sense, in the process of throwing away the ladder I ascended on. (Ascended to what, God knows!) Thus, memes which were posted on Facebook, and there elicited engagement with others, have come to pose a sort of problem of their own. How much should I still adhere to the original goal of incorporating that engagement? “Aye,” which requires at least a paragraph of explanation of its original Facebook context, is an acute instance of this problem.
I began this post already convinced of the merits of this meme, unlike the previous three discussions of excised memes. So I didn’t need to convince myself I had made a mistake. In fact, I rather think I have convinced myself I didn’t make a mistake in getting rid of this particular one. The point about the early goals of the book, now increasingly irrelevant, is very important to me. This phenomenon has greatly shaped the ups and downs of my work on the manuscript. Getting rid of this meme is an important step in putting myself on an even keel, I hope. We’ll see.