You’re The Man Now, Dog

There are videos more than nine minutes long that contain almost entirely “You’re the man now, dog” being repeated over and over and over again on loop.  In case you do not believe this, I can affirm this from personal experience.  Why do such things exist?  On the surface level, we can talk about the immediate context of this meme, which is a short line of dialogue taken from the nearly universally panned film “Finding Forrester,” which has noted actor Sean Connery playing a reclusive writer who takes an interest in a young man and encourages him to become a writer as well.  What makes this meme noteworthy is that it shows an old man using slang in such a way that appears to be comical and ridiculous apart from the context of the movie, and this movie, along with the failure of “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” appears to have driven Mr. Connery out of acting altogether, ending a career that included a great many high points from his Bond films to Entrapment.  Yet the meme from this movie was significant enough that it helped inspire an entire genre of memes that focus on the repetition of material as part of a sound collage that is frequently unpleasant to listen to and yet often strangely compelling as well.

Most people who know what I write and who even hear me talk are aware that I love memes.  Whether one is referring to the inside joke of repeated lines like “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball,” from “Dodgeball,” or one is referring to my love of visual memes [1], this is an interest I have kept up through the years.  Whether or not this is an interest that other people appreciate, or just put up with because a love of memes comes along with extensive reading and a high degree of attention being paid to matters of cultural significance in general is not necessarily clear, but regardless, memes are something I have paid attention to for a long time and are something I take very seriously and use on a frequent basis, especially as a shorthand of expressing a sense of the connection between real life and the world of art and literature and music.

And yet we would be mistaken if we merely thought of memes as something to laugh about and share with our friends.  Memes are not only humorous and viral, but are also an aspect of business strategy as well as the philosophy of science.  If we dismiss the importance of obscure movie references being on .jpeg or .gif files or the fondness that many of us, myself included, have for memorable catchphrases, we are missing something deeply important about contemporary culture.  For one, the promotion of bands through memes is big business in our contemporary world.  The career of Drake would be far worse if his songs did not come with “viral” dance video challenges to help make them more popular or lines that could be instantly turned into humorous memes to share with others.  If finding odd lines in a song or movie was once an organic process done by viewers or listeners that could then be shared, it is now something that is deliberately planned into creations by writers in the hope that their sharing will increase the fondness that people have for that creation as a whole.  Once something has been deemed memeworthy, it has a far greater chance of being remembered fondly than if it is deemed as competent but ordinary.

In science too, memes have a clear but often unrecognized force.  When scientists speak of memes, like Richard Dawkins they tend to use it in the context of the differences between what is viewed as human evolution as opposed to naturalistic evolution.  Leaving aside the problematic nature of information and design that is present in the world of biology, there is at least some point in contrasting natural with human processes.  After all, memes (even silly cat pictures) are elements of culture that can be spread quickly (even our use of “viral” to describe this expresses its relation to science) between people with a drastically shorter time than would be necessary if genetic mutation was needed to pass along changes in culture.  Yet it cannot be denied that most of meme culture is at best of passing amusement but not moral advancement.  And some memes can be actively harmful when media institutions attempt to inculcate a view of the world through endlessly repeated lies about the behavior of others.  Yet meme culture can at least theoretically be positive in moral nature even if, as is the case of so much of human existence, memes are not often used in a morally elevated fashion.  The Wedgewood plates of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that showed an enslaved black man with the caption “Am I Not A Man And A Brother?” were definitely memes, but were memes of a positive nature that demonstrated the value of human freedom from the coercion and oppression of slavery.  Most memes do not have anything close to that level of social benefit, but at least they have that possibility.  Like any other aspect of culture, though, memes are only as good as the character of the people who make them and of those that pass them along in response to their power.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to You’re The Man Now, Dog

  1. Pingback: It’s Muffin Time | Edge Induced Cohesion

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