Tuesday, September 24, 2013

God meme and Humor

Describing the categories of humor is a complicated task. After all, many times we enjoy a joke exactly for its surprising features, which we might find hard to explain. Using the scholarly categories of humor sampled and described by Limor Shifman (2011), this task becomes more achievable.
The Advice God meme act on two levels of humor: the first explicit and the second implicit. On the outset, the main feature of humor is what Shifman defines as Incongruity. The God meme combines "unexpected cognitive encounters" (p. 10) between the upper and lower captions. In other words, the comic derives from reading the "punch line". A good example of that is the following meme, where the first line of text reads: "creates mankind in his image".  The next sentence has an unexpected twist to the first, adding: "Doesn't make people invisible.". Thus, an unexpected cognitive effect is created – we think of mankind as acting in the image of god, trying to be like him, but the meme understand image in a more literal way. Since the monotheistic theological assumption is that god has no image, then humans should have no image as well. In other words, they should be invisible.

Surprisingly, the image of god does not play a significant part in constructing the humor. It is used as a symbol of god, but could have been easily replaced with the word "God" before the text. In the case of scumbag god, the image plays a more significant role, as the intertextuality if the meme world allows for another layer of meaning.
The second, implicit humor indicator is superiority. The superiority is implicit since the image or text usually does not mock people who act strangely. Instead, by criticizing religion or\and god, it can be argued that religious people and belief are being ridiculed.

Case Study Research Question
In the case study assignment, I would like to focus on the evolution process of the "Advice God" meme. What was the process that led to creating this meme? How did it evolved further? How does it use other memes and cultural references?
Since the meme is mostly used as a critical meme against religion, and is widely discussed in Atheists' blogs and forums, a unique perspective emerges. It is not a religious meme – but a meme used against religion and by doing so, defining religion from the outside, the epic perspective. I would focus on how this understanding of religion takes part in the creation and development of this meme.

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