Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Muslim Memes Blogpost 2: Humor

Many of the dozen selected memes for this cast study use humor. An example of this is a picture of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise looking incredulous layered with the text “Oh guuurl, that amount of makeup with your abaya?” Abaya is a cloak worn by some Muslim women. The layered text is meant to offer humor through the juxtaposition of the cloak, which is conventionally seen as modest, to the heavy amount of makeup, which probably implies immodesty. The viewer of the meme may find pleasure in identifying the juxtaposition and removing him or herself as a target of the meme. This may be an example of what Shifman (2012) calls superiority humor in her study of YouTube memes. Superiority humor is based on a one-uppance or scorning others and elevating one's own status.

Other memes selected are more playful in their humor. Shifman's playfulness attribute appears to be about innocuousness. The one direction meme that was mentioned last week may be a good example of this, as it does not scorn anyone. It also contains the incongruity attribute in that 'one direction' has multiple meanings to a Muslim: praying in the direction of Mecca and the pop music group. These two meanings are put in the same text to create a humorous mixture to those literate in both meanings.

An additional layer of meaning is inherent in the religious memes that Shifman did not touch upon is the idea of parochial humor. The reason that the Captain Picard-Imaam meme (below) is humorous is because the Imaam is considered an authority figure in Islam, and to correct the imaam may be a rare pleasure. Though ideas of superiority are present here, the meme is also humorous because Muslims may have experienced this pleasure themselves or wish to experience it. Similarly, a photo of Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson is layered with the text “You don't like me, but it's Eid so you have to hug me”. Eid is a term meaning festival or holiday. Once more, the humor may be in the experience members of the Muslim community have with performing certain interpersonal rituals with people they don't like.

The Muslim Memes Facebook page appears primarily geared towards Muslims. The messages about Islam are particularly innocuous and are usually observations about experiences Muslims may have or may be jokes using incongruous humor. One meme shows Buzz Lightyear speaking into the communication device on his arm with the caption, “I’ve crashlanded in a mosque the day after Ramadan and no Muslims to be sighted anywhere.” This meme’s intention, judging from the caption that the original poster (OP) wrote, is a gentle reminder to Muslims to continue attending masjid (mosque) once Ramadan is over. The content of the memes and their humorous intent frame Islam in a different way than is framed in larger media contexts such as news media: provisional findings are that Muslims who participate in this page are well versed in broader culture and engage with those cultural elements.

Given the conversation thus far about the combination of parochial and pop culture knowledge and the messages presented in the memes, the following questions seem appropriate to explore:

How do Facebook users whom like the Muslim Memes page interpret the memes? Do they see them as lighthearted humor, offensive, critical?

What role does sharing the memes on individual Facebook pages play in identity management for Muslims Facebook users?

What does this mixture of popular culture and parochial religious knowledge say about Muslim use of social networking sites? What can we know about the use of memes in the Muslim context?

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