Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week 2- How man created God (or at least, the god meme)

"Advice God", the meme I have selected, is constructed through various layers of image and text. A short description of the layers entails:
1.       Background – the blue, yellow and white background is an adaptation of the background given to memes in the series "Advice Animals". The advice animals meme series, one of the first memes to appear online, started around 2006. You can see the "birth" of advice animals meme in this video. Although "Advice God" was late to join the series (as can be seen from the fact that it is not part of the periodic table of advice animals, below), the foundation of the meme uses the same textual treatment and visualization.

2.       Main Image – the central image of the meme is the face of God from the Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, placed in the Sistine Chapel fresco panels. This Image is a well-known piece of art, central in the history of art and widespread in popular culture. It is endlessly references (E.T, the Simpsons, Lays' commercial…) and will probably continue to be significant in western culture.
3.       Text – unlike the advice animals, "Advice God" does not supply advice for humans. Instead, the caption added is usually a form of criticism of god or religion. The text will present a fact, religious quotation or religious belief and then show how god contradicts it.  For example: "Thou shall not commit adultery/ sorry Joseph".
4.       "Add-ons" – in certain cases, the meme has evolved to incorporate another famous meme, thus creating a mixed, new meme. In the selection of memes for this study, such a meme is the "Scumbag Advice God". This meme adds a backwards hat to the meme describes above. That hat is recognizable as a hat from another meme – "ScumbagSteve".  "Scumbag Steve" is a meme focused on unethical or questionable behavior.  By adding the infamous hat to the figure, the new image questions God's behavior. For example: 

One interesting aspect of this meme production is the tension created between the sacred and the profane. God, symbolized by a religious art icon, is situated in secular, profane, surroundings – in the same group as animals.  This relation between sacred and profane has been central in many religious scholars' writings, Mircea Eliade being the most prominent.  Eliade argues that this tension is at the heart of the religious experience. And so, one must wonder if by placing God (or even an image of god) in a profane surrounding such as "Advice Animals" memes, we create a unique religious behavior limited to religion online, or, are we continuing an old process of structuring our religion by negotiating the relation between the scared and the profane. 

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