Friday, November 1, 2013

Memes, Mormonism, and Mitt Romney - Final Synopsis

This collection of memes involved religious themes surrounding Mitt Romney’s faith and popular perceptions of Mormonism during the 2012 Presidential election. This study revealed two notable findings: first, religious memes are necessarily reductive in nature and second, memes at the intersection of faith and politics use humor to critique religion. Memes that featured Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs tended to be reductionist in nature, meaning that they essentialized Romney’s religious belief to its most simplistic terms. This created a caricature of Mormonism that its practitioners would neither recognize nor agree with. This was seen in all of the memes as both sacred items and aspects of LDS doctrine were mischaracterized or oversimplified. The truncated nature of the meme does not allow for development or discussion, rather offering a pithy or humorous caricature of Mormonism. This leads to a second issue, the use of humor for the purpose of critique.  All of the memes in this case study invoked humor by superiority, which features “people who are unintentionally, or at least not clearly intentionally, funny” (Shifman 2012, 196). Romney was cast as humorous through text highlighting decontextualized and seemingly ridiculous aspects of his faith. Another example showed Romney and Obama during the debate with the text, “Mitt Romney’s policies are like Joseph Smith’s golden plates; No one else has ever seen them and only stupid people buy that bull crap.” Disbelief in a key tenet of Mormon doctrine is expressed, illustrating how memes combining religion and political frames often simultaneously essentialized and critiqued using humor.

The above meme playfully captures the essence of Mitt Romney memes, which reduced complex religious discourse to simplistic concepts using humor.

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