Listillas is the name of Marina Moratilla’s account whose work follows another path, that of collecting certain somewhat ridiculous clichés that are repeated in conversations. “I think I make costumbrista memes, I compose a kind of proverb for millennials,” she says. For example: “The worst isn’t the children, it’s the parents” or “I’m a macho? I have a mother and a sister”. Phrases that show fast food thinking for lazy minds, throwaway aphorisms. She started in 2018: “At first there were four of us, but then many people were encouraged to make memes; It seems that those of us who have remained at the end with a certain relevance are more or less those who were at the beginning, ”she relates. Other renowned mememers are the Police of Affection, Oro Jondo, Virtual Garbage, Demolitions and Deconstructions, Queensdeledit, Pro.del.kastineo or Afirmacion.es accounts.
There are digital creators who manage to live from the profession. This is the case of Christian Flores, who does not make memes in the form of images, but viral videos that, not being the same, could be considered part of the same digital culture. Hers is the famous video Velaske, I’m pretty?, in which the characters from Las meninas sing a delirious trap. Flores achieved with this project the necessary repercussion to now work with important clients such as Netflix, Primavera Sound or the Barcelona City Council. Still, his profession is full of uncertainty.
“I depend on an algorithm, I work on two networks, TikTok and Instagram, which could disappear tomorrow, or I could lose my followers,” he says, “you have to pay the price of the internet: you never know what’s going to happen.” What he is sure of is the importance of cyber culture. “Cultural production has skyrocketed like never before in history, the meme is the currency of humor on the internet and has a very jevi political potential. It is a very complex communication device any meme is imbued with the spirit of our times.
Some consider the first meme a vignette that was published in 1921 in Judge magazine, edited by the University of Iowa: it makes a joke about the difference between fanciful expectations and the stubborn reality that is later imposed. In that case the joke was as follows: how do you think you’re going to come out when you pose for a photo and how do you actually come out. The idea is still a hit in the memesphere to this day: what you expect when you order something on the AliExpress online sales platform, and what you get at home.
The authorship of the term meme itself is also known: it was coined in 1976 by the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. According to Dawkins’ definition, the meme is the minimum unit of cultural information, just as the gene is of genetic information. If we are biology and culture, the first is transmitted through genetics and the second through memetics. “Just as genes spread in a gene pool by jumping from body to body via sperm or egg cells, so memes spread in the meme pool by jumping from brain to brain by a process that, considered in its broadest sense, can be called imitation”, writes the author.
The internet meme as we now know it is also a meme in the sense of Dawkins, but he does not exhaust the term: songs, philosophical ideas, fashions in clothing or “the ways of making pots or of build bows.
The biologist has declared that the current term is a “kidnapping of the original idea”, but that “kidnapping” is also a demonstration of how the format evolves and mutates over time. A notable example of a meme, in the broad sense, that Dawkins himself offers, is the idea of God, which has managed to replicate itself in brains throughout human history, probably because of its effectiveness in giving meaning to the world of believers and alleviating their existential suffering. God is a successful meme.
Are memes a generational issue? Yes and no. “Everyone, of all ages, consumes memes, they are very transversal”, says Juan Gómez Alemán, “but not everyone consumes the same memes”. In general, those that circulate among the boomer generation are so white and obvious to the younger generation that they are not amused. On the contrary, for the elderly, the memes of the millennials or the zetas are, directly, incomprehensible due to the lack of shared references. We’ll see what the inhabitants of the coming decades think when they see, probably, the despised memes of today hanging in the museums of tomorrow (albeit virtual museums).