We all remembered the tragedy that was the killing of Harambe, the silverback gorilla. The incident sparked public outrage, and both Cincinnati Zoo officials and the parent of the young boy, who had fallen into the gorilla exhibit, experienced relentless harassment, especially from the Internet. People protested for animal rights and justice to be given to Harambe. It wasn’t long before their protest began a meme cherished by our generation.
When it comes to dark humor, you can always rely on the people of the Internet to satisfy your cynical disposition. And mocking the death of Harambe seems to generate much utility for mainstream media.
Not too long ago, I received an email notification of a mixer between freshman and senior students in Steinhardt. Interested, I opened the email, and was unfortunately met with a picture of a strikingly familiar gorilla's face and quote “Harambe didn’t die so you could miss the senior panel." It frustrates me how more than half of that email was dedicated to the use of Harambe to coax students into attending the event. On top of that, it bothers me that people would find the mention of a dead mammal in an email chain appealing.
Let me make it clear. Harambe is no laughing matter. The fact that his death is being made into a viral Internet meme is awful and gives the animal a certain type of legacy he doesn't deserve. There is nothing funny about a dead animal, and yet, the Internet finds humor in mocking the death of a gorilla. Poems have been written for him on Twitter, petitions were called in order for him to be reiterated into a Pokémon, and there's even a Wikipedia page dedicated to Harambe's killing (why?!).
I'm not saying we should just forget about his death. In reality, there are people who are in grief about Harambe and are genuinely protesting for animal rights. But if what remains of Harambe the Gorilla is comprised of our generation's beloved dark humor, then we're not doing Harambe any more justice than the mother who carelessly looked after her child or the zookeeper who shot him dead in the first place.
The memes should have stopped circulating a long time ago, granted that they shouldn't have even been circling at all. But because brands do not have the courage to not use such a dark meme as Harambe in an effort to end its meme life-cycle, it continues to live on 9gag, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and all the mainstream social networks.
However, there are some who believe that the Harambe buzz has started to simmer down. With the rising prominence of scary clown threats, it does appear that Harambe memes have taken a step down the ladder. And yet, there are still plentiful Harambe memes on the Internet. Among those included the recent Harambe halloween costume, a ‘Dicks Out for Harambe’ boy band parody, and of course, a memorial marijuana strain.
While stand-alone Harambe memes have died down, remixes of the meme with other Internet favorites elongates the life span of this particular meme. Mercer University Professor Whitey Phillips explains how the ever-changing purpose of the meme acts as a smokescreen to our “sense of the offline implications of an online joke,” in her book “The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Humor, and Antagonism Online."
But when has the Internet ever considered its "offline implications"?
It's clear that there's no stopping the longevity of the Harambe meme. But perhaps it is best for the rest of us offline to segment ourselves away from any mentions of the meme. Ignorance is bliss, and in this situation, it is perhaps key to retreat ourselves from its offensiveness.
Featured image: Public Domain Pictures
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