«Gegengabe» in Paremiology, Folklore, Language, and Literature – Honoring Wolfgang Mieder on His Seventieth Birthday
Edited By Christian Grandl and Kevin J. McKenna
Funny or Not: Proverbial Expressions and Humor in "The Successful Negro/Black Man" Internet Meme
Racial folklore abounds in contemporary American society, much as it always has, and not surprisingly, proliferates in many forms and in many diverse contexts on the Internet. Memes offer one of the most common forms. One can find memes centering on racial stereotypes of people of Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and African descent. The question of whether particular memes are racist is debated in Internet forums and comments, and there is even a popular, animated, GIF image of a young African American boy saying, "That's Racist!" that is often used as a response to posts, comments and other memes. As might be expected, the "That's Racist!" image has spawned its own series, sometimes substituting images from popular culture, such as characters from movies, or animals, such as cats. In the following essay, I am specifically concerned with functions of the humor and the role of proverbial expressions in one meme, "The Successful Black Man." Which proverbial expressions are common and how frequent are they? Why are they used at all? What are the sources of humor in this meme, and how do proverbial expressions relate to this humor?
Before discussing either the humor or the proverbs, however, some consideration of the meme phenomenon is in order. The term 'meme' originated with Richard Dawkins, used in his book, The Selfish Gene (1999 ). Dawkins applied genetic theory to the study of culture, drawing correlations between biological and physical phenomena, and defined the meme...
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