2017 Recap: Politics in Memes

Before we start looking to the year ahead, here is a recap of 2017's politics in memes (UK only version, coz #Brexit):

Maybot :-|

2017 was not a great one for Theresa May.  She called a snap election, despite having denied her intention to do so 7 times, which ultimately resulted in the weakening of her mandate and a controversial coalition with Northern Ireland’s DUP.  Not to mention the fiasco that is Brexit.

Public disappointment and frustration towards the Conservative leader multiplied, of which Brenda from Bristol is the perfect representative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3PKE8uTSp8.

“Strong and stable”, “No deal is better than a bad deal”… Theresa’s robotic responses and recitations came across to many as patronising and insincere (hence the nickname Maybot).

Many memes were made and laughs were had regarding May’s multiple faux pas, including her awkward consumption of takeaway chips and her rather freakish laughter at PMQs.  My personal favourite has to be the reaction to May’s admission that her naughtiest childhood pastime consisted in running through fields of wheat…

#OhhhJeremyCorbyn

Prior to May’s snap election, the Labour leader’s campaign gained further popularity thanks to #grime4corbyn, a movement which took social media by storm.  Stormzy and other grime artists endorsed the potential future PM, which had an unprecedented resonance among fans of the genre.  According to a Ticketmaster survey, 58% of grime fans voted for Jezza in the 2017 election.

A major highlight of the phenomenon has to be when Stormzy joined in with the Glastonbury crowd as they chanted ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ along to the iconic tune of Seven Nation Army: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiICPEt3HP8

Although the Labour party gained unprecedented support in the 2017 general election, it will take much more than hash tags and chants to bring Britain’s biggest left-wing party into power.  But as shown in 2017, the influence of young people, social media, and meme culture is greater than ever.  Check out this article by the Guardian for some more Jezza-praising fun.

Farron vs a fish finger?!

Failed promises and a weak stance during the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition led the Lib Dems into rocky territory.  The party’s leader, Tim Farron, even resigned from his position following the 2017 general election.  Admittedly Farron had managed to come out ahead in his home constituency of Sheffield Hallam, but he was mocked by gurning fellow candidate Mr Fish Finger.

Recent developments in the now ex Lib Dem leader’s biography have been the revocation of his previous denial that gay sex is a sin.  Considering that politicians like May and Farron seem to like changing their minds, it is not surprising that British politics accepts and even appreciates the likes of Mr Fish Finger.  Another comical candidate during the 2017 election was Lord Buckethead, who gained a personal  record of votes in Maidenhead up against Theresa May.  No more need be said.

Prince Harry to marry…

This might not exactly be politics, but it’s worth a look.  In November 2017 the public’s favourite red-haired royal offered to tie the knot with American actress Meghan Markle.  The excitement of their engagement led to the creation of a public Facebook event “Prince Harry’s Stag Do”.

Created by Imperial College London student Paul Balaji, the unofficial celebration went viral on Zuckerberg’s platform and (as of 11/01/18) has seen more than 100,000 people express their interest.

The popularity of the event, which according to rumours will not take place in the stated location of Buckingham Palace(!), is likely to be due to some extent to Harry’s status in the public psyche as a fun-loving party animal (even if those days are long gone…?).

Last but not least, Brexit

No description is needed for this bureaucratic disaster – I’ll let the memes do the talking.

The meaning of memes - we all need a bit of fun

Overall, the humour depicted in many political memes is inherently British.  Humour pervades our everyday lives and relationships – even for those seemingly faraway Oxbridge-educated career politicians.  If such leaders could express a sense of humour that goes beyond that of angering wheat growers, perhaps the British public would find less difficulty in identifying with them.  I concede that politicians are not celebrities or comedians, but displaying a little bit of personality can go a long way – as shown by Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding success in 2017 (in both the world of politics and of memes).

As I see it, ‘mainstream’ British politicians need to work on eschewing their stiff upper lip and political correctness (without causing offence à la Boris Johnson, of course).  Admittedly, this is not the only cause for disenchantment with politics, and it is likely one of the less important issues when weighed up against the likes of institutionalised discrimination and cronyism.  However, in order to resonate with younger audiences, who are the pioneers of memes and social media, the Establishment needs to learn to move with the times.  In other words, stop rolling robots off the production line programmed with the same monotonous, state-approved discourses.

Today’s youth is defined by faced-paced online communication (memes, Messenger…) along with constant self-criticism (Instagram, Snapchat…).  Dare to show some humour, variety and Selbstironie* dear politicians, and maybe we youngsters won’t feel the desire or need to make so many memes to mock you in the future…

*German: literally, self-irony (Merkel could arguably do with a lesson in this too, but that’s another story.)