Abstract The study is a qualitative-multimodal discourse analysis of 10 selected Philippine political internet memes
The study is a qualitative-multimodal discourse analysis of 10 selected Philippine political internet memes. Utilizing the forms of humor cited in Bowo (2009), the study examined the forms of humor found in each internet memes as well as the implied messages contain therein. Findings revealed that political memes elicit different forms of humor, mostly are in satirical form which attack their target and basically ridicule representatives of power or the political elite. These memes are often accompanied with other forms of humor like Parody, Puns and Sarcasm to bring more elements to the meme and make the serious implications signified by either the meaning within the text or in the image more hidden and make the humor visible. As the analysis shows, Apart from being a mere expression of fun and entertainment, Political memes express dissent against ills in the society which serves a serious function for the society. Recommendations for future research are included.
Language is the method and system of human communication in imparting and trading information or expressing feelings. But In this digital era, modes and mediums of communication change; new “languages” arise because many prominent features of language can now be comprehended as the result of evolution. Not of the language itself, but rather of the individual words which constitute the language.
In this generation, Millennials, usually students born between the years 1980 and 2000 have discovered a unique means of communicating to the digital age. They are currently experiencing and sharing a greater amount of their lives on social media that many authors have provided definitions of it. According to Ahlqvist, Back, Halonen and Heinon cited in Wao, (2018) social media is a method of communication of people in which they share, create and exchange information in virtual communities and networks. In a similar sense, Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) define it as a gathering of web-based applications that allows the creation and trade of user-produced content. Facebook, for example is the world’s largest free social networking website that provides an easy and unique way to share and communicate online. It is visited by more than 1 billion users from all over the world. And among the recent mediums produced by this social media site, are Internet memes.
Memes and language are closely linked to each other. Meme is the unit of spreading culture, which uncovers the rule of discourse and language transmission. As cited in He, (2008) Dawkins presents two definitions of a meme: A meme is “a unit of cultural transmission” or “a unit of imitation”. The replication and spread of language memes have its own ways and features, specifically; the language memes’ consistent pragmatic feature of humor is delivered intentionally through a combination of changes and development of language component within a certain condition.
Eychaner (2013) stated that memes establish their own specific semantic setting which is readily seen in the image than in the language included within the meme. Because of this, rather than having a category of jokes related with a phrase or a specific linguistic structure, memes are dependent on the image on which the joke is written. Humor acts to level the field, allowing people who identify with each other to create social groups. As Raskin points out, the degree and scope of mutual understanding in humor vary directly with the degree to which the participants share their social backgrounds (1985).
With this understanding, as a major aspect of the group, through internet memes, humor turns into a voice of the people, spoken in various cases under various specific circumstances. It is a method to transmit experience and claim values to one another while also featuring solidarity and shared identity (Xiaoli, 2016). Political memes, in particular, are an example unit of popular culture that is circulated, imitated, and transformed by Internet users creating a shared cultural experience. According to Urban Dictionary (2017), it is “a brief and easily repeatable political smear that rapidly replicates itself via social media”, a “virus of the mind that infects weak-minded individuals that are consumed by political hate”
Internet memes and humor are gaining interest among researchers but are still generally understudied. Mostly, the related studies are about how memes originated and how it is used as a form of communication (Buchel, 2012), the role of memes on public discourse (Varona, 2013), and how humor is constructed (Mahna, 2012). However, there is less research done on the implicature in memes’ humor.
Therefore, this study focused on analyzing internet memes’ humor and identifying what is really meant from what was literally said. According to Sperber and Wilson cited in Moeschler, (2011) implicature may be utilized art of communication. They defined implicature an additional conveyed meaning which is something more than just what the words mean. It is a way in which relevance and successful communication can be achieved with creating such witty utterances to deliver the certain message a more interesting communication.
Statement of the Problem
This study attempts to investigate the implicature in the humor of selected internet memes. Specifically, it will answer the question:
1.What implicature is found in the different forms of humor in Political Memes?
Implicature is the component of pragmatic. According to Yule (1996), it is described as what the speaker said is different from what the speaker actually meant. Implicature studies about the intention of an utterance that is suited to the context. It can be part of sentence meaning or dependent on conversational context, and it can be conventional or unconventional.
Conventional implicature is ordinarily understood by such a speech community as it is build based on the convention among the members of the speech community. Though it does not occur in conversation, it based on the special context in interpreting an utterance In other words, conventional implicature is such a kind of implicature which is typical for particular language, culture, and society. Conversational implicatures stand in contrast with conventional implicatures. Conversational implicature is created for certain purposes so that the meaning might be closely related to the context in which it occurs and the speaker who utters it. This theory of Conversational implicature is attributed to Paul Herbert Grice who observed that in conversations what is meant often goes beyond what is said. As it is closely related to culture and society, the study on implicature is always developed.
Generally, implicature is one of the effective ways to produce humor. In the recent decades, one of the frequently created products of humor is Internet memes. Memes are genes of culture, and language is one form of their carriers. It contributes to revealing how language gets spread and replicated (He, 2008). Hence, Memes being inherited in various forms, and the same set pattern being filled in by different contents, it is one of the recent opportunities for interaction and communication used to spread broadcast messages which contain implied messages though humor.
There are many definitions of humor. Crawford (1994) defines it as a positive cognitive or affective response from listeners generated by any communication while Romero and Cruthirds (2006) define humor as a positive emotion and cognition in an individual produced by an amusing communication. It is a reflection of a perfect combination of human wisdom and language art shaped with complex cognitive, cultural and social variables that work together to establish a sort of understanding between people.
Humor is a multi-dimensional aspect and has ambiguous functions within and between individuals—in general as well as in work contexts. And due to its broad characteristics, humor was being categorized. According to Benton (1968), it is categorized into visual, spoken, and written humor. Visual humor relies on the visual to provoke laughter. Spoken humor is a humor which being presented orally and written humor relies almost entirely on the words and placement of those words.
Different types of humor carry different forms of humor as well and it is the general pattern of a humorous expression. These are the following forms of humor:
Wit is a biting or perceptive form of humor. It contains sharp comebacks, clever banter, and dry, one-line jokes. It is often cynical or insulting, which is what supports it with its characteristic sharpness.
Satire displays the defect and weaknesses of mankind or aspects of society and makes fun of them. Usually, it makes effort to cure absurdity by making people laugh at it (Draitser, 1994).
Sarcasm is a form of speech or writing which is bitter or cutting, being intended to provoke its target. It is often associated with the use of Irony. Hostile, critical comments may be expressed in an ironic way such as saying “don’t work too hard” to a lazy worker (Bowo, 2009)
Irony uses words to express something completely different from the literal meaning. Usually, someone says the opposite of what they mean and the listener believes the opposite of what he/she said. Irony may begin as a compliment or a simple statement; it conceals a sting in the remark. It is usually expressed by a tone of voice and is often an understatement (Hutcheon, 1994).
Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque overstatement (Allen, 1991). It creates humor by either presenting significant subjects in an absurd or crude way or by presenting insignificant subjects in a sophisticated way.
Slapstick is a form of humor involving exaggerated physical violence or activities which exceed the boundaries of common sense, such as a character is being hit in the face with a heavy frying pan or running into a brick wall. These hyperbolic depictions are often found in children’s cartoons and light film comedies aimed at younger audiences (Bowo, 2009).
Farce is a comedy in which everything is absolutely absurd. This usually involves some kind of deception or miscommunication.
Parody is a work created to mock, comment on, or pokes fun at an original work, its subject, or author, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. It is imitating an existing original work in order to make fun of or comment on an aspect of the original. (Bowo, 2009)
Repartee is the wit of the quick answer and capping comment: the snappy comeback and neat retort.
Pun is a joke based on the interplay of homophones- words with the same pronunciation but different in meanings. It enlivens conversation, and wake people up from otherwise dull sermons, particularly when unintended. (Alexander, 1997)
This chapter presents the method and procedure designed to answer the research questions. This describes the research design, data source, and data gathering procedure.
The study is a qualitative research employing multimodal discourse analysis. Creswell (1998) defines a qualitative study design as an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. Further, According to LeVine and Scollon, (2004) Multimodal discourse analysis is intended to highlight language in the form of spoken or text and other multiple modes of communication through contextual phenomena.
Hence, the artifacts under analysis in the study are comprised of textual and visual elements. And with Utilizing Multimodal Discourse Analysis to examine the artifacts composed of multiple modalities will emphasize the communicative function and highlights the notion that each modes are in constant interplay. (Kress et. Al., 2001)
As memes are commonly seen in social media, the information for the research will be taken from a particular site namely Facebook. The data of the study will be 10 internet memes selected according to (1) subject or topic contained in it which should be about politics, (2) English Language used and (3) appropriateness to the study.
Data Gathering Procedure
To ensure reliable results, detailed planning procedure takes place. First is to visit the website Facebook and gather relevant data. The 10 internet memes will be selected according to their relevance to the study. The second step is to assess the authenticity and content of data. Third, develop a codebook. The codebook in the study has four columns: (1) ten different forms of humor, (2) Definition, (3) Example, and (4) Explanation. This is used by the researcher to serve two main purposes: to provide a guide for coding responses and to serve as documentation of the layout and code definitions of a data file. Fourth, do an intercoding or a data validation. The Intercode has four columns: (1) Political Memes, (2) Forms of Humor (3) Explanation. This is made by the researcher to primarily identify the forms of humor (Bowo, 2009) found in Memes. The codebook and Intercoding were interceded and validated by experts. Lastly, present technique of data analysis. (O’Leary, 2014).3200400-375856500Analysis of Data
To analyze the data in this research, the researcher will use Multimodal discourse analysis to identify the meaning made by the combination of the different modes of communication integrated on the Internet memes. Utilizing the forms of humor cited in Bowo (2009), the researcher will use it as a guide to identify the forms of humor found in internet memes as well as the implied messages in each meme.
Results and Discussion
This section will elaborate on the preceding analysis and present the researcher’s interpretation of the political memes as humor and the implicature contained therein.
In Figure 1, shows the faces of politicians known to be intelligent and have attained various experiences in the field of public service: Miriam Santiago, Pia Cayetano and Jambee Madrigal sitting on a lunch table claiming that Nancy Binay can’t be part of the group. This image elicits a satirical form of humor which mocks the occupational experience of the newly elected Senator Nancy Binay which is signified by both image and the text.
On the recent election, there are 33 candidates for the Senate and only one has no achievements to speak of. Nancy Binay has not served in an elective or appointive office and she has not run a company or a nongovernment organization which sums up the criticisms leveled against her of being unqualified to become a senator (Philippine Daily Inquirer: “Unqualified”, 2013). This signified the text “You can’t sit with us!” implying that she does not belong to the group because of her lack of accomplishments and experience as a senator. This is satirical in nature as one who has no experience in politics is considered a human weakness in the Philippine government context.
011303000In Figure 2, two different contexts are shown; One having a local scene where Pres. Duterte and his Secretary are inside a church-praying and the other is a scene from the movie “Star Wars” showing the villains, Darth Vader and Darth Sidious.
The humors in this meme are in the form of parody and satire. From the text in the First Picture, “What they see” can be seen which connotes that some people may still see Pres. Duterte as a person with dignity, sincerity and dedication in serving the country. Yet as seen in the second picture with the text “What I see” connotes that some also have seen him as a villain in the movie.
Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte has carried out a “War on Drugs” campaign that has led to deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos to date (Human Rights Watch: “Philippines: Duterte’s Drug War claims 12,000+ Lives”, 2018) and at least 2,555 of the killings have been attributed to the Philippine National Police where Human Rights Watch research has found that the police are falsifying evidence to justify the unlawful killings (Punzala. 2016). With this reason, survey results released by Social Weather Stations showed that the President Rodrigo Duterte’s net trust ratings went down by 10 percentage point, declining one grade to “Very Good” in the first quarter of 2018 from “Excellent” in the last quarter SWS showed which then signified the text “What I see” as it represents “little trust” in Duterte. The survey’s 76 percent of adult Filipinos that have “much trust” in him signified the text “What they see” in the meme (Placido, 2018).
With this meme, beyond being a source of laughter became a means for people to express their opinions and take sides on the issue (Calimbo, 2016).
In Figure 3, The Hungry Games: Catching Napoles used the blurb “Senate revolution begins with pork” and superimposed the face of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on that of the movie’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen, shown aiming an arrow at Napoles, often dubbed as the “mother of all scams”. The meme were in the form of parody where generally it is more playful rather than aggressive or spiteful. Napoles here is portrayed as shameless liar, a greedy thief, and a criminal who deserved to be in jail (Varona, 2013).
2540-338455000This depicts the controversial P10-B Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel case that first came out and stunned the public last July 2013. Based on an affidavit by whistleblower, Benhur Luy, the PDI article detailed how Luy’s former employer, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, with the collusion of some members of congress and other public officials, have been pilfering billions of pesos of public funds since 2003 which then led to a senate inquiry and the initial arrest of three Senators on plunder and graft charges almost a year after. Pending the resolution of the case, Napoles has been under government custody since her surrender in August 2013, hours after the Philippine government announced a P10-M reward on information leading to her capture (“Napoles surrenders to Aquino”, 2013).
This meme has become an outlet for people to portray events that are happening in the government which also increases awareness to people who are not active in politics.
014224000 In Figure 4, a woman is rolling her eyes is showed in the picture together with a text “I can’t go to Tacloban because I’m sick”. In both text and image, sarcasm can be easily gleaned because of the incongruous ideas presented. In a normal context, a sick person looks pale or someone who is lying down in bed, yet in the picture, the person looks okay which signifies the being “sick” as an alibi. These humorous signifiers connotes the Former President Aquino’s disinterest and lack of enthusiasm in considering more important things that need his urgent attention (Calimbo, 2016).
3221355-141986000Tacloban City was the first to be hit by the typhoon Yolanda and has become the symbol for the wrath of Mother Nature with the large-scale destruction and victims’ indescribable suffering. Yet, during the eve of the year’s rites for Super Typhoon Yolanda’s anniversary, Former Pres. Aquino listened to the updates on the rehabilitation efforts given by Guiuan Municipal Mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales at Guiuan Public Market, Eastern Samar last November 7, 2014. Due to his noticeable absence, many people suspect political considerations (Tulfo, 2014). Similar to this issue, the Former Pres. Aquino was not around in the arrival honor ceremony for the fallen SAF men for he preferred instead to attend an opening program of a car factory in Sta. Rosa.
With Such cold-hearted and disrespectful gesture makes him a despicable. His presence in the ceremony could have assuaged the grief of the bereaved families (Manalo as cited in Calimbo, 20156). Hence, the truth is bared that the government is just “washing hands” on the matter which is a manifestation of his weak leadership.
With the text, “How you laugh knowing the failure of K-12 isn’t your problem anymore” in Figure 5 basically attributed to sarcasm because words like “laughing” and “failure” are incongruous. One does not laugh when committing a mistake but instead with a sad or frustrating look. This implies the meaning that the former Pres. Aquino shouldn’t be laughing as shown in the image because his project, the K-12 have failed.
Though the K to 12 is marketed as a program wherein the student is given the option to pursue different paths upon graduation: employment, entrepreneurship, and higher education. According to Lacanilao (2017), the program (1) should have undergone first a trial run at selected schools before nationwide adoption, (2) valid studies of local problems to support the curricular changes and the additional two years, (3) components considered relevant to the results of international research on science education, and (4) more preparation to urgent problems like teachers, classrooms, textbooks, dropouts and etc. With this, Roberts (2017) states thatK-12 may have started out as an effort to bring public education into the 21st century; it has since failed to produce satisfactory results.
In Figure 6, an image of Senator Santiago together with the texts “Congratulation Nancy Binay” and “Now, Welcome to Hell!” are seen. And to read these words, also by the sarcastic smile of Sen. Santiago in the image represents a form of Sarcasm. Such humorous and incongruous signifiers connote the distorted portrait of Philippine politics.
Pertierra (2012) observed that the political elite rules uninterruptedly, winning elections repeatedly. President Benigno Aquino III is a former President’s son as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is also a former President’s daughter. And here comes Nancy Binay, the daughter of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who was elected Senator despite her lack of training and experience in the government service.
Throughout the history of Philippine politics, this is the trend. It would appear then that if one has relatives in the government service, it would seem normal too that he or she can also hold a position in the government. Or if a candidate is rich, he or she can be a good leader and such belief is wrong. This is the reason why voters can also be blamed for the problems in the country.
According to Sen. Miriam Santiago’s speech at the Far Eastern University (2012), the worst problem in Philippine elections is the vote-buying among rich candidates. She stressed that “our Constitution provides as a state policy that: ‘The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunity for public service.”‘ However, the Senator continues, “Is there equal access to public service for the rich and the poor? Don’t make me laugh.” It follows then that as long as the country remains stricken with poverty, the myth that the rich and the political elite are the most qualified to hold government positions will always be a myth (Calimbo, 2016).
In Figure 7, the image of Nancy Binay with a correction fluid used in her hand as an indelible ink during the 2013 election accompanied with a text “TOO MAINSTREAM” is shown.
5080270446500This elicits a satirical form which mocks and makes fun of Nancy Binay by implying that the regular color of an indelible ink is “TOO MAINSTREAM” and would not be recognized because of her skin color. Furthermore, it also implies the message that the votes of the people which signified by the indelible ink are now changed into a correction fluid and have lost its value for correction fluids can be easily erased and bought.
In Figure 8, Photos of Grace Poe (left) and Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay (right) are place beside each other. This meme is in a form of Pun created by the interplayed words “Born” and “Burn”. Though with these only two words, humor arises and which implies mocking of human weaknesses. The word “Born” signifies Poe’s citizenship as she run for election two years ago while the word “Burn” is signified by Binay’s skin color.
Figure 7 and Figure 8 differ from the form of humor used yet both humorous effects in these memes focus on making fun of the skin color of the Binays as well as Grace Poe’s citizenship. This means that since Politics most likely to provoke bullying insults related to intelligence, appearance, sexual orientation, religion, gender and etc., these memes are used not just to make fun of something or someone but are also made to express hate and disapproval to some political personality. And the more users share these views, the more these images become integral to a customized and participant-regulated network of emotions and feelings.
The humor in Figure 9 is in the form of Pun and it shows a picture of Senator Sotto and a blank picture with interplayed words “Tito Sen” and “Tito Unsen”. The word “Sen” connotes the word “SEEN” which signifies the photo of Senator Sotto being seen. In contrary, the word “Unsen” connotes the word “UNSEEN” which is signified by the blank picture where Sen. Sotto is not seen. The humorous effect in this meme can be gleaned on how the name of Sen. Sotto were interplayed using a deviation to present two incongruous signifiers such as “Sen-/Seen” and “Unsen/Unseen”.
3221355-573532000The meme in Figure 10 shows (1) the confusion of Trump on the ASEAN handshake, (2) Pres. Duterte and US Pres. Trump talking, and (3) Former Pres. Aquino mistakenly holding no one’s hand on his right side on the same ASEAN event.
It has three forms of humor: Farce is signified by the image of US Pres. Trump and Former Pres. Aquino’s mistakes on how ASEAN handshake is done, Satire is connoted by the Filipino word “Shunga” which means in English as “Stupid” and Repartee is signified by Pres. Duterte’s quick snappy and neat retort, “Magsama kayo ni Noynoy. Mga Shunga” (You two should be together. You’re both Stupid) from what US. Pres. Trump’s portrayed alibi “That ASEAN handshake got me shookt af”.
Though the meme in Figure 9 and 10 are playful and humorous, it implies the propensity of Filipinos in finding humor on almost anything and shrugging off issues that matter in favor of the frivolous and trivial. According to Carreon (2015), there is no bigger issue than the humor of Filipinos. It has become a part of the culture of finding a convenient distraction from the overwhelming, recurrent, and unsolved issues of corruption, poverty, and calamities, among others.
Political Internet memes elicit different forms of humor, mostly are in satirical form which attack their target and basically ridicule representatives of power or the political elite. These memes are often accompanied with other forms of humor like Parody, Puns and Sarcasm to bring more elements to the meme and make the serious implications signified by either the meaning within the text or in the image more hidden and make the humor visible. Apart from being a mere expression of fun and entertainment, Political memes express dissent against ills in the society and bring awareness on the certain issues that needs serious attention which also serves a serious function for the society.
This study focused only on the analysis of images and captions in the political memes. A study can be conducted on the effect of the political memes to the perception of the public about the government. Another study can also be conducted on the motivations of the meme creators in creating the memes. Such study can further discover the relationship between popular culture and some ideology. In connection, a study can be conducted on internet memes concerning other interesting and relevant topics. Finally, as Filipinos are known for their sense of humor, a more comprehensive study on other Philippine humorous texts can be helpful in analyzing the role of humor in identity construction.
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