In a decade immersed in the internet and television, one could question whether or not previous Celebrity Apprentice announcer, Donald Trump would have even won the presidential election had it not been for the existence of online sharing platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However, with the over saturation of memes being circulated through these platforms at the height of today’s political climate, Russian espionage may be the least of America’s concerns. Meme culture has, essentially, created its own undemocratic propaganda in which President Trump has become the face of both godlike heroes and buffoon-like cartoons, an appearance that has grown to be iconic for its malleability. His expressions are transferable between characters such as Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas and Paul Blart’s Mall Cop. Not only has the emergence of social media made meme sharing a nuanced cultural, with an almost cult-like national following and a social communicative tool, but it has also dehumanized government figures and people of power. Images and memes in and of themselves are not independently worrisome, yet, once the reality of our elected officials begins to mold into the fantasy of our fictional characters, there is bound to be some confusion. The issue is complex, to say the least. In the same sense that a child will cry when it feels ignored, millennials and generation x alike will find solace in the creative response to pain and apathy which is visualized through memes. Unlike the flexibility that photographs allow, President Trump is not able to mold himself to fit both of the perceptions placed upon him by the far right and the far left media. The question remains: where does he belong, and can there truly be a middle ground?
This week in NPR’s podcast “OTM: The End is the Beginning” both Caroline Framke and Rebecca Walker discuss the importance of the #Metoo movement in correlation with the onslaught of obstacles faced by fourth wave feminism today. In Western society, it has been deemed acceptable for the president of the United States to use demeaning terminology and phrases towards women such as “grab her by the pussy” and “miss piggy” without any repercussion. Because of this, it is nearly impossible not to dismiss Grace’s narrative of “the worst night of her life” as merely foul play. However, as both Framke and Walker are quick to point out, it is the journalist that needs more caution, not the storyteller herself. We live in a sensitive time, an era where labels are used as both identifiers and sympathizers. It is a time where rape culture has been consistently visualized in the media and has therefore made it impossible for ordinary stories of women to escape the diluted trope of being labeled as either the victim or the predator, or, in worse cases, the liar. What remains to be identified are the gray areas of relationships and consent, which are, unfortunately, the most problematic. The strongest response to come of Grace’s story has not been in the focus on Ansari, but rather in the global desire to begin a discussion around the expectations which have been placed on both men and women, respectively in regards to sex and romance. Although Ansari may not be America’s typical antagonist, and Grace may remain faceless, she is perhaps the protagonist we didn’t know we needed. As Walker stated, “this system we’ve been living in is hard on all of us”, and, I would add, it is in our response to society’s ordinary abuses that we can truly fight injustices from the bottom up.