I have the unfortunate distinction of being a Baltimore Orioles fan. Last summer, one of our players, Mark Reynolds, became the subject of an Internet meme that got a lot of attention in the baseball world. The Orioles were playing the Red Sox, and David Ortiz had just hit a homerun. A photo from the game showed Ortiz rounding the bases while Reynolds nonchalantly munched on some sunflower seeds in the background. The image became known as “Complacent Reynolds.” Fans began photoshopping the image into other famous photographs such as Tiananmen Square and the VJ-Day kiss in Times Square. One of my favorites is below. It was one of the few things an O’s fan could laugh at.
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In class this week, Prof. Hayden asked us to consider the process of creating a meme. Questions to be asked include “who is the intended audience” and “what is the objective.” To answer these questions, I began thinking about the Complacent Reynolds meme. At first, I thought it was geared toward baseball fans. But now I realize that it can resonate with an extremely wide audience. It doesn’t take a profound knowledge of baseball, or any sport for that matter, to find humor in a guy complacently eating sunflower seeds instead of paying attention to his job. Obviously, the most successful memes are the ones that appeal to the widest audiences. They should be simple and relatable, like Complacent Reynolds.
This meme was also successful because of its interactivity. Whereas some funny photos and videos are just meant to be passed along, Complacent Reynolds thrived on creativity. People were encouraged to create their own takes on the meme. Many people posted their original versions to an online forum for Orioles fans. The objectives of this meme were to make people laugh and to inspire them to participate. The meme accomplished those goals well.
Another question addressed in class was how to “drop” the meme into a network. This is where I believe the Complacent Reynolds meme fell short of its potential. Although the meme’s content could appeal to just about anyone, many people never stumbled across it. Propagators of the meme could have posted it to sites that are more widely accessed than an Orioles forum. But where would that be? YouTube is the obvious choice for posting a video meme, but a still image presents a challenge. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to make a photo or graphic go viral?