Memes and Missing the Point

A few months ago, a child fell into a gorilla enclosure in a Cincinnati zoo. In order to prevent the gorilla from harming the child, the gorilla was killed. The gorilla’s name was Harambe.

Since then, Harambe has become a meme. I often wonder why this happened. I think one component of it is exposure – it was a pretty significant news story. Also, the story was simple – a gorilla was killed. The simplest events to understand are the most meme-able ones.

Recently, the Cincinnati Zoo deleted its twitter account. This was done because of the abundance of Harambe memes. Shortly before deleting, the account posted a tweet asking individuals to stop making memes of Harambe.

I do sympathize with the zoo. Killing Harambe was not necessarily what they wanted to do, but they did it because they felt it was right at the time. Now, they are constantly reminded of their loss. But these memes are very ironic. I feel that internet users genuinely value Harambe’s life, but at the same time, are understanding of the zoo’s decision. A child could have died. Well duh, someone should have made sure a child didn’t enter the gorilla’s area. But by that point, it was too late. 

Side note: at what point will this child realize the meme he created? Is he maybe a legend? Later in life, he’ll be able to meet people and ask, “Do you remember Harambe?” Yeah, I’m the survivor.” I think there should maybe be some sort of “where is he now?” TV segment for him. 

It feels so weird writing about Harambe in a serious way. It’s just such a meme now. The Cincinnati Zoo is missing this entirely. I know, killing Harambe was hard for them. It’s probably not something they’re proud of. But this is what the Internet does – make jokes. Jokes are not serious. Jokes are not the truth. Jokes are jokes. 

What should the Cincinnati Zoo do, then? I think they should realize that people are only meme-ifying Harambe for their own enjoyment. They can’t really stop the Internet. And then maybe, they should also make sure this doesn’t happen again. But they probably already know that. 

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