Meme of the Week | Would Not Bangby Brandon Edmonds / 26.01.2012
Memes are a pure snort of internet. These evanescent time-wasters are the perfect accompaniment to the dead hours of the dead end service economy. Folk expressions of the post-industrial setting of work today. The mind life of bored kids stuck in underfunded educational settings and people in cubicles staring at screens. We don’t make stuff anymore. Not physically. That’s all been shipped to China and India where people work cheap. Work is mind-fatiguing in a knowledge economy. Ideas hold sway. Muscles get you laid but they don’t get you paid. The richest man in the world is Bill and he’s a geek in glasses.
Memes reflect the claustrophobic self-referring, self-reflexive consequence of spending too much time in your head. Memes are Howard Hughes, the billionaire hotel shut in who went nuts; they circle their own navel obsessively. They’re what the internet wants us to become. Sarcastic, hyper-aware croutons of pointless data bobbing in a soup of endless online time. Memes are the internet equivalent of comped rooms and free drinks and dark windows in casinos. They nibble our attention spans and help us pretend we’re actually doing something by passing them on. Memes desperately need a scolding mom to come in and yank open the curtains and say, It’s a beautiful day outside go enjoy it.
That figure of the scolding mom who threatens to stop the fun and curtail online time is a deep-seated fear in boys. A castrator up there with Medusa. And boys still drive whatever internet culture is. The dominant tone of the internet is basically a teenage boy: self-defensive, casually offensive, easily distracted and definitely over-stimulated, perpetually moody, horny and sensationalistic. It’s as if your annoying little brother’s personality now defines society. And he’s really not comfortable with girls. They’re mostly unknown to him. Some are hot and some are not. Some are way too smart and most aren’t smart enough. Girls don’t share his obsessive nature, his need to be right, his urges. They want to go out and meet people. They make demands and judge. Internet boy culture is not a particularly hospitable place for women. It pinions between lust and hate. My favourite meme of the week captures that anxiety over women perfectly: “2/10 – Would Not Bang”.
It is liberating for young boys in a way. The sheer amount of online beauty, nudity and sex is oppressive. It discounts the possibility of love. You can see anyone do anything. Women who wouldn’t give you the time of day, spread for you. They look into the camera and entice you all day long. This molten economy of desire online is disorientating for boys. There’s a jarring disconnect between the consenting females of networked fantasy life and the ones he’ll routinely meet in the flesh. So resentment builds. Frustration deepens. And memes like this happen.
Of course the meme also suggests the hyper-critical way women look at themselves and other women. The harrying onus of perfection Naomi Wolf detailed in The Beauty Myth and the vast industries of fashion and fragrance and the media. It is liberating for women in that sense. The meme exposes the lack of generousity, the absurdity behind that punishing gaze.
As knowyourmeme.com, put it: “the images are meant to parody hypercritical judgements made about women’s physical appeal on the internet”. What the meme calls out is internet boy culture itself. It’s ridiculous objectifying drive. It’s wariness of real relationships that demand face-time, compromise and commitment. It’s self-deceiving sense of authority. We glimpse the rage of impotence. The meme almost reveals too much about the millions of wired boys who have an immediate unexamined response to everything, who downplay sincerity and make fun of everyone. They clog comment threads. They feed on perceived weakness. On mistakes. They have turned masturbation into a way of life online. These swampy hives of testosterone incubate internet culture. No wonder it stinks of basement sweat. No wonder it is so happy to live in gonzo territory, the lurid, the fantastic. Anything to avoid the 21st Century where women are better educated. Where jobs demand smarts not strength. Where companies hone brands based on communication strategies and boy can women talk. The Would Not Bang meme is a cry for help. Stand up your own selves and yank those curtains open. There’s a whole wide world that needs changing outside.