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Meme Analysis:
Example Paper / Peer Review
Below is meme analysis paper on the “Bad Luck Brian” meme. I hope the text functions as a
helpful example of how to carry out the Paper 4 prompt, BUT you will note that some things are
lacking, this is where Peer Review factors into the equation. You will note that the paper lacks
broader context and interpretation (regarding what the meme reflects about our current norms,
expectations, culture, etc.). Answer the following prompts in sufficient depth.
1) Summarize the author’s argument. Cite a specific piece of text as support.
2) Look up “Bad Luck Brian” at knowyourmeme.com, how could the author use this resource to
provide deeper context that supports their argument?
3) Interpretation; make suggestions to the author as to how they could develop a section that
comments on our current cultural moment through this meme.
Student Name
Dr. Williams
Engl. 101
Fall 2020
Title
The Bad Luck Brian meme features a kid with braces posing for what seems to be a
school picture wearing an awkwardly uncomfortable smile. Needless to say, the picture came out
awful, and once it hit the Internet, captions of humorous misfortunes and occurrences have been
added to the original template. The top line usually describes a fortunate situation, followed by
the bottom line which ironically turns the situation into a misfortune. What I find funny about
this meme in particular is the melding together of humor and irony that works so perfectly. The
irony comes from a bottom line that is so unexpected or absurd and completely irrelevant that it
is funny.
Michele Zappavigna states that Internet memes are “deployed for social bonding” and
that “humour is a very common strategy supporting this bonding.” This can be seen in most all
Internet memes, as humor is generally what the viewer is seeking when looking at memes. How
much the viewer can relate to the message that the meme is conveying plays a large part in
whether they find the meme to be humorous or not. For example, the humor in “Figure 1” that
reads “Plays in a Rock Band / Hand Chimes” would not be very appreciated if the viewer did not
know what hand chimes were, or that they definitely were not an integral part of a successful
rock band.
Another factor that contributes to appreciating the humor of a meme is whether or not the
viewer is a part of the community toward which the meme’s humor is directed. For example,
“Figure 2” reads, “Wins an Xbox 360 / Red Ring of Death” would not only not be humorous to
those who are not a part of the video game community, but it would make no sense whatsoever
and most likely confuse the viewer. On the other hand, members of the video game community –
no matter how serious of a gamer they are – will understand this meme and find it very funny,
because they might relate to it through past personal experiences with the same situation.
The above factors give note to the concept that much about what makes a meme so funny
is whether the viewer is “in” or “out” on an inside joke among a certain community. One more
prime example of this concept at work is the Bad Luck Brian meme reading “Goes to a Wedding
/ Band starts playing The Reigns of Castamere.” This meme is a direct reference to a stressful
situation from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and would not be looked at
twice if the viewer had neither read these books nor seen HBO’s television adaptation.
The most prevalent memetic strategy in the Bad Luck Brian meme series is one of an
unexpected coupling pattern, in which the text on the image of a child taking a school picture
does not reflect what one would expect a kid of that age to be doing. This can be seen in the Bad
Luck Brian meme reading “Smokes a bowl before school / Forgot it was picture day.” This
meme suggests that the kid pictured in the original template had smoked marijuana out of a pipe
before school, an illegal activity that would not be expected of the pre-pubescent boy in the
picture. It also makes a humorous suggestion to why his school picture might look how it does.
Bad Luck Brian, like many memes, works best when its ironic humor does not depend on
an inside joke. Memetic humor works best when viewers of any community can enjoy its
content.
Works Cited
“Bad Luck Brian,” Know Your Meme
Figure 1
Figure 2

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