Thursday, September 1, 2011

Memes Gone Wild - Caramelldansen and the Old Spice Guy

Earlier this year, I attended my first and only anime convention when I went to A-Kon.  It was fun, but I still want to see other cons.  Don't worry A-Kon, we'll always have Dallas.

While looking around for (more) local stuff, I stumbled upon the site for, a local anime convention here in Dallas that will be happening this Labor Day weekend, i.e., tomorrow through Monday.  They actually have a "clubhouse" in the adjacent city/town of Richardson, TX, where they host various activities throughout the year in addition to this gigantic annual convention. I perused the various pages as I contemplated if I wanted to check it out.

One of the more memorable and picture-intensive aspects of the con was the "cosplay" (costume play), where folks dressed up as various characters from anime, fantasy, sci-fi, or internet memes.  Something that seemed to happen a lot at A-Kon, including during their cosplay competition, was folks would break into a...bunny dance.  I thought little of it and thought it was some anime "in joke" that was from some recent anime with which I was not familiar, which includes a lot of the anime in the last 5 years (my most recent anime interest is Samurai Champloo).

Fast forward back to today.

So, there I was, wandering through the animefest site.  I came across their rules for cosplay and one of the rules sort of jumped out as me (well, it was bold faced) as being peculiar.  It noted that there would be a limit to "caramelldansen" skits/performances at their big Cosplay event.*

* - This was from the 2010 Animefest rules.

And that is how I discovered what apparently became an official meme in 2008. Well, that is according to and I certainly can't argue with such an auspicious organization.  Check out their page on the meme here.

Is it a meme?  Well, I can vouch for the anime convention phenomenon that knowyourmeme cites.  I saw it many times at A-kon.  That song starts to play and people are making rabbit ears and bobbing up and down so rapidly and in such unison that it could easily seed a conspiracy theory about government mind control satellites...controlled by the Swedish make you dance like a bunny to an accelerated Swedish pop song.  Devious.

Which leads into a strange occurrence over on Attack of the Show's website for their "memefight", which just wrapped up.  The winner was the Old Spice Guy series of commercials.  Many commenters lamented this turn of events and I think I can see why, and more so, I get an intuitive feel that it's a bit off.

Note: I am gathering it won from the comments...for some reason the site does not seem to actually indicate a winner and I don't recall the announcement of a winner during the August 29th Attack of the Show...

I say that because, traditionally, a meme is an idea that starts in obscurity and reaches great attention due to the thought, you know, the meme.  So, it does seem a bit contrary to declare a clever, professional marketing campaign that launched during one of the most watched television shows in the world (the Superbowl) by a large corporation a meme.

I mean, take caramelldansen.  It was just another Swedish pop song.  Then some DJ decided to speed it up.  Then some other folks decided that, wow, that would be a great song for a bunny-like dance.  A strange, off-kilter idea that took off from some really random firings of neurons from multiple citizens of the internet.  And yet, I knew about the Old Spice Guy, but I did not know about caramelldansen until today.

Ultimately, memes have no provenance.  If the idea resonates with you and you feel compelled to share it with others, it's a meme.  It may not be a hardworking, self-made meme from the mean streets of Memetown, USA, but it is still a meme.  Sure, it's less impressive than an idea that truly has to survive the Darwinian moshpit that is the internet and rise to the top like a cerebral Thunderdome.

However, the meme born with a silver spoon in its mouth or the result selective breeding is no less powerful.

That said, I think Demotivational Posters, the competitor against Old Spice Guy in the final match, was a much better meme.  They have been such a wonderful uninspiring non-influence on my life.

Which leads me to wonder if a meme that is pretty much an ad campaign for a major company can fairly compete, because you have to wonder what corporate resources were brought to bear to essentially squeeze out some very effective marketing by winning the memefight.

My closing thoughts are these:
  • Accelerated Swedish pop songs can be a potent mind control device
  • A good marketing campaign can certainly produce a meme
  • When a major company has great free marketing to gain from skewing a contest...don't be surprised if said contest is skewed or people complain about the result.
And one last thought too big for a bullet point: It's just a contest on a show; memes will not be beheaded based on the results, so take the results with a grain of salt (have a margarita with those grains if you like) and move on to the next entertaining offering from Attack of the Show, because that's why they are there and that's what they do.

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