Like it or not the internet is going to eat, digest, and regurgitate everything in the world.
I’m mostly okay with this, but sometimes my curiosity about the process takes me to strange places.
Have you ever heard of Kumamon?
Not surprising. Kumamon is the government-created mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, a district of Japan.
Kumamon is a smiling, rotund black bear with a white face and bright red circles on his cheeks. He shows up at public events, waving and having a blast, and being photographed frequently.
And then those photos go into the all-powerful and ever-hungry maw of the internet.
A few years back, photos of Kumamon, stripped of all local context or identifying information, started turning up in the English-speaking internet.
The first, and most common photo was a pair of images of Kumamon in front of a roaring bonfire.
The first asks “Why?”
“For the glory of Satan, of course!” answers the second, with Kumamon joyfully flinging his arms into the air while a column of flame rises into the sky behind him.
The juxtaposition of the happy (but starkly-coloured) bear and the roaring inferno seemed to take off. Both with and without the caption, it was replicated across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and probably half a dozen social media sites I’m already too old to know exist.
I’ve been seeing it pop up here and there for a couple of years, and it’s surprising how little crossover there is between Kumamon the happy regional spokesbear and Kumamon the meme.
Kumamon’s Wikipedia page has not a mention of the mascot’s other famous use, but quite a bit about his efforts to boost tourism to Kumamoto.
This kind of thing is happening constantly. There are a dozen fly-by-night memes generated ever day. Dozens of people are immortalized forever through weird video clips or awkward yearbook photos, with hundreds competing to paste on the most clever/awful/relevant caption.
It was said back in the 20th century that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.
In the 21st century, it’s starting to look more like everyone will become a meme for 15 seconds.
And some of us won’t even find out. Do you think the guy in the Kumamon suit knows he’s Satan’s tool on earth?