The Meme Capital: The Reproduction of The Mass Media Character Lower-Economic Class Character as Comical on Social Media Memes

Abstract

Mendiola, R.A. (2019). The Meme Capital: The Reproduction of The Mass Media Lower-Economic Class Character As Comical On Social Media Memes, Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis, University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.

Over the course of many generations of traditional media, the lower-economic class character has been portrayed in many disparaging and comical ways. The oppressed, economically, educationally and culturally poor have been a source of much comic relief, whether as the receiving end of many jokes, generally targeted at their low-economic status. Through these multiple media texts, the institution of the comical lower-economic class character has been ingrained in Filipino society. This can be seen in the plethora of examples of this archetype, found in such classic shows as RPN’s “John en Marsha” to modern mainstream hits as ABS-CBN’s “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano”, and GMA’s “Bubble Gang”. As social media emerges as a new media platform where individual users have the ability to broadcast their thoughts and values, the prevalence of social media memes that poke fun at lower-economic class characters raises many questions regarding the true agency of said individual users. I employed textual analysis of television shows to define the traits and characteristics of this character found on social media, and employed grounded theory in order to use these found data as a framework to compare how these traits are manifested in local social media memes. The data reveals that these lower-economic class targets of ridicule in these memes share character traits that were found in previous representations found in traditional media in their attempts to transgress or subvert their perceived class. These forms of transgressions are seen to be challenges to set societal structures, such as attempting to speak English fluently, make money of schemes outside the realm of legality, or even directly challenging societal elites to physical fights. This research provides insight into if and how these hegemonic images in society are reproduced in social media, and the implications of these on the agency of social media users.

Keywords: Social-Media, Memes, Comical, Grounded Theory, Class, Representation, Portrayal


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