Chinese Meme Presentation
In May 2017 the Chinese culture club at my university held their annual speech contest and I decided to participate. Each participant was assigned a native speaker mentor and had to prepare a speech as well as a mini act for a talent show in order to entertain the audience as a reward for sitting through their stuttering speeches. I decided to take this magnificent opportunity of having an audience forced to listen to me without running away in order to discourse on my favorite subject: memes. Thus for my speech, instead of the typical topic of “why I study chinese” I desided to make a presentation comparing Chinese and Western memes.
My mentor, Leon, and I spent countless hours laughing at memes we found on chinese forums and on baidu, and telling ourselves that this was “hard work.”
The presentation was not recorded, however I have the slides and the transcript (I prepared it as an essay and mostly read it from a piece of paper while trying to make eye contact with the professors in the front row as much as possible).
现在我要给大家看看一些中美表情包对照： 中国和美国人常常用表情对时事做出评论 …还有历史和政治的笑话 …还有关于一些学术科目的笑话
网民们喜欢用表情包来评论一些有争议的时事。例如，我注意到一个在中美都有的情况：一个富人会给年轻人提一些非常傲慢的建议，结果被年轻的网民所取笑。中国的房地产商人王健林去年在一个采访中说道：“先定一个能达到的小目标，比方说我先挣它一个亿(100 million CNY)，你看看能不能用几年挣到一个亿。”而事实上，由于越来越高的生活成本、平庸的工资以及不稳定的经济环境，许多90后几十年都赚不到这么多钱。所以网民们开始创造性地恶搞这句话。同样，西方也有个相似的故事：一个有钱人，Tim Gurner，在电视节目里说：“年轻人买不起房子主要是因为他们花太多钱在牛油果抹面包片和4块一杯的咖啡上了。同样在网上被嘲笑。
what, you thought it’d be in english?? ok fine, here, I google translated it for you:
English Transcript (google translated)
Hello everyone! My name is Masha. Today I want to talk to you about something that I find very interesting. I hope everyone will like this theme.
There are many differences between the United States and China: language, culture, history, politics, and so on. Because of so many differences, there are sometimes conflicts and misunderstandings in these two countries. However, I think people in the world still have many similarities. You can’t forget your humanity. We all have emotions and we all like to make jokes! So I think it’s important to understand this habit. However, the verbal jokes are fleeting and elusive. The funny pictures we found when we were online were more specific. After 90s, we spent so much time sharing online interesting pictures. I think that understanding the Internet culture is like understanding our own humanity. Therefore, I am going to introduce you to the difference between the Chinese and American expression packs today.
First of all, I want to explain the difference between Chinese and American online habits. Since social applications such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. are being walled in China, Chinese Internet companies have created platforms specifically developed for Chinese users, such as WeChat, Baidu Post Bar, Forum, Weibo and so on. Although the platforms and languages of the Chinese and American networks are isolated, users in both countries develop their own expression packs, but many popular cultures are still global, so two countries sometimes use the same popular videos, animations and pictures. To make a map package. Although the language is very different, people’s expressions and communication have similar composition structures, and in the form of online communication, the style and use of images are gradually converging.
In order to express their own reaction to a sentence or something, netizens in the United States and China will use emoticons instead of using their own facial expressions. Since expression packs are not bound by physical laws, they can express very strong and exaggerated emotions. For example, if you see a person posting something ridiculous, you will respond to him with this type of expression.
The expression pack culture does not appreciate the exquisite aesthetics. Instead, it likes to ridicule, satirize serious and serious things with a very ugly, disgusting but funny expression pack. Since every time a jpeg file is stored, the image becomes more and more pixelated and darker, so the darker and dirtier the picture is, the more popular it is. This is called image compression.
Here, the first picture is clean and the color is white, so we know that this picture is new and not so popular. The second image is pixelated and can see a lot of pixelated noise, which means that the image has been stored and forwarded many times. By comparing the age of the expression pack, it is like archaeology.
Create humor by juxtaposing cute, cartoon, and animal images with violent, angry, ugly reality. The lovely part gives the audience a specific expectation and then laughs at the audience through the discordant part of the violence.
Let’s see, both pictures have the outline of a cute panda, but the panda’s face has a fierce face inside. There are violent wounds in the picture below, but since the words are only a rough panda face, these bags are funny, not scary.
Now I want to show you some Chinese and American expression packs: China and Americans often use expressions to comment on current events. …and historical and political jokes …and jokes about some academic subjects
Netizens like to use expression packs to comment on controversial current events. For example, I noticed a situation in both China and the United States: a rich man would give young people some very arrogant advice, and the result would be teased by young netizens. Wang Jianlin, a real estate businessman in China, said in an interview last year: “First set a small goal that can be achieved, for example, I will earn it 100 million (100 million CNY). You can see if you can earn 100 million in a few years.” In fact, due to higher and higher living costs, mediocrity wages and an unstable economic environment, many of the 90s and decades have not earned so much money. So netizens began to spoof this sentence creatively. Similarly, there is a similar story in the West: a wealthy man, Tim Gurner, said on the TV show: “Young people can’t afford to buy a house mainly because they spend too much money on avocado bread and 4 cups of coffee. Also, I was laughed at on the Internet.
Although the Internet in China and the United States are separated, they all have lively and interesting features. We should try to explore each other’s world more, and the Internet is a very good starting point. thank you all!
Sorry about that. I’ll post a proper translation later.
As you can see, the presentation doesn’t go into extreme depth. This is in part due to the expected audience not being particularly meme-savvy, and partly due to the difficulty of the research itself (my chinese skills being as poor as they are).
In order to make up for this, I’ve included some resources at the end of this in order to direct the reader to more information about Chinese memes. Stay tuned!
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…
As for my talent act…
"My mom no longer has to worry that I won't be able to look at memes if I don't have internet."
- A Field Guide to China’s Most Indispensible Meme
- Baidu 10 Mythical Creatures
- The memes that took over China’s internet in 2016 speak to the country’s power and fragility
- From ‘small goal’ to ‘primal force’, memes spark imagination
- Blue mushroom is China’s new internet meme