Tumblr and the Obsolescence of “Old Meme”

I tend to make my vitriol posts in the morning, and I tend to make those posts on Tumblr. This is sometimes a good thing, as once I’m awake and caffeinated and I’ve moved onto other things I’ve also moved past vitriolic anger and just don’t want the headache of dealing with speaking my mind. I usually mean this in the fandom sense; though I’m passionate about more important topics, other people are better at discussing that shit than I am. I leave it to them. Sometimes this is a bad thing, though, since I’ll make the post and then be out of commission for three hours at work or running errands, and realize I’ve made a mistake. Fandom loves to speak its mind and Tumblr is the most incredible mind-meld I’ve ever seen. And even though I often try to make my points as humorous and succinct as possible, sometimes my opinions just come out like so much acidy spit and I can’t blame people for taking it personally.

Such is the case with Old Meme.

Now, Old Meme is one of those concepts that probably has a better, less neckbeardy term, but “tired joke” just doesn’t carry the same weight as Old Meme does and sometimes we as an internet collective must admit that we owe some of our history to 4chan. I know, it makes my skin crawl, too.

I had a moment of Old Meme vitriol this morning. I was pushed one Jean Horse Joke too far.

If you’re already lost, let me explain. In any fandom, there are those jokes that you just wish would fucking die already and leave things to carry on so that maybe new, more exciting and less predictable jokes can take their place. Literally every fandom has these. I was in the Band of Brothers fandom and the Band of Brothers fandom had these. So that, I understand. In the Shingeki no Kyojin fandom, one of the most tired of the tired jokes is that Jean Kirschtein looks like a horse. This isn’t a fandom creation, which is the most heinous part: it’s a recurring joke in the source material itself. Here, I’ll just link to a blog post that better explains it, if you really want to know.

So, as a full-time internet and someone who’s been in the SnK fandom since the joke’s inception, I’ve seen it. That’s all, I’ve seen it, it was funny, it started to become less funny, it started to become predictable, and now it’s moved on to that stage where I can’t call it anything but Old Meme.

But on Tumblr, no one hears you Old Meme.

I feared the transition to Tumblr as the all-fandom home base back in 2010 when it started to really happen. A few LJ communities were still around but, for the most part, those of us who’d already faced the migration from mailing lists/egroups to LJ in 2001 weren’t prepared for the new, apparently decennial migration from our safe haven platform to the next big thing. I didn’t like the lack of organization, the lack of clear communities with member lists and comment threads. I didn’t like the lack of comment threads in general. The reinvention of the RP wheel was scary and sort of disgusting to me, because I’m old and change frightens me. But it was interesting, as the years went on, that I embraced Tumblr for different reasons.

The difference is still crystal clear. Every blog exists in a vacuum. Fandoms do not, of course, but aggregate communities of news, discussion, fanworks, and humor are so rare to find on Tumblr that every single person you meet in a fandom is usually on a different stage/level of fandom. Before anyone tells me “that’s always been the case!”, let me break it down for you: the way I always remember it working, you’d get into a fandom and you’d poke around, you’d find that one reliable LJ comm or forum, and you’d read literally every single thing about that fandom before you dove in, before you felt comfortable. That’s why capslock and ontd communities, which were insanely popular in the late 00’s, were a novel thing to longtime fandom hoppers: you could jump into one of those communities and usually get a good grasp on the fandom, its history, its preferences and its memes without doing much work.

It’s frankly sort of terrifying to get into fandom now, without knowing where to go to find the info you need. What if you don’t know where this one reference came from? What if you unwittingly make friends with someone who started All The Wank? What if everyone hates your OTP, should you just hide in the corner with the other Prentiss/Rossi shippers and forget the rest of fandom? No more icontests, what is this bullshit? It’s confusing, and if you’re afraid to talk to people it’s even more so.

What if you make a joke that’s Old Meme? Oh no. 

A lot of the archival aspect of fandom has been lost, I’ve found. There just aren’t as many primers or introductions to fandoms floating around. The culture is completely different, the atmosphere is completely different, and it’s an exciting change. Unfortunately for shitty geezers like me, it’s allowed for a lot of stale bread to be passed around the table, if you’ll permit a metaphor.

Example: circa 2007: Hey guys has anyone read this fic???? I want to talk about it. The comment thread: Yes, dear god everyone has, please take it to the appropriate (thread/post/whatever), you will be greeted with open arms.

So, you can see, it’s not just limited to Old Meme exposure. In the Tumblr fandom community you’re exposed to everything, absolutely everything, as many times as any single member of fandom may see fit. No one can moderate tags, there is no organization beyond the tag system and there is no organization within the tag system, if you even see everything that’s been posted in the tag, so if you’re searching for art of Jean Kirschtein Passionately Kissing Eren Jeager you can’t just search that — no one’s going to use that tag. Search only Jean Kirschtein and you’re going to see a million horse jokes and opinions about horse jokes and text posts from people who think their personal blog is a bastion of the tag; while all that’s well and good and you can’t get mad at anyone for finding something funny or experiencing the rush of every fandom meme at the same time as they first tread the water while you’re already in the deep end with your fingers pruning… sometimes you just wanna find art of Jean Kirschtein Passionately Kissing Eren Jaeger.

Old Meme itself is Old Meme, I think. At least on Tumblr.

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