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Memetic Mutation

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"Most of what is unusual about man can be summed up in one word: 'culture'. I use the word not in its snobbish sense, but as a scientist uses it. Cultural transmission is analogous to genetic transmission in that, although basically conservative, it can give rise to a form of evolution."
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Chapter 11

Ah, memes. The DNA of the soul.

Sociology notwithstanding, on The Internet, a "meme" (rhymes with "cream") is usually described as a catchy derivative of some aspect of pop culture parodied and repeated over and over, essentially being a cross between a catchphrase and an inside joke. If not used carefully, it can get to the point that its origins and original meaning become muddled and completely mutilated beyond any point of recognition or humor.

Which means we don't want them in TV Tropes articles. Because we are not interested in being muddled, dated, and beyond humor.

Fandom being what it is, this also applies to characters. Fandoms are liable to spread a "meme" version of a character which is totally (oftentimes deliberately) at odds with the original depiction, such as a cheerful version of a dark or scary character, a sexy version of a character featured in a Jekyll & Hyde episode, or an unlucky-yet-annoyingly-optimistic version of a normally depressed, tragic character.

Another quirk of memes depends on where they're initially propagated. Memes often spread regardless of content, taste or sensibilities, while the original source may be the only ones who know enough about the source material to use it ironically. Furthermore, some memes reference something common, but become catchy enough to be associated with only a single new thing.

Depending on how strongly the production company is tied with fandom, sometimes a meme can escape the space it originally spread in and get referenced in the medium it parodied through Bonus Material or Popularity Power. When this is the case you get an Ascended Meme. Some forgotten or Discredited Memes are even resurrected thanks to the Popularity Polynomial.

It can be an instance of The Catchphrase Catches On, which is when a phrase or saying from fiction becomes popular as an expression used in Real Life. However, certain memes are only popular to a certain group.

For in-universe examples, see Instant Web Hit.

If you'd like to keep up with the memes of the day, go to Know Your Meme, or Teh Meme Wiki on Fandom, or The LURKMORE Wiki (NSFW), or the fine folks at Encyclopedia Dramatica (even more NSFW). These are all examples of great resources for the memes themselves and the enigmatic culture around them, but beware the interstitials. You Have Been Warned. On the other hand, if you just want to learn who starts many of these, see Fountain of Memes. These are probably the most common source of Surreal Humor.

The Trope Namer (for the word meme) is Richard Dawkins, who suggested a Mind Virus-like model of society: that cultural information is inherited and reproduced, occasionally with minor mutations, in a similar way to genetic information. It's explained in detail, in plain language, in Neal Stephenson's 1992 novel Snow Crash.

Note that Memetic Mutation cannot be played with e.g. played straight, exaggerated, downplayed, justified, because it never "gets played" intentionally to begin with, just like other Audience Reactions.note 

When adding to one of the subpages, please write the meme, then add the explanation of the meme inside a labelnote titled "Explanation." Explanation 

Memes by medium:

See also:

Meme-related tropes and articles, and specific memes with their own pages:

Related index:

See also:


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Meme, Memes


Viral Song

Toby sings to Tim Tim about the key elements to creating a viral video that'll end up garnering attention on social media, and most of the examples used are actual memes that had a long lifespan due to being followers of said elements.

How well does it match the trope?

4.86 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MemeticMutation

Media sources: