Our writer JL McDonald got the chance to interview prominent YouTuber Grandayy, and the two discussed how internet memes have shaped humour, politics, and how monetisation is now impacting on the spread and development of these memes.
Google defines memes as ‘an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means’, or perhaps more accessibly and recognisably as ‘an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations’.
Yet memes can mean so much more, especially for millennials and us students in particular. When you have coursework deadlines, exam revision or any other work to do, memes can often be a welcome distraction in order to prevent becoming overwhelmed.
Grandayy – one of the biggest, most renowned meme based channels on YouTube – told SCAN why he believes memes have become such an integral aspect of contemporary culture and, thus, an important part of our everyday lives. He argues that memes are “funny, relatable, easy to make and share. Everyone can appreciate a good meme, and especially with image memes you can just share them with your friends in an instant”.
Grandayy, from Malta themselves, goes on to describe the inevitably impact of the internet and the affordances that it brings, arguing that “memes are just relatable to everyone, and everyone likes to laugh in the end. It’s the same thing with music, movies, video games etc. All of these have a global spread.”
The rise of meme culture has arguably too given rise to a gradually altering comedy landscape, changing our perceptions of what is and is not classified as comedy, and how comedy itself is interpreted. Grandayy believes that the internet has “made comedy more accessible. Like I already explained memes are relatively easy to make so anyone can join in on the fun. They’re typically quite a bit different from the classic comedy you’ll see on TV for example though, yes.”
However, memes have potential for more than just simply comedic impression. With memes used during various political campaigns, notable, for example, during the anti-gun March For Our Lives protests in the United States back in March, an interesting point of question for Grandayy was whether memes should mobilise their capacity to engage with public and political debate, or whether they ought to be used solely for entertainment.
Grandayy stated “I don’t know whether they ‘should’ or not, but I bet they will start being used for these reasons more and more in the future. Memes were already quite prevalent in the 2016 US election.
“You can get a message across much more easily if you attach comedy to it, which is why memes can be very useful.”
Having known someone at university who was asked to make reference to their favourite meme during a job application for a comedy company, I asked Grandayy what he thought of this and its impact on the significance of memes in the present day.
“It makes sense. And I don’t think it’s just comedy companies where this will be important in the future. Even top brands have started using memes in their social media campaigns now, I see it more and more each day.”
But when it comes to the best of the best, there is a special place in Grandayy’s heart for one particular meme.
“While it’s difficult to choose a favourite meme, it’s almost a must for me to say We Are Number One. It was the first meme that caused Grandayy to start blowing up, and it’s such a wholesome meme, with Stefan Karl, the actor that played Robbie Rotten, totally embracing and even participating in it.”
Many would argue that meme culture has improved and progressed over time, evolving in numerous ways, whilst others may maintain that the sphere has, in fact, probably regressed. But Grandayy takes a rather poised perspective, adding “I think as long as people find them funny then they are fulfilling their purpose well. Sure, meme culture changes over time but I don’t look at it as being either a positive or a negative change. Change will always happen.”
Yet, in terms of potential future change, Grandayy highlights the ever changing and unpredictable nature of meme culture. Asked how memes may change over the next decade, he replied “I have no idea. You can’t ever really make any good guesses for the future when it comes to memes. I can’t even tell you what the most popular memes next week will be.”
Grandayy’s YouTube channel currently has just over 800k subscribers, and despite not having any specific plans for when they reach the milestone 1 million mark, he stated that YouTube is his full time job.
“Some simple video memes require just a quick edit, while others, especially the musical memes, require hours upon hours of work”, Grandayy noted.
However, he did acknowledge the recent issues surrounding the Google owned media platform.
“There have been quite a few controversies about this recently hahaha. The demonetization controversy (better known as the “adpocalypse”) being the most hated, and it’s pretty clear why.
“While I agree that it was pretty much necessary from YouTube’s side, I also think that it could have been handled much better. I think one of the worst things about how YouTube treat their creators is their lack of transparency about how the systems they have in place actually work.
“Creators are left to figure out why their videos are being demonetized on their own, for example. However, I do believe that YouTube are actually trying to get better at this, hopefully they’ll keep improving in the near future.”