Exploring the lifetime of a meme with American Chopper

Paul Teutul Jr (left) and Paul TeutulPicture copyright
Getty Photos

Picture caption

The meme stars Paul Teutul Jr (left) and Paul Teutul in a heated argument

You might have seen a meme that includes two males furiously arguing and questioned what on earth it was all about.

The five-panel sequence of photos often known as the American Chopper meme makes use of stills taken from the truth tv present of the identical identify to point out a father and son having a melodramatic argument.

The programme started in 2003 and led to 2010, but on-line curiosity in it surged in March and April 2018.

So, how did a easy sequence of photos and textual content, initially posted to Reddit in 2011, change into some of the widespread memes on Twitter in 2018?

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What’s a meme?

  • The phrase meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 e book The Egocentric Gene
  • Dawkins known as memes “concepts that unfold from mind to mind”
  • The Oxford English Dictionary defines memes as photos, movies or textual content which can be copied and unfold by web customers, typically with variations


The picture appears to have first appeared within the widespread Reddit group r/Humorous in November 2011, the place the captions subverted the anger of the 2 males by suggesting one was merely shifting a chair for the opposite.

It was subsequently reposted many occasions over the subsequent few years with some slight variations. So, in keeping with the definition above – when completely different jokes with the identical sequence of images started – it then turned a meme.

Resurgence on Reddit

In March 2018, the picture reappeared in numerous Reddit communities with new captions.

It coincided with a brand new sequence of American Chopper airing on the Discovery Channel within the US.

With folks as soon as once more within the tv present, the Reddit posts started to reappear on Twitter, inspiring additional variations of the meme.

Its recognition noticed the meme lined by numerous information retailers on-line, reminiscent of Vox, Mashable and Vice.

Nevertheless, this may increasingly have led to the meme’s demise inside the r/MemeEconomy group on Reddit, the place memes are tongue-in-cheek purchased and bought as if they’re shares on a inventory alternate.

There, a meme’s worth is seemingly tied into its potential for hundreds of thousands of individuals to know and use its format. Paradoxically, the worth of a meme additionally depends upon it not but gaining mainstream acceptance.

On 29 March 2018, a put up on r/MemeEconomy – titled ‘Promote Promote Promote’ – featured a tweet from digital media firm Vice celebrating the Chopper meme.

The put up was upvoted 28,000 occasions together with feedback saying the joke “had run,” and “when it turns into Vice’s favorite meme it turns into everybody else’s least favorite”.

Progress on Twitter

Within the first week of April 2018, the meme took on a second life on Twitter, focusing the humour across the two males arguing a couple of random matter.

Notably, folks exploited the panel construction to elucidate complicated arguments in a concise kind.

Erica Goldberg, an assistant professor on the College of Dayton Regulation, created a model of the meme which explains arguments surrounding the US First Modification.

Matthew Yglesias, a journalist for Vox Media, used the meme “as an instance the pedagogical energy of socratic dialogue,” and Monterey Bay Aquarium in California posted their variant to specific arguments round ocean consciousness.

Oddities and decline

Weird makes use of of the meme emerged as the topic of the joke modified with each tweet.

One model noticed the meme drawn within the fashion of the music video to Aha’s 1980s hit Take On Me, whereas Twitter consumer jimoutofbennies turned it right into a joke concerning the form of the meme itself.

These variations started to reappear on Reddit, with a repost of jimoutofbennies’ six-panel model turning into probably the most upvoted put up so far on the r/memes subreddit.

Following this spike, the meme’s use has declined dramatically, and its last hurrah appears to have come courtesy of 1 particular person on Twitter, who used 5 tweets from Donald Trump to distinction the US president’s previously-held beliefs about Syria together with his present actions within the area.

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