Can you think of anything more anti-consumerist than a bug?

Can you think of anything more sharply contrasting consumerism than a bug?


This meme posted on a self-identified surreal meme instagram account combines visuals with words into a surreal recreation of an imagined inner world. The imagery of a window as a portal into the forest world, the closed eyes , dormant, waiting, asleep, until they are replaced by an eye wide open, with mathematical precision yet instinctively studying the phenomenon of a bug; the combination of symbols suggests a transition of internal and external circumstances into something more holy and enlightened.

The transitive quality of the meme associates it with Douglas’ definition of a joke:  it attacks something controlled and replaces it with something vital, something energetic and repressed [1]. The dominant structure it subverts with its attention to detail, particularly attuned to nature, the repressed human desire for connection to nature, interest in and appreciation of even the most conventionally repulsive life-forms, is consumerism. Using repetitions of words produces a virtual slowing of time, emphasizing the personal significance of the transition leading to a new revitalizing state of mind. According to Freud [2], the joke is a manifestation of subconscious desires and needs which briefly resurface and become available to the conscious, in this case blending the surreality and the subconscious as they both battle with laws that oppressively narrate their existence. The joke contains the juxtaposition of the control with the controlled, consumerism and desire for liberty from the artificial material world, and, as Douglas suggests a joke should do, the controlled is released from its repressed state, subverting the dominant structure of ideas [3].

However, the joke is not frivolous; here the meme subverts Douglas’ conceptualizations of jokes, as she writes that jokes offer no real alternative to dominant structures [4]. The meme not only provides pleasure via a sense of liberation from form, but it also returns the power into the hands of the individual by offering alternatives to the lifestyles invented to profit the dominant power determined by consumerism.




[1] Mary Douglas, “Jokes,” Implicit Meanings (New York: Routledge, 1975), 95.

[2] Sigmund Freud, “On Humor,” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth, 1955), 165.

[3], [4] Mary Douglas, “Jokes,” Implicit Meanings (New York: Routledge, 1975), 96.

One comment

  1. Big enjoy! I enjoy the cognitive processing pace I experience when looking at this image, and I enjoy your thoughts on it, I think you illustrate nicely how the image as a joke ‘attacks something controlled and replaces it with something vital’, and how it subverts dominant structures. The quote I have just copied makes me think about the significance of the unconscious in jokes, at least as Freud understands them. This meme seems to be expressing a desire that I think is not repressed and not arising from the unconscious, but rather a conscious one. And the way this desire is jokingly expressed is itself very controlled, very deliberately laid out – which maybe illustrates that Douglas’s definition of the joke (an attack of something controlled) is about the joke’s content, not form.

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