It was famous biologist and keen atheist, Richard Dawkins, who first coined the word “meme” in 1976. Therefore, although it’s now become an everyday part of Internet culture, the idea of a meme has been around for some 40 years. Its original definition refers to an element of culture or society that is passed from one person to another by non-biological means (for instance through a saying). The meme, Dawkins noted, was likely to alter as it moved about, thereby exampling a form of evolution.
Today, a meme mostly refers to a comical photo, cartoon, comic, GIF or video that is shared among users of social media on the Internet. The meme will include text, which is usually a quote, misquote, or a home-spun witticism from its creator.
Creating memes from cartoons and comics is a fun way of conveying ideas and jokes. Dedicated websites such as Strip Generator and Meme Generator let users find or make their own memes and even provide a road into webcomic creation in some cases. For fans of The Simpsons, the Frinkiac site offers infinite scope for creating memes by matching millions of screenshots with quotes.
Aside from The Simpsons, mainstream cartoons that are often used in memes include Daffy Duck, SpongeBob SquarePants, Scooby Doo, Wacky Races, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Tom and Jerry, Mr Magoo and Top Cat.
It’s worth noting, when creating memes, that copyright law applies to most images found on the Internet, except for some antiquated illustrations and photos. Although legal action is never likely, it’s often technically possible, with some image agencies routinely taking infringements to court. That’s one argument in favour of creating from scratch, aside from the fact that originality will more likely generate a following. A popular idea is to make cartoon memes or comic strips depicting oneself using a website like Pixton.