Embracing LOLitics: Popular Culture, Online Political Humor, and Play

Type of content
Theses / Dissertations
Publisher's DOI/URI
Thesis discipline
Media and Communication
Degree name
Master of Arts
University of Canterbury. Media and Communication
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Tay, Geniesa

The Internet, and Web 2.0 tools can empower audiences to actively participate in media creation. This allows the production of large quantities of content, both amateur and professional. Online memes, which are extensions of usually citizen-created viral content, are a recent and popular example of this. This thesis examines the participation of ordinary individuals in political culture online through humor creation. It focuses on citizen-made political humor memes as an example of engaged citizen discourse. The memes comprise of photographs of political figures altered either by captions or image editing software, and can be compared to more traditional mediums such as political cartoons, and 'green screens' used in filmmaking. Popular culture is often used as a 'common language' to communicate meanings in these texts. This thesis thus examines the relationship between political and popular culture. It also discusses the value of 'affinity spaces', which actively encourage users to participate in creating and sharing the humorous political texts. Some examples of the political humor memes include: the subversion of Vladimir Putin's power by poking fun at his masculine characteristics through acts similar to fanfiction, celebrating Barack Obama’s love of Star Wars, comparing a candid photograph of John McCain to fictional nonhuman creatures such as zombies using photomanipulation, and the wide variety of immediate responses to Osama bin Laden's death. This thesis argues that much of the idiosyncratic nature of the political humor memes comes from a motivation that lies in non-serious play, though they can potentially offer legitimate political criticism through the myths 'poached' from popular culture.

digital media, popular culture, news media, politics, political humor, play theory, jokes, comedy, Internet culture, viral media, online media, textual poaching, memes, remix, lolcats, lolitics, Internet memes, political satire, participatory culture, online spaces, political cartoons, political commentary, social media, discourse analysis, narrative analysis, textual analysis, case studies, crowdsourcing, language, new literacy, political criticism, barack obama, 9/11, osama bin laden, joe biden, john mccain, sarah palin, vladimir putin, stephen colbert, jon stewart, star wars, the daily show, the colbert report, saturday night live, south park, zombies, comics, reddit, tumblr, twitter, photoshop, photomanipulation, online humor, fanfiction, best thesis ever, celebrity culture, tabloid journalism, gaffes, presidential elections, citizen culture, political participation, affinity spaces, parody, intertextuality, virtual communities
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
Copyright Geniesa Tay