A “Keep Calm” Meme Tree

You know you’ve struck a cultural nerve when you inspire not just one but dozens of parodies and copycats. It’s hard to say, for instance, why the Lazy Sunday video inspired so many spin-offs, but YouTube tells me there are 278 as of this writing.

Across the Pond, the Keep Calm and Carry On poster hits all the right notes to make it a cultural phenomenon in the UK. Originally created in 1939 to steel the British public to the stresses of the coming war with Germany, it was rediscovered in 2000 and has been a gold mine of merchandising and parody ever since. Its nostalgic evocation of the steady resolve of bygone days has mated with its easily mocked earnestness to breed a deranged litter of spin-offs.

Via BlogLESS I came across Christina Agapakis’s Meme Tree. She’s a biologist, so as you might expect, she’s built a nice phylogenetic tree. Like her, I’m amused by the evolution from simple transpositions like “Keep Calm and Rock On” to “Drink Lots and Pass Out” to more ironic assertions like “Change Words and Be Hilarious”. From there, it’s a short step to the self-mocking “Run Out of Ideas and Make a Parody” and the meta-self-mockingly abstract “Meme Meme and Memey Meme.”


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