Memes are strange things. Derived from popular culture, memes have the power to explode in popularity overnight, and even find themselves being referenced in today’s movies and television shows.
One of the most popular and most unusual memes in recent years was that of the late silverback gorilla, Harambe. What started as a tragic story that had animal lovers up in arms quickly turned into an Internet phenomena that truly no one could explain.
May 28th, 2016 marked the day that a child quested into Harambe’s pen and inadvertently led to his early demise. One year later, let us look back on Harambe’s legacy and people’s desire to make a dead gorilla the President Of The United States.
Harambe was a 17-year-old Western lowland silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. He was a beloved fixture, and many patrons loved visiting him during their time at the Zoo. On May 28th, 2016, a neglected child climbed his way into the gorilla enclosure, soon being discovered by Harambe.
Harambe scooped up the child and began to drag him away, leading an employee of the Cincinnati Zoo to shoot Harambe with a rifle. Video of the entire incident was soon uploaded to YouTube, and a firestorm erupted. The Cincinnati Zoo became under fire for acting so rash when Harambe was not hurting the child and could have been tranquilized instead, and the child’s parents were blamed for not watching their child for the several minutes it took to climb into the enclosure.
The following day, on May 29th, 2016, a petition titled “Justice for Harambe” was created on Change.org, which called for authorities to hold the child’s parents responsible for Harambe’s death. Within 48 hours, the petition gained over 338,000 signatures. Meanwhile, the hashtags #JusticeForHarambe and #RIPHarambe began circulating wildly on both Facebook and Twitter.
It’s Always Twitter…
After a couple days of genuine and heartfelt tributes, things got weird on Twitter. On May 31st, 2016, Twitter users began Photoshopping images featuring celebrities that had recently passed, including Prince, David Bowie, and Muhammad Ali.
They also featured Harambe in these images.
The meme train continued to pick up speed, as Twitter users began taking the lyrics of popular songs, and changing them to reference the beloved gorilla. In one of the most popular of these tweets, Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus posted a Harambe tweet featuring his own song lyrics: “And that’s about the time she walked AWAY FROM ME. Nobody like when you shoot HARAMBE.”
Things continued to devolve into insanity, leading up to July 04th, 2016. On this day, comedian Brandon Wardell tweeted out the now infamous phrase, “D**ks Out For Harambe”. Later that day, he posted a Vine video showing a group of men chanting out the phrase. By July 06th, 2016, even actor Danny Trejo had jumped in on the trend, posting a now-viral video of himself saying the infamous phrase.
This was all that was needed to cement Harambe into pop culture heaven forever.
Harambe For President
Now a National Symbol, the Cincinnati Zoo became flooded with patrons wanting to take photographs with the Harambe statue and purchase Harambe plushies from the gift shop.
The Cincinnati Zoo was not amused by the legions of memes flooding their doorway, and posted a statement online denouncing Harambe’s Internet Legacy:
“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe. Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us.”
Seeing as they were the ones directly responsible for Harambe’s death, the Internet as a whole pushed this statement aside and continued on with their merry lives.
Disgruntled with having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, over 11,000 Americans voted to elect Harambe as the President Of The United States on their ballots for the November 2016 Presidential Election.
This culminated with eBay user “valuestampsinc” profiting $99,9000 on February 07th, 2017 from people bidding on a Cheeto that strongly resembled Harambe.
Say what you want about the status of Meme Culture, but if there is a way to purchase a new home by selling a gorilla-shaped Cheeto, then I think we are doing well as a society at large.