Discover more from The Digital Native
Gen Z's meme-ification of everything
In June, the submarine situation led to thousands of TikTok memes and a lot of Gen Z dark humour. Let's see why 🔬
👋 Hellooo! We’re The Z Link, a global Gen Z-led social media agency that helps brands reach our generation. The Digital Native, written by our Trends Reporter, Shaurya, takes a deep dive into niche internet micro-trends and subcultures, and analyzes them so you don’t have to. For any feedback, questions or suggestions, just reply to this email! <3
Last month, the titan submersible situation opened a greater conversation about Gen Z humour, desensitisation, and where you draw the line. I would say let’s take a deep dive but… 😬
So here’s the rundown, if you aren’t already super familiar with every single tiny detail as so many of us are by now: The Titan submersible was the vessel that allowed OceanGate to carry an expedition to the Titanic, a trip that James Cameron himself has taken 33 times, although a very risky one. The current submersible began their descent to the wreckage on June 18, and about an hour into the descent, lost communications with the mothership and failed to resurface. A multinational search was launched and the world caught news. A few days later, debris was found near the Titanic wreck, leading searchers to believe that the submersible and all 5 passengers inside had passed way due to an implosion (which is believed to have happened when the submersible lost comms).
Updates were flooding social media websites hour after hour, conspiracy theories started floating around, and like any event in the era of Gen Z, it didn’t take too long for memes to start flooding our timelines. Videos under the keyword “submersible memes” on TikTok now have over 1.5 billion views in total. 🤯
Why was it so highly reported and why were there so many memes?
When the passengers of the Titan descended into the sea and the first news was reported, the general feeling was one of uncertainty, something that every news-watcher can relate to. That uncertainty became a leveller. The question of “will they” or “won’t they” kept everyone hooked. It’s one of the reasons why the Thai cave rescue was also so highly reported. Strong emotions of worry, uncertainty, and being trapped, are easy to relate to and spark anxiety in viewers.
But soon after, all the details started to come out — how the billionaire passengers of the submersible paid 250k to go on a vehicle that wasn’t approved to go at such depths and of course… the video game-looking controller that manned the ship. So, when details surfaced one after the other, the billionaires went from being human to “rich people that do anything for novelty just because they can” in many people’s eyes. It was looked at as outrageous to spend an obscene amount of money to visit a grave. And as a result, what was considered disrespect, was met with disrespect. With the rise of celebrity culture in the ‘90s, the world has become quite desensitised to what happens to the rich and famous, in a voyeuristic way. And why this obsession with the rich and famous? Because in our society, wealth is power and power is what everyone wants, so when you see someone with it, strong emotions of either awe or envy take hold.
So, on to the memes. Why was Gen Z’s reaction to an event like this to flood TikTok with creatively crafted memes about the situation, using fun CapCut templates and all kinds of imaginative scenarios to get entertainment out of it? It’s because we as a generation have become so desensitised to major world events, because we’ve lived through them at a time where they’re covered on social media. The internet has always been critical of the rich and wealthy for their outstanding ability to often be tone-deaf. With slogans like ‘eat the rich’ and ‘tax the rich’ going viral and being printed on t-shirts, that criticism against the wealthy has only increased, and that is coming out in the form of memes. It has also opened a wider conversation about the rich doing anything and everything they can for novelty’s sake. Like they bring a sort of ‘I pay to risk my life’ vibe to the society, that the working class masses don’t really like.
But the desensitisation doesn’t stop there. Disney is reportedly making a free fall water ride allegedly based on on the ill-fated Titanic. GTA 5 mods have added the OceanGate submersible to the game, and the ocean expedition company itself still advertises the Titanic voyages on their websites.
Dark humour or disrespect? 💭
So now the question is, is it dark humour (sometimes with a sprinkle of truth) or just disrespectful? Humour is subjective, and dark humour even more so. Dark humour talks about taboo topics and makes light of them. These are jokes that you’re not sure if you should laugh at or not… But how do you differentiate between disrespect and humour? Where do you draw the line? Because humour is subjective, there’s no definite line. Of course, there’s things you just SHOULDN’T joke about, but then comes the argument that dark humour is to make light of taboo topics, so it really is up to the audience and what they find offensive.
So whether or not you think the submarine jokes are disrespectful or dark humour, that is completely up to you. But I’m going to present both the sides because it is a nuanced discussion with no absolute truth. So yes, on one hand the memes are disrespectful to human lives, and on the other hand turning a gravesite into tourism isn’t too saintly either. As an audience, many just felt helpless and like there wasn’t a softer way to deliver the blow while opening a much needed conversation. So while it’s wrong on many levels, it’s also what the internet generation can do to cope. We know this is a more serious issue than previous ones, but please feel free to tell us your thoughts in the comments. <3 As always, we’re here to chat!!
Any questions/suggestions as to what we should cover next? Reach out to us and we’re always here to chat!
— Written by Shaurya, Trends Reporter at The Z Link
Connect with Shaurya on Instagram where she shares great content and lives her best influencer life as a fashion student in Paris. And she writes all of these great issues too. What can’t she do??? 🧐 Thank you for reading!