I played too much Skyrim….now i got an A- #firstworldproblems

December 7, 2011

Political Theory


On the internet, for a while now, there has been this new form of comedic memes called “third world success stories”, “second world success stories” and “first world success stories”. These memes are simple. Its just a photo of accompanied by classicist and often stereotypical problem that people of each class, gender and geographical location face. Now, i personally have found them extremely funny and humorous but my friends have all told me that i have a really quirky and sometimes boarder line offensive and inappropriate sense of humour (having been schooled in an all boys school from 7th grade until university,  many of the jokes i enjoyed listening to and telling have been rather sexist and in many cases simply inappropriate). These meme’s were just my style of humour.

"third world success stories"

Hence, i spread around to my friends a couple of these memes that i found to be extremely funny, and elicited from me a genuine “laugh out loud” moment. To my surprise, the responses were mixed. Some found them to be as funny as i thought, whilst others were actually offended by these memes and were even horrified at me for thinking that these were at the slightlest funny. At first, i thought they were being overly sensitive, but soon, i realized that as i have become so accustomed to such vulgar sense of humour, i forgot that in the outside world, these jokes could seriously be hurtful and offensive.

This made me think. These memes, although often doesn’t have an underlying meaning, plays upon stereotypes and real problems people around the world face. Problems such as extreme poverty, lack of clean water and racial and sexual discrimination. Some may look at these memes and think that people are simply trivializing such serious issues, and are literally making a joke out of legitimate problems that people around the world face. At the same time, one may argue that the use of such humour is another method to revitalize a sense of awareness regarding issues of poverty and discrimination that has largely been ignored and even forgotten. Either way, it seems like these memes, and humour in general can be effectively used as a political commentary and a method of voicing one’s concerns. Having said this, will these “offensive” memes be protected under the idea of freedom of speech?

"first world problems"Now, in class we discussed that Mill argued that everyone should have freedom of speech as long as the speech is not directly aimed at offending or hurting another person. When it comes to comedy regarding sensitive issues as race, sexuality, and socio-economic factors, even though the true intent is to "first world problems"draw a laugh, it can often lead to many people being offended. As i said earlier, these memes have been considered to be offensive and racist by some of my friends. So, do you guys believe that Mill will support the proliferation of these memes? or find them so offensive and simply idiotic that if they are banned, it is justified?First world problems

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6 Comments on “I played too much Skyrim….now i got an A- #firstworldproblems”

  1. tyhughes2014 Says:

    Your article is well written and very thought-provoking. I will admit, I have always thought that such memes are humorous and find the daily tweets by @FirstWorldPains very funny. I have not, however, considered such images and tweets to be offensive but am now stuck wondering if they are indeed offensive and if finding humor in them is inappropriate.

    In general though, a ban on such memes is certainly not justified and I would not say that Mill’s arguments are applicable. I think the most convincing argument against a ban is when Mill says such offensive speech must be “directly aimed” at a certain individual. It can be argued that memes are not directly aimed at a certain individual since the subject in memes are often unnamed individuals who merely function as a face of a culture, stereotype, etc. While satire is being directed a specific group, it is not being directed a certain individual. Mill’s restriction on the freedom of speech only exists because Mill dislikes the thoughts of harsh speech being directed at a specific individual which results in the individual being singled out and victimized by the words. The humor behind the memes is not reaching the specific individuals in the images and phrases, and for this reason Mill’s argument is not good basis of argument for a ban on memes.

    Our country greatly values its freedoms, including the freedom of speech and freedom of expression. A ban on memes, I believe, would undermine these rights completely. Public figures are criticized on a daily basis from celebrities to politicians, and no one considers banning such criticism. Satire is a common technique used on a daily basis.

    While I disagree that a ban on memes would be justifiable, bringing attention to the potential inappropriateness of memes may be the best technique to raise awareness. Your blog has certainly made me think twice next time I see an image mocking a child living in poverty or a tweet from @FirstWorldPains.

  2. mikerwagner Says:

    This is an interesting topic! I also find most of these to be hilarious but it is interesting to wonder how offensive some of them can be. I don’t think Mills would be against the memes but I don’t necessarily think he would endorse them either. Mills argues that speech that directly attack someone is inappropriate. I do not think memes directly attack anyone, but with the internet age and in the increasing informality of cyber communication it is very easy to misinterpret the creators intent. Yes, memes are primarily created to draw laughs and entertain, however, some people find humor in the misfortune of those they do not like. For example,i know several Wolverines who found great humor in the fact the MSU missed out on a BCS bowl even though they were ranked higher than us. When viewed by an unbiased third party, MSU’s misfortune is not humorous. But to a UofM fan, a rival to MSU, we think it is hilarious.

    I do not think Mills’ original theory opposes the formation of memes but I do think that Mills would have something to say, and might even adapt his theory to incorporate freedom of speech in an informal setting such as the internet age.

  3. Obada Ghabra Says:

    I agree with the two comments above in that Mill would probably want to allow memes to be used. Mill wanted to avoid any form of censorship at all costs. Even if we disagree with the opinions in the way in which the memes are portrayed, the law should not censure them Mill says. Although Mill would believe that these memes should not be censured by the law, Mill would find many memes to be unacceptable. He believes that if the presentation of an argument misrepresents facts or even leaves them out, then the argument is unacceptable. Thus, although the law should not deal with the memes, we as citizens should condemn the memes which resort to simple, problematic arguments.

  4. serena Says:

    I personally have a sense of humor like yours, so I find things funny that most other people find offensive. The memes overall are hilarious. The third world memes do make me chuckle until I realize that it is actually a serious problem for them. The memes are directed to an wide audience, not one specific person who is being hurt by this. Because they were created to be humorous, I do not think that they are actually harming a specific individual.

  5. Brian Hall Says:

    I think it has a lot to do with the intent behind these memes. Mill would probably say that anything goes, especially since these are relatively tame and not promoting a hateful agenda (as far as I can tell). Their primary purpose is for entertainment, and although they reinforce negative connotations, as you mentioned they do bring awareness of issues not directly affecting the reader. I always come away from seeing an offensive meme with a slightly different perspective on my own life. Seeing a picture of a young african child facepalming accompanied by the caption “Oh no, I got da Aids!”, though mildly amusing and yet extremely offensive, also forces the reader to acknowledge that these problems not only exist, but that they wouldn’t give a shit about them if they weren’t being brought to their attention in the first place. In some ways, this is what is truly offensive about these images, as they illuminate the uncomfortably unacknowledged apathy that most people show towards the rest of the world as a matter of practicality.

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