This is The Library!

An example of the original "This is Sparta" Meme

“Off-Campus Patron viewing porn on Info Commons PC? This is…The Library!”
A meme that my boss printed up on our assignment sheet after the night staff had to kick someone out last year.

I’m pretty sure that this is a version of the original ideological and visual “This is Sparta” meme because it is one of the most memorable scenes in 300 where Leonidas yells, “This is Sparta!” before kicking the messenger down the supposedly bottomless pit. The question of how it is replicated is quite perplexing considering that memegenerator.net (the first option when you search “Meme Generator” in Google) no longer gives the option of using this screenshot of the actual kick to create a meme. The only option given is a snapshot of Leonidas shouting from a later the part in the film where he actually shouts, “Tonight we dine in hell!” Something that is additionally interesting is that there have since been two main divergents of this meme, the shouting Leonidas one I have already described, in addition to the cultural allusion or meme of one generic silhouette kicking another another into a hole which is commonly rendered by editing cautionary floor signs.

This particular meme, as shown above was actually one that my boss created and printed up on our daily assignment sheet (hence why there are black horizontal lines running through it) last March after we had this problem at the Library. This meme, now two divergent memes, described above is perpetuated because it is an interesting pop culture reference to which many people can relate. I once read an article (although I am having lots of problems finding it now) that suggested that the reason the series House M.D. was so popular even though Dr. House, the main character, is so very abrasive and cynical is because many people understand those feelings and therefore enjoying Dr. House’s behavior because he does what everyone else would like to occasionally do to some of the people in our lives without repercussions. I propose that people like the “This is Sparta” meme for the same reasons because kicking someone they dislike down a bottomless pit, whilst unlikely to happen in reality, is something that is likely to occur we imagine ourselves doing in order to express our feelings of frustration or dislike.

Of the two divergent designs for the “This is Sparta” meme I think the edited cautionary signs have taken on more of a part in their own memeplex because the meme featuring the shouting Leonidas has limited applications and is referencing a movie that was released six years ago. The shouting Leonidas version of the “This is Sparta” meme is currently at in 228th place in the ranking of “All Time Favorite” Memes in MemeGenerator.net, possibly because of it’s limited applications. The shouting Leonidas version of the “This is Sparta” only allows for three types of text: “This is X“, “For X“, and “Tonight we dine X” many of which could have been eliminated with the use of Ron Hale-Evans’ definition of “mental condoms” otherwise know as employing the use of your “skepticism, cynicism, irony, and humor” because there is really no reason to use the shouting Leonidas meme to announce that you are eating at McDonald’s. The limit of expressible themes is probably also the reason why the original meme diverged since the clip of Leonidas kicking the messenger into the bottomless pit could really only allow for the “Something, something, something. This is X” dialog. The edited cautionary sign, although very limited and specific in terms of the “This is Sparta” meme is part of a much larger MemePlex because cautionary signs and generic are easier to replicate, allow for more interpretation, and are already presented with greater variety in our culture. For example, the generic humanoid figure can be found in the mandated directional signs for procedures in the event of a fire which is commonly accompanied by the words “In case of fire, do not use elevator, use stairs” which when separated from the original pictorial depiction can be reapplied to something like the figure below.

A generic humanoid figure "using"  the stairs by carrying them and running towards the iconic representation of a fire.

A generic humanoid figure “using” the stairs by carrying them and running towards the iconic representation of a fire. I snagged this from a Profile Picture of a Facebook friend.

The funny cautionary sign meme can also be easily replicated or perpetuated by anyone with a camera because our current political and cultural atmosphere allows an individual to sue another individual over anything that they were hurt while using that they weren’t explicitly warned could hurt them which has resulted in some pretty funny cautionary signs. Here are just a few examples, the sharp edges sign,  the moose crushes vehicle sign, and the sun-shield parking notice. The consequential “offspring” of the cautionary sign cultural phenomenon can then be reproduced in and integrated with a variety of other memes in our culture, like this one that combines the popularity of the Caution sign meme with the popularity of the Portal video game.

If you’ve ever watched a crime show where a slew of seemingly unconnected murders are committed in a similar manner the conclusion will be drawn by the investigating characters that all the murders were committed by one person. The next question that much inherently be solved is the question of how were the deceased individuals chosen–how were they connected. Then the investigators will go through the lives of each of the deceased, their family, friends, their gyms, their habits, their subscriptions–virtually anything that can connect them. If a meme can be anything–an idea, a mannerism, a tune–then you can transmit it consciously or unconsciously to anyone at anytime. When people critically study the French Revolution, the argument is made that the rebellion had to come after the Enlightenment because the people had to know it was possible. That is what a meme transmission is, right? The spread of “an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on through non-genetic means,” as cited from the OED in the The Meme Machine Forward by Richard Dawkins, how can you begin to really measure the transmission or the quality? I know that an argument can very easily be made for the rising tide of less than stellar memes that are now being transmitted around the clock but I think that as we saw with the decreasing popularity of the “This is Sparta” meme that with a little bit of distance, in space and time, and “natural selection” that only the stellar memes will really be remembered.

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