The phrase “Like a Boss” appears numerous times in the Lonely Island’s song of the same title. The song went viral after playing during Saturday Night Live as a digital short. It’s actually parodying a Slim Thug song, also entitled “Like a Boss.” However, the phrase’s rise as a meme really took off after the Lonely Island version (The Lonely Island Parody was shown in 2009, the Slim Thug song released in 2005. The difference in searches speaks for itself). As a meme, the phrase usually accompanies some action or indication of an action that resulted in success. It implies that the action was taken with authority and confidence, with no regard for how others perceive the action (From knowyourmeme.com).
The meme is largely an idea, but includes behavioral components as well. After all, the idea is that the boss takes actions with the confidence and authority of a boss. A person who who decides to take action like a boss is making a vow to act with confidence, regardless of how others perceive their actions. This is not to say that people have begun to take action with a new attitude never felt before by humankind, but that the meme is a new way of describing this attitude (before or after one takes action)
In the Lonely Island song, the phrase in question comes after every single line of the song. The actions continue to sound more and more absurd within the context of a corporate boss, but suggest that Andy Samberg (who plays “The Boss”) approaches these actions with authority, even when the action is scaring himself out of suicide (like a boss) The replication of the phrase, which ultimately results in it being a meme, mostly stays close to this format, and tacks the phrase on to depictions or descriptions of bold and confident actions, regardless of how silly or trivial. The meme has seen some variation in how it is presented. In some instances it is used as a caption for pictures. In others, the audio from the short is placed over various video clips. In a number of these instances, the picture or video makes use of the clip to suggest emotion that may not really exist. Occasionally the original phrase is replaced with another word. For example, the phrase has been changed to “like a bus” for the purposes of a charity event known as Desert Bus For Hope.
I imagine the meme is successful largely for three reasons. On one hand, I suspect that the popularity of the Saturday Night Live video means many people can identify with the meme easily and spread it as a means of re-living the humor of the video. Secondly, bold confidence and authority are things occasionally bragged about, and saying “like a boss” is an easy way to do just that. Lastly, it takes little effort to add in the caption “like a boss” to a picture or tack the phrase on to the end of a sentence (like a boss). This means that its a simple matter for anyone to replicate the meme. This leads into the relationship of this meme in regards to others. In one sense, the meme is related to and helped by other memes that make use of picture captions, such as “Haters Gonna Hate.” This happens because, as one spreads, the concept of adding a simple and repeated captions to different pictures is more commonplace and makes sense. In this sense, these memes are a memeplex as described in the Blackmore reading. However, captions are a bit zero-sum. Putting one caption on a picture or overlaying one audio track to a video makes it difficult to put anything else, meaning they are also rivals in a sense, which counters the idea of a memeplex (especially when “Haters Gonna Hate” and other memes share similar themes). The more easily recognized memeplex would consist of different Lonely Island memes, such as “I’m on a Boat.” These memes support each other as their existence is promoted by the other thanks to sharing a common origin, but express different enough ideas that they are never really competing in the same space, making this fall much more in line with the memeplex presented in the Blackmore reading.
When I look at this meme and meme theory in general, it seems apparent that memes have great importance that stems from the speed at which they can communicate ideas. Confidence is not something new to humanity. In fact, I would not be surprised to one day learn that confidence has some genetic component. However, acting like a boss lets us spread the the idea through a completely non-genetic way. We get a look at what people perceive confidence and authority to look and sound like (albeit with a bit of humor), in a way that uses a universal phrase to speed things up. When I see this meme, I know that someone perceives confidence and authority. Even pictures like the starfish are pointing to something that symbolizes confidence (according to our other semiotics reading. Within McCloud’s book, this would be referred to as an icon still). I imagine that someone is worried that meme’s limit original articulation or vocabulary. This is probably somewhat true. However, it is important to not that communicating through memes might limit our vocabulary, but it allows to transmit the idea of confidence quickly and without the help of genetics (like a boss).
For your viewing pleasure, here is the Desert Bus for Hope crew working to make clean, bus-related, lyrics to the Lonely Island song as a plea for donations, followed by a bus that truly acts like a boss.