Sandburg students going bananas for Harambe fever

October 7, 2016

On May 28th, 2016, a Silverback gorilla known as Harambe was fatally shot and killed by a zoo worker after a three year old boy fell into the Gorilla habitat at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The workers had no choice other than to shoot the 17-year old gorilla in order to save the toddler. Zoo Director Thane Maynard said “the zoo’s dangerous animal response team decided the boy was in ‘a life-threatening situation’ and that they needed to put down the 400-pound-plus male gorilla.” (CBS News)

This sparked uproar in the nation, with many taking their anger to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. However, this was not the only effect that the loss of Harambe triggered. Rather than grieving and remembering Harambe in peace, the worldwide internet as we know it decided to remember Harambe by turning him and his loss into a meme.

Richard Dawkins, an English biologist, wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene”, which asked the question, what if ideas, like a species, could mutate? In his book he refers to the concept of this idea as “Mimeme”, based of the Greek word meaning “that which is replicated”. A meme is “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” (

Everybody who has access to a smart device or computer has most likely seen a meme somewhere before, even if they didn’t know it. Memes, like a species, tend to evolve, either going extinct or evolving with society. Harambe is not the first meme to attract public attention, and he most certainly won’t be the last. However, what is it about Harambe memes and memes in general that appeals to the younger generation? Perhaps it’s because seeing these types of memes is so readily available with phones and computers.Maybe because a friend told you from keeping updated with the freshest memes. It all depends, but one thing is known for certain: memes like Harambe will always be on the internet, whether we like them or not.

As explained, a meme is a viral image, video, etc. that can be shared easily and can be viewed almost instantaneously. Harambe memes, for example, are quite well known due to recent events that transpired at the Cincinnati Zoo. In fact, if you noticed the propaganda posters hung up around Carl Sandburg during the election for freshman president, you might have seen a certain freshman named Jimmy Ferguson using Harambe on his flyers to boost his chances of winning by saying voting to him also means saying a prayer to Harambe. Also using Harambe as motivation and Propaganda is the Regal Eagle team “Harambe’s Eagles”, led by junior Mike Pawlica. In the campaign video shown to all advisory classes of Sandburg on September 19th, each participant of the team was introduced individually. In between the introductions of each team member, the infamous video depicting Harambe with the child inside the gorilla habitat was featured, which clearly defined the team’s theme. I spoke to Mike about why he decided to use Harambe as the theme of their team. “Well, my friends enjoy the joke a little too much, but we agreed that ‘Harambe’s Eagles’ would be catchy and something everyone would have a laugh at. It may be a little too soon, though,” said Pawlica.

One might wonder, what’s the purpose of these things called “memes”? Why are they so commonly seen on the internet, and what makes them so popular? The answer to that is more than meets the eye. A meme can be used to relate to a certain audience or used to poke fun at a certain subject. A meme can be used for almost any circumstance necessary, whether to make someone laugh or make someone question all of existence with a mind- blowing thought.

Harambe, in this case, is none of these. His legacy is here purely because of a certain conglomeration of people who go by the name of “Weird Twitter”, saw the attention Harambe brought, decided to take action and make him into a meme, while everybody was hearing about the incident. Original Harambe memes include Harambe being photoshopped into pictures featuring Muhammad Ali, Prince, and many more celebrities who passed on in 2016. The joke is that he is as legendary as all the other famous actors, athletes, musicians, etc. Other memes featuring the gorilla include songs about Harambe himself.

As of September 13, 2016, the “Viral 50 Global” playlist from Spotify, a digital music service, features two songs about Harambe, one of them being named “Harambe”. Whether the creators of the songs were speaking out against endangered animal abuse or were just making a songs for fun, Spotify users love them, as both songs are in the top 10 of the playlist.

Not only Spotify but other major media platform sites can be seen containing thousands of memes of all sorts, not just Harambe. Harambe isn’t the first big meme that has gone viral. Plenty others took the crown before he did. One great example of this would be “Rickrolling”. According to Wikipedia, Rickrolling, originally started on March 29th, 2007, is “a prank and an Internet meme involving an unexpected appearance of the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Rickrolling is a form of bait and switch, usually disguised as a link. “Bait and switch” refers to tricking someone into thinking they’re looking at a movie trailer or some form of media, causing them to click the link, and are redirected to “Never Gonna Give You Up” on Youtube. The website responsible for this trend is known as “4Chan”, an imageboard site where users post content anonymously. 4chan is also responsible for other memes, such as “LOLcats” and “Chocolate Rain”, which were well known in mid-2000s, when memes were just becoming popular.

The reason Harambe memes, and memes in general, resonate well with audiences is because of the pure nature of them. Nobody knows exactly why they exist, they just do. There is no actual purpose of a meme. The purpose is determined by the people who share memes to other people. Memes can be used for anything, which some people like and some people don’t. The lesson to take away is that as long as the internet remains semi-relative, there will always be memes; there is no denying that.

But it seems likely that, with the ever-changing world on the web, Harambe’s memes may soon be put to rest–much like the great gorilla himself.

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