According to several web sources (which are so not-work-safe I won't link them), this genre of Image Macros started with the statement, "I'm in your base killing your d00ds" (that last word being a Leet spelling of "dudes"), from a classic video game. Non-gamer translation: "You lose."
This Image Macro genre first came to my attention, you guessed it, as a LOL Cat:
After the jump, I explore some unique characteristics of the Image Macro, including a political Image Macro.
Of course, things had to go a level deeper than just Leet speak and cats. The day after the 2006 US Congressional Election, a version of the "I'm in your X, Y'ing your Z" Image Macro appeared showing Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Boing Boing featured the image, which read: I'm in ur house impeachin ur doodz." (They also featured a rather wonderful LOL Bird.)
Five days after the election, a top 10 list appeared, with a hilarious variety of Image Macros based on the theme. My favorite:
So this is fun and all, but what's the point? Well, I believe that the Image Macro is a new form of art, native to the web. This new form has some unusual characteristics -- primary being that most images are by anonymous authors (though some communities create the macros collaboratively, with known authors). The images are frequently reproduced in blogs (*ahem* like this one), in which the main attribution is simply the location where the image was found. In their inherent anonymity, Image Macros are like Graffiti (minus the tagging).
Another unusual characteristic of Image Macros is the rapid adoption and evolution of new genres. A single popular image can spawn an entire genre of Image Macros with their own syntax and style. Responses to an original image range from copycat images (if you'll excuse the expression) to fairly complex new statements. You can see this in action in the "Invisible" LOL Cats, in which Invisible Bike leads to Invisible Bike Crash, and finally to Invisible Everything. While classical art is responsive in this way, the speed with which the genre is created, extended, and integrated with other genres is impressive.
Also, due to the sheer number of Image Macros in the wild, lots of sites have created their own collections, generally going on for many pages. We've linked earlier in the week to the LOL Cat blog, I Can Has Cheezburger -- after being linked by Digg today, they have shut down temporarily due to excessive bandwidth usage. Each of these sites is effectively an online museum of art, curated by amateurs. You can see the influence of the curator in some collections in which images have been presented in a particular sequence (it's a fairly crass example -- not for the easily offended -- but the "ceiling cat" sequence at the end of this collection shows what I mean).
Here's a small, non-ordered collection of some LOL Cat X/Y/Z favorites, to reward you for reading this far:
So what do you think? Do LOL Cats and X/Y/Z Image Macros qualify as art?
Tomorrow we'll wrap up the Image Macro series with some unexpected evolutions of the form. Stay tuned!
Resources related to today's post: LOL Cat site with lots of X/Y/Z examples (many images above are from this site). See also the collection from the "Error: Access Denied" site.
This article is part of a series. Read the rest: