“The General Said”


Internet memes
Ventsislav Mutafchiyski

How to Cite

Cheshmedzhieva-Stoycheva, D. (2023). “The General Said”: challenges in understanding Covid-19 memes. The European Journal of Humour Research, 11(2), 49–67. https://doi.org/10.7592/EJHR.2023.11.2.731


Times of trial require resorting to new methods for venting up the tension. Internet memes during the first outbreak of the pandemic proved to be the necessary outlet, while, at the same time, provided a platform for the public to share their opinion, albeit in a humorous way, on the measures imposed, the people involved in the fight against the virus, and basically on everything that determined their everyday lives. The latter has been fostered greatly by the fact that humour is a generally relatable phenomenon. At the same time though, it can also be culture specific and some peculiarities of the embedded message can remain hidden for the general public. In order to trace these opposing aspects in the creation of internet memes, the paper analyses a corpus of 84 memes circulated on Facebook and Instagram in the period of 13 March 2020 – 30 May 2020. The subject in all these memes is General Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, who was in charge of the struggle with COVID-19 pandemic in Bulgaria, and the main methods of analysis are Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Multimodal Discourse Analysis.  

The focus is on intertextuality and the paper argues that some of the intertextual links used in the creation of the memes might be left misunderstood by the general public due to the specificity of the message carried or the images that have been selected by the authors of these pieces of digital humour. Thus, mediation, i.e. the time needed to decode the message, would be longer for people who are not familiar with the images or ideas used, while smaller for those aware of them. Additionally, the paper argues that the age of the recipients as well as their personal preferences are also of significance for the proper understanding of the message a meme carries. Furthermore, the analysis also proves the fact that although some images might be used simply as a background and do not carry substantial information, without them one cannot understand the full array of ideas the author/ poster of a particular meme is trying to convey.



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