October 22, 2020

The memes which we see on our social media feeds grow more complex and layered by the day – even since the last issue of this Critical Meme Theory, a noticeable artistic evolution has taken place within the field (or perhaps the world) of memes. This is hardly unusual, as constant evolution has always been the core quality of memes as a concept and art form. Still, though, this ever-present change bars many memetic laymen from understanding or even contending with the medium. Of course, it is for that precise reason that I am here… to aid and abet the reader, to be the champion of the uninitiated! 


As we will see through each installment of this series, memes can take on almost any form imaginable. Each work is a genre unto itself, a gateway to endless sophisticated satirical and artistic expression. I advise each reader to go back to previous issues of this series after they have completed reading a new one, and see how their increased understanding changes their perception of memes they have seen previously. 


In this second edition of a series of founding documents for Critical Meme Theory, memes will be broken down for the comprehension of the average man, bit by bit. You, the reader, will be presented with examples of the finest and most intellectual meme artistries to be created thus far. While some of these may prove to be frustratingly dense for most outside observers, you are asked to please try your hardest to mentally bear with us, even if your insufficient mental capacity limits your ability to do so.





To begin our critical analysis of this meme, let us first understand what exactly it is that we are looking at. First, in the center of the image sits a terribly glum yellow creature known colloquially as a “smiley face:” however, this name could simply not be more ironic, given the current circumstance of said “smiley face.” (That circumstance being that he is, in fact, frowning) 


Behind this face lies an eye-catching background consisting of six solid bars of colors, those being ocean blue, lime green, lemon yellow, nigh-creamy orange, crimson red, and a lovely shade of magnolia pink. Each of these colors bears a large level of emotional significance which we will get to shortly. 


Finally, in the northern edge of the image, we can see a line of text in striking all capital letters reading “BUYS BOX OF M&MS.” And, conversely, on the southern edge, we can observe more text, ostensibly the conclusion to the narrative begun in the first sentence fragment. It simply reads, “GETS W&WS.” 


Curiously, behind these easily legible and comprehensible lines of text, we can see there are similar, larger strings of text. In spite of the best efforts of myself and the entirety of The Meme Theory Committee, these writing segments have not been deciphered, and, accordingly, they are certainly impossible to be uncovered. Unless the artist of this meme work directly reveals the answer to this mystery, both academia and independent meme appreciators will forever remain uncertain. Of course, this only speaks to the complexity and intellectual depth of this particular artistry, as it highlights the indisputable fact that knowledge is a horizon to be searched for, and not a quantifiable prize to be paraded and displayed on demand. 


With all that being said, the question has presumably been asked – what does it all mean? What do all of these elements coming together create? Will the assembled concept even be intelligible to average, uncultured laity? 


Well, despite those ordinarily reasonable worries, I would certainly hope you would trust my skills to disseminate works such as this at this point. Let’s begin. 


Upon first inspection, this meme would appear to be simply telling the story of an average smiley-face purchasing a container of his favorite chocolate sweet, that being the M&Ms candy. Of course, this reality is founded only on perception, and when the naive smiley-face attempts to access his newly purchased treats, he is devastated to discover that there has in fact been an unfortunate mistake in the packaging of this product. You see, the box he purchased had the M&Ms brand clearly labeled on all sides of it, however, what was actually in the box was none other than the W&Ws candy variety. Likely due to human oversight or mechanical malfunction, this smiley-face (who is now frowning, despite his name, as he is dismayed) has spent his wages on a batch of treats that are not at all what he believed he was purchasing. 


Now, in this analysis, we have already covered much ground and bridged many gaps – attempting to convert this work’s abstract, unabashedly philosophical narrative into an easily understood direct story while still retaining all its existentialist trappings was far from an easy task. Despite that, however, myself and my committee managed it, and we did so with a fervor and professionalism unheard of in other areas of the meme international community. 


But, even if you may not believe it, there is even more to this piece’s narrative and message than anyone (excluding myself) ever thought. See, like many seminal memes, this one initially begins with a single operating level, but, as experts such as myself have come to expect, the additional layers soon reveal themselves upon closer inspection. 


The fact of the matter is, this meme is not just a dense and emotionally resonant modern tragedy. Its truest form, as it should be said, is a searing satirical and moral attack focused on Corporate America, specifically the branch of it that is focused on producing M&Ms. Think about it. Do you really believe that this packaging “error” was simply just a mixup? Don’t be childish. Such an absurd intersection of brands does not simply happen by accident. No, the unfortunate evil that our dear smiley-face is lamenting is none other than one caused by the vermin that is man. It is inconceivable that diligent, paid factory workers or flawless assembly robots could make such a massive blunder unintentionally.


But why? Why would a human – someone just like you and me – do something like this? Why would mercy and love be cast aside for reasons unexplained? What could possibly justify this? 


The answer is simple – greed. Within the last 70 years, corporations have become increasingly apathetic, antagonistic and even outright evil towards both their customer bases and the rest of the world alike. The endless stream of money they pursue will lead them into dark places – places as dark as taking a fellow man’s currency in exchange for the wrong sweets. If you can’t see what I’m getting at, allow me to spell it out for you. 


This meme is not simply an emotional statement – it isone based around criticizing corporate strategies such as diversifying products, false advertising and crushing the human spirit. The smiley-face was deliberately lied to by a company. They knew full well that they were really selling him W&Ws when he was under the impression that he was purchasing M&Ms. All for the sake of making a quick buck. The grainy-ness of the meme (a trait which I have not brought up till now) represents the fuzzy, unclear and uncertain emotional and mental state of the smiley after fully realizing the weight of the crime committed against him. Each individual color in the background serves to symbolize one of his emotions – rage, envy, passion, despair, hunger, and confusion. And of course, the poor thing’s face itself serves one discernable purpose… to display his utter outward misery at the world upon learning he was tricked. 


I do hope you could follow the explanations and sophisticated logical chains featured in this article. While this analysis may prove rigorous and in-depth for most, it will be only the second in a long series of memes to be dissected by the eye of Critical Meme Theory. For your own long-term mental well being, it is advised that you reread this document (and ones before it) again and again until you fully understand every concept that is being presented within it. As both a citizen of the modern world and a consumer of modern pop culture, it is your duty to understand and critique every meme you should come upon, no matter how complex it may appear to be.


The Meme Theory Committee

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About the Writer

Grant LeRoy is a senior Writing & Publishing major who has always had a knack for comedic writing. He hopes to work in the film and TV industries, with some music work on the side. He writes Critical Meme Theory, with new installments every week!

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    Luke BrahlerOct 22, 2020 at 10:14 am

    My mind has been blown once again! It all makes sense now. There are so many extra layers to this heartbreaking meme that I would’ve never picked up on if it weren’t for Grant and The Meme Theory Committee. By the way, the underlying text reads “GOES TO WALMART” on the northern edge and “BUYS ALMOND” on the southern. I have no idea how that adds to the already high complexity of this meme, but I’d be interested to find out. Perhaps W&Ws are M&Ms but with a chocolate covered almond inside instead of mere solid chocolate?