From Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake to Grumpy Cats and Yao Ming’s face, memes have captured our attentions and amused us since the dawn of social media. It is perhaps one of the most fascinating things in the web culture.
Known for their knack and penchant for wordplays and parodies, Indonesians are also fond of this viral phenomenon, churning out memes after memes with local flavor faster than you can spell Breaking News. When a dim-witted politician says something ridiculous, for example, s/he will be instantly immortalized in a meme. And since there are plenty of outrageous politicians and stupid celebrities in this country, the meme creators will never have to worry about running out of materials.
Ever wonder who make those memes? Here are some of the most popular ones.
Arifdani Nugraha (@danidantje, arifdaninugraha.com)
He is the one behind the ‘Han Solo’ parody. With a cheeky reference to the Central Java’s city of Solo, Arifdani turned one of Harrison Ford’s most notable movie characters into a man donning Javanese traditional suit, and made a series based on the wordplay of Han.
A graduate of the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology’s Arts School, Dani’s meme is notably neater and more visually artistic than the rest. He rarely uses existing meme icons.
“What makes a good meme? It must be funny, amusing and spot on. Even if it’s a wordplay, it has to be smart. And the timing to create and post the meme determines how a meme is funny or not,” said the 30-something art director who uses Adobe Photoshop and Snapseed applications to create memes.
Some people, however, are too thin-skinned to see the humor in his memes. Dani once was attacked after making a meme out of a religious leader.
“Even though it’s light and playful, I’ve got nasty comments on it,” he said.
Eli (@digembok, digembok.tumblr.com)
Eli, who is reluctant to reveal his real names, specializes in political memes, poking fun at and criticizing public officials and politicians. His most recent one is about Tangerang Selatan Mayor Airin Rachmy Diani and her embattled husband Tubagus Chaeri Wardhana. Tubagus was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a bribery case, and the ongoing investigation found out that he had been giving out cars as gifts to pretty young starlets.
Like Arifdani, Eli has his fair share of being slammed by supporters of the objects of his memes, including those of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, who became an Internet joke recently for her prickly comments to people who trolled her Instagram postings. The criticism multiplied when he made a meme that made fun of both the First Lady and singer Agnes Monica, a pop idol with a legion of devoted fans.
“I was said to have insulted the First Lady, and that I’m an Agnes Monica’s hater,” said Eli, who works as a freelance art director in retail development.
But he didn’t mind, “I think what matters is my meme is not slanderous or libelous.”
Asked whether he makes any money from creating memes, he asked back: “Can it generate money? Tell me how, please. I want to send my mother to haj pilgrimage.”
Rendy Imandita (@imandita, imandita.tumblr.com)
Rendy first got the inspiration to create meme three years ago from 9gag.com, one of the meme bibles. Now, inspired by twitter or Path timelines, his credo is “One picture rules all”.
“From one picture, I can make a series of meme out of it.”
An example is the sharia series, where he poked fun at increased religiosity in the society by dressing up Hollywood celebrities in Islamic clothes.
Working as an art director in an ad agency, Rendy doesn’t even need a computer to create a meme sometimes.
“I use Line Camera, Moldiv and Over applications on my smart phones,” he said.
He has never received complaints for his memes because “I think you should make it funny or in good quality so people won’t be angry.”
The most important thing is how a meme is understood by other people, he said, adding, “Otherwise, why bother?”
Riyan Riyadi (@thepopoh, thepopopaint.blogspot.com)
The 32-year old mural artist who goes by the name Popo is among the first ones who gained popularity from creating memes, and the one who inspired Eli to follow suit. His signature style for meme is a nosy, ugly little boy who makes fun of politicians or celebrities or whoever was trending on Twitter, like the controversial singer turned presidential aspirant Rhoma Irama, and the notorious lawyer Farhat Abbas.
Follow @heradiani on Twitter.