The role of popular media in 2016 US presidential election memes

  • Kyra Osten Hunting University of Kentucky
Keywords: Gender representation, Harry Potter, Social media, Star Wars

Abstract

The 2016 US presidential election was marked by the extensive role that social media played in the construction of the candidates as well as by the growth of a number of forms of digital political rhetoric, including memes. The subgenre of popular culture-based political memes that draw on well-known entertainment media, particularly those with large fandoms like the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises, reveal inequities in gender representation in entertainment media that are replicated when these media become source material for memes. Memes based on popular culture that are designed to celebrate female candidates are disadvantaged by having a more limited popular culture lexicon than do memes featuring male candidates. This imbalance is compounded by the ways negative stereotypes of women already present in popular culture can be deployed in these memes, often in ways that align with news frames that work to police female politicians. Examining the popular culture materials deployed in memes and the way in which they replicate existing representational inequities can improve our understanding of the relationship among memes, popular media, and gender stereotypes.

Published
2019-10-22