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Response: Who’s the Real Jerk in Dogshaming?

Dogshaming was originally created when Pascale Lemire and fiancé Mike LeBlanc found their dog chewing a pair of boxers under the bed. Clearly, as any pet owner knows, the punishment is to take a picture of your dog looking fairly ashamed, with a note positioned beside the dog (and hopefully the destroyed object) detailing the dog’s crime to further his/her embarrassment.

In order for your dog to make it on Dogshaming, you have to make sure that you’re not only following the tropes of Dogshaming memes (again, positioning your dog looking ashamed, with a sign detailing his/her crime(s)), but also the rules as decided by Dogshaming (don’t worry – lolcat speak is fine, but be warned – pictures of pets with dead animals will not be tolerated).

In her article, “Phreaks, Hackers, and Trolls,” Gabriella Coleman defines memes as “viral images, videos, and catchphrases under constant modification by users, and with a propensity to travel as fast as the Internet can move them” (120). While Dogshaming, by this definition, is a successful internet meme, these humorous memes can also raise ethical questions concerning the dogs “crimes”.

Often times Dogshaming is meant to be funny, but in some cases the humour can be lost when issues of neglect begin to surface. As the below image suggests, this dog was featured on Dogshaming for destroying a chair, and devouring the stuffing.

Dogshaming

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While this is initially humorous, it becomes problematic that this dog was most likely left unattended for a long period of time in order to rip open a chair, and start eating stuffing.

Memes can offer us more than just a good laugh – they can be used as tools to gain insight into societal and cultural norms. Dogshaming is explicit in its policy against pictures of pets with dead animals, but doesn’t appear to be tackling the larger issue that, in some instances of Dogshaming, the dogs are not the jerks who should be shamed.

Memes and the rules that surround them allow us to critically engage and discover aspects (and sometimes problems) of our culture that we may not otherwise discuss. There is no shame in chuckling at the dogs featured on Dogshaming, but it is important to realize that there are larger implications behind the meme than the lulz.

Works Cited

“Phreaks, Hackers, and Trolls: The Politics of Transgression and Spectacle.” The Social Media Reader. Ed. Michael Mandiberg. New York: New York UP, 2012. 99-119. Print.

About babblingbitty

My name is Emily and I am currently completing my Masters in Rhetoric and Communication Design. I have a strange (or adorable) obsession with my dog, and am a horribly cliche Instagrammer, snapping pictures of food at every opportunity. I’m a (proud) feminist, but internet shy. I love to lurk and observe, but am lacking confidence in participation. In my spare time I lose hours of my life in Minecraft, spend time with my partner and try to get outdoors for at least fifteen minutes a day. I am also an avid baker with the unhealthy habit of eating icing with a spoon (but you only live once, right?).

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