Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cartoon meme followup

So, in the last post I described the cartoon-character meme that swept Facebook last weekend, and mentioned that the alleged  "purpose" of using a cartoon image as one's profile picture was to raise awareness about child abuse.  Specifically, the standard phrasing of the call to change one's profile picture, which people posted as their status after they changed their picture, went something like this:
Change your FB profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a human face on FB until Monday, December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse...copy & paste this to your status to invite your friends to do the same.
Something about that last sentence, as I said, "set my folklore antennae a-wigglin'." 

Well, sure enough, yesterday Tom showed me a second "plea" that one of his former students had posted as her Facebook status later in the weekend (apologies for the dreadful grammar, but this is exactly as it appeared):

CHANGE YOUR PROFILE PICS BACK!!!! - This cartoon thing has been set up by a pedafile using a registered charities name to entice kids. apparently on the 6th dec you will be kicked off fb if u have cartoon pics. The more folk that put up cartoon pics the harder it is ...for the police to...catch .......these sickos!!!!! PLEASE RE-POST It was on this evenings news.

Classic!  The strange connection between cartoon characters and child abuse clearly struck some folks as suspicious, giving rise to this "explanation."  

The "it was on this evening's news" phrase is straight out of traditional urban legendry--the old "I know it's true because it was on TV/in the paper" truth claim.  And the threat at the end--"change your pic back or you'll get booted from Facebook"--echoes the trend in e-mailed legends to ensure that the recipient forwards them to others with a menacing guilt trip:  "If you care about the women in your life, you'll forward this to everyone you know!!!"  In this case, though, if you don't post this as your status, apparently it's your own damn fault if all your friends disappear from Facebook.

I know I'm a total geek, but I was delighted to see this.  More evidence that folklore is infinitely adaptable to new contexts.

And yes, it's on Snopes.  Grrr.


--S. said...

I didn't even see anything about the supposed connection to child abuse (one way or the other) until late on Sunday -- the meme set my "constructed-identity" antennae wigglin', so I guess there was something in it for everyone ;)

All the cartoon characters I saw seemed just so *apt*; it made me want to start post status updates in a cartoon context. "Today I was Charlie Brown"; " Boris Badenov"; etc.

Rosemary said...

S., the one I copied had the child abuse tag with it, but I was dubious enough about it to leave it off of mine. I just liked the idea of seeing nothing but cartoon faces for a few yeah, I'm all over your status-updates-AS-cartoon-characters idea! Unfortunately, I fear that means I'll *always* be nerdy old Velma. Sigh.