A meme is a system or a belief that passes from person-to-person in a culture as well as a humorous picture on the internet that goes viral. Memes can be harmless, funny images, but when the subject is domestic violence, memes become a sinister indicator of a significant cultural problem.
The crazy boyfriend or ex-boyfriend meme features an image of an aggressive man and a disturbed woman and is usually captioned with the man verbally threatening the woman. The intent of this meme, like all memes, is to be funny, making light of obsessive behavior that is outside the norm of healthy relationships. But, there is nothing funny about domestic violence. According to safehorizon.org 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence. Of those women, one third are likely to become homicide victims.
The problem with memefying significant cultural issues is that it detracts from the real threat these issues bring. Earlier this year, the Salvation Army used the dress meme as a PSA for domestic violence. In the image, a woman with a bruised eye is wearing the infamous dress and above is the caption: "why is it so hard to see black and blue." While some praised the Salvation Army for capitalizing on a viral moment to discuss domestic violence, this PSA was just as problematic as the crazy boyfriend meme. Viral content may bring awareness to an issue, but it fails to create a space that allows for a critical discussion about gender inequality and the objectification of women in media. This discussion is necessary for the survival of victims of domestic violence and memes are getting in the way of that.
Memes and serious issues like domestic violence should not mix. It is fine to memefy Kermit sipping his tea, but memefying a woman being threatened her partner is definitely crossing a line.