Wojak and Doomer Memes: Philosophical and Spiritual Tropes for Gen Z

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Wojak's face is one of the internet's most versatile and enduring memes. A meme, more recognizable than many other modes of humor for Gen Z (or Zoomers), is commonly defined as a funny item, such as an image or video with a caption, or genre of items, disseminated online and adapted for various uses, often personal. referential contexts. Wojak is a long-running meme that has become a central figure in dark comedy on YouTube, with a whole personality and global lore organically grafted onto him. He's a character onto whom all sorts of Gen Z dark humor can be projected: failure, regret, feeling unhappy or unfair at the injustice of the world, and ironic self-mockery. Videos involving Wojak tend to exaggerate the injustices meted out to him and his inappropriate responses to them, providing insight into the social and cultural anxieties of Zoomers.

A typical Wojak meme, driven by personality, characters, and lore. From youtube.com

Wojak is a comedic character who allows us catharsis by letting him laugh at his personal flaws and misfortune. Although Wojak's circumstances may differ depending on the host, he is generally unable to find a partner, trying to get out of his dead-end job, often falling for crypto scams and going bankrupt with his collapsing wallet. He receives little sympathy from his co-stars Zoomer, Boomer, and a constellation of other dark-humored personality memes, collaboratively shaped over time by anonymous content creators and posters. circulating their images. It is an organic method of generating content that was unimaginable for pre-internet generations and technology.

In a way, it is even possible to recognize certain meme qualities in religion. After all, religions are culturally contingent and can be unintelligible without understanding the cultural and historical contexts from which they emerge. Meanwhile, baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials often struggle to keep up with the plethora of online memes, in part because they reference cultural phenomena that are primarily known only to Gen Z and younger cohorts.

Over time, religions become self-referential like memes, with a “lineage” of discourses and ideas that can be traced and identified. The Vajrayana is distant from the Theravada in time and space, but both refer to the Buddha and the three treasures. Buddhism iconography, such as the wheel of Dharma, the lotus and the eight auspicious symbols, also communicates something that is understood without the need for a full explanation and can be easily adapted to any context or audience. .

Even though modern memes are perhaps presented in a more relevant way than many theologies or religious teachings today, the philosophy of suffering and its overcoming remains infinitely richer in Buddhism and in other religions and philosophies of the world than the residual life lessons we might find from Wojak. videos.

The Doomer. From reddit.com

There have been attempts to portray Wojak as a likeable character. Maybe he dropped out of school or his true love cheated on him. His parents may have died prematurely. He was born ugly and bald and can only find unstable and unfulfilling employment. The problem is that it's almost impossible to feel sorry for him, because in the story itself, all of his mishaps stem from his own flaws, especially his addiction to wasteful habits. Too many of them and an abundance of unfortunate mishaps lead to the Doomer, the Wojak who effectively gave up. Doomer represents a patchwork of pessimistic views on a range of issues: about his own future prospects and the future of the world, impending environmental collapse, social decay and degeneration. Its self-awareness depends on the maturity of the storyteller, and content creators are usually Zoomers, teenagers or in their twenties.

Doomer's misery is not an assessment he arrived at after reading much about the world, or after pondering how we are led to believe in an illusory self, which then leads to the attachment and therefore to suffering. Insofar as Doomerism can constitute a philosophy, it derives from certain pessimistic tendencies like Schopenhauer, but more from Anglophone fictions like American Psycho, Fight Club, Taxi driver, The black Knightand more recently, Joker. All have been influential enough to leave their own memes, generated by various groups. But these bodies of work are themselves cultural and artistic riffs on approaches to materialism, social philosophy, and nihilism that long predated Doomer's assessment, which emanates entirely from his personal perspective and ego. His world begins and ends with himself, which is inherently limiting from a Buddhist perspective.

Joker (2019). From imdb.com

Even stories favorable to Doomer usually reveal that he dooms himself because of three main issues. First, it betrays maladaptive tendencies. Wojak has a Manichean view of life's possibilities, in that he will either get rich and get that legendary "Lambo" or he'll be stuck on McDonald's minimum wage. This effectively forces him never to set realistic goals, but at the same time, never to be satisfied with what he has.

There is no such thing as 'agree', 'acceptable' or even 'so-so, but it could be worse'. There can be no room for clumsy mediocrity or modest satisfaction. There is only heaven or hell; obscene wealth through crypto or abject misery and poverty. There is no middle way. The contemptuous (albeit exaggerated) way in which Wojak refers to his "wagecuckery" reveals all there is to know about what he thinks of an "average life". Wojak believes that any salaried job is despicable, respected only by wagies.

A Buddhist psychotherapist might have a lot to say about his addiction to gambling all his savings in crypto. His obsession with being a get-rich-quick investor is an understandable but unimaginative ambition that wouldn't elicit much admiration or sympathy. It's hardly prosocial. And speaking of antisocial: Doomer complains of having no friends, being alienated, and having no chance to connect with others. Yet it is deeply disconnected from any form of self-awareness or self-reflection.

His second problem is a kind of arrogance in the way he sees his suffering as particularly acute and unfair, and everyone else is just a "normie" or "NPC" who hasn't experienced financial trouble. , loss of loved ones, or loneliness, isolation. , and rejection. He seems to care little for the suffering of others, showing little interest in social causes, history, or religion, and demonstrates little thoughtfulness about the nature of poverty, injustice, and the human condition.

Third and finally, there is his resistance to change or to trying something new. For the most part, Doomer sees the idea of ​​changing one's perspective on misfortunes as a form of "coping" or self-delusion. Ironically, staying rooted in current habits, remaining narrow-minded and closed, seems to be the very definition of adaptation. Doomer's nihilism seems to be a rehashed version of Albert Camus' fundamental question for philosophy: "Should I kill myself?" Buddhism recognizes the suffering that permeates all life, but it clearly indicates how to get out of it. Wojak is just getting back to crypto.

A more promising result for Gen Z Doomer. From reddit.com

Due to the nature of humor, satire, and "shitposting" on the Internet (many Wojak stories shouldn't be taken too seriously), the best lesson Wojak and Doomer have to offer seems to be to find humor in pain and suffering. But if one were to extrapolate the figure of Wojak or Doomer to a real man, he would have a sad and ominous figure. It is the figure of someone deeply broken inside and who does not have access to spiritual resources. The Buddha shows us the way, but will we even seek to walk that way? In much of the online literature, Doomer is often rescued by a brawny, beaming, peaceful “Gigachad,” which is for all intents and purposes an (inaccurate) portrait of an awakened being on the internet. We don't always have these bodhisattvas in real life. But such beings care, even for completely lost Doomers and Wojaks. Life, after all, is marked by suffering and it is up to us to create our karma. Change, constant and continuous, can be the path to better ways of living, doing and being. Perhaps this view of the Buddha is more "grounded" than anything online nihilism can offer.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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