The definition of a meme, though, is:
“an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
It’s a key concept in evolutionary science: to understand human nature, we must understand where it originates; a species, as it evolves, begins to imitate others of the same species in order to survive. So, on a (simple) psychological level, we subconsciously copy the more successful because primitive urges assume it is the best route to survival – and we’re not even aware. Do you wear the same clothes as your favourite film star? Why?
The term goes back to Ancient Greece, as ‘mimeme’, and the style ‘meme’ was coined by the controversial ethologist and evolutionary biologist Professor (C.) Richard Dawkins in 1976. That’s the first year in which That ’70s Show was set, by the way. Memes are older than Star Wars.
The greatest part, though?
There is a meme science: the study of memetics. This is:
a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution
Basically, looking at behavioural patterns and their roots in culture then being a science which does not look at how true
old wives’ tales ideas are, how successful these are being measured instead by contribution to the efficiency/ improvement of life of the believer: does wearing the same outfit as your favourite film star make you feel more successful? In this way, memes (in the scientific sense) are like placebos for life, a.k.a. Life Hacks.
There’s even a Journal of Memetics, published from ’97 to ’05.
Memes are, in effect, parodies. They are satire in genre. They are, to the intended audience, funny yet, to everybody else, simply ridiculous and/or crude and crass.
But what do you get when you parody a parody of something? And when the parody you’re parodying is (vaguely similar to) something you invented? Richard Dawkins shows us here.