Moments after Vancouver lost to Boston in the Stanley Cup finals, the city of Vancouver erupted in a riot that made international news as it happened. Facebook posts and tweets updated the world in real time about the breakout of violence, but somewhere in the middle of the riot a couple was making love, not war. In the shadow of the iconic photo from V-J day in Times Square, two young people were on the ground, kissing, with a city at war with itself in the background. As part of a generation that has really known nothing but war, this image seemed to be iconic in itself.
This image made its viral rounds quickly via social media, and an article in NPR pointed to another interesting article — this one published in the New York times about European artist Tino Sehgal, who produced a show called “Kiss” at the Guggenheim, where dancers in rehearsed choreography embraced each other in the museum. The parallels are interesting, but the time and place questionably distant to be obviously related.
What is obvious about the image is the stark contrast and the clear message that is just too good to be true. It’s almost funny. And just like whenever else that happens on the Internet, a meme is born. But is a meme still a meme if it was staged? While I think we’d all like to believe there are young people who truly believe in the old “Make Love, Not War” ideal, the reality is, this “iconic” photo probably was staged. A picture from MSNBC.com shows the apparent prep for the photo — and also mentions sightings of the couple in the city the previous week.
So what happens when a viral picture turns into a meme, but the photo itself is a fake? Does the meme instead represent not the absurdity of the situation captured, but turn to represent our own tendency to believe everything we see and hear on Twitter and Facebook? At the least, one might be hopeful that realization of the meme’s pretense being fake and self-serving will kill not only the meme, but our dedication to giving any further attention to this photo.