Let me preface this with: I know nothing about K-Pop (Korean Pop music). I also knew very little about digging my heels into an online topic and defending it to a level that hovered in the stratosphere, and, coincidentally, these two uncharted territories collided head on recently. Although such digital citizenship can inject high volumes of toxicity into your blood stream, I, rather, turned my position at this bizarre intersection into an exercise: creating the master troll job—and, I’ll tell you one thing, it worked!
So how did we get here?
Along with enjoying writing and hosting a blog—this one, where my own world of MMA comes alive and MMA can be whatever I make of it—I gravitated to making my own MMA-themed memes several years ago. There are countless pages on Instagram with skillsets I’d go as far as to say are artists; their photoshop skills or ability to pair an image, text, and topic—either in the news cycle or some other theater of the mind—with uncanny precision demonstrated a wide array of creativity, humor, and unique perspectives. My photoshopping skills are hot garbage, especially since I only use free apps on my phone, but if a collection of crazed, tone deaf music fans can’t get me to quit, neither will a mis-proportion or obvious manipulation. With social media as a vehicle, there are some people along the way willing to share a laugh. There are also those who use social media as a means of rallying a lynch mob to destroy the voice of a particular issue—whether serious as a heart attack or as meaningless as memes.
It all started with a meme. This meme:
If you don’t follow MMA, you likely have no clue what any of this means; you probably see a funeral—hopefully, you also see the fighters in the picture frame. As the saying goes—though I’m not sure of its origin—“if you have to explain the joke, it isn’t funny”; I’ve suffered many instances where this was the case for memes I’ve published, yet I’ve never felt compelled to provide an explanation previous to now.
For this special occasion, I will, against my better judgement, insert some context: On October 18, 2020, Brian Ortega defeated Chan Sung Jung, who is more commonly recognized as “The Korean Zombie,” in the main event; the pictured fighters show Ortega having his hand raised following a nearly flawless performance.
You’re probably wondering: how does all this connect to K-pop?
Well, The Korean Zombie’s manager, Jay Park, is a major K-pop figure—I mean, I don’t know where he ranks or how many K-Poppers there are, but he has a considerable following—and was in attendance at a UFC event earlier in the year, March 7. Brian Ortega, who was also in the stands, slapped the shit out of Park for something he had said during an interview on an MMA podcast. Here is a link to the story if you wish to fill your head with more of the details: https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2020/03/ufc-248-jay-park-reacts-alleged-brian-ortega-slap-attack.
Even though the beef between the three—Ortega, Park, and TKZ—was rebuilt into a perfect love triangle following their five-round affair, I made a meme that flashed back to the history shared between Ortega and Park. Funny? Some thought so; it had around 500-ish likes and was shared a bit before I met an army of unwanted visitors. Was it not funny? Sure, humor is in the funny bone of the beholder, though I received only one message that wasn’t obviously biased toward the K-poppers’ ideology, laced with death threats, or publicly posting my personal information and shared it was a bit distasteful—and, trust me, one in the quantity I was served was like a speck of sand in a swimming pool.
In reality—not entangled in the matrix—I totally understand anyone being moved in a negative direction by the image of a meme with a funeral as the backdrop. Interestingly enough, people could even perceive, and meme, a funeral with no ill will. Some examples—MMA related or not—include:
Before explaining the actual circumstances surrounding the funeral image I used in my meme, I quickly want to touch on my process for transforming the particles of cyberspace into something tangible for your device’s frame. I have tons of templates at my fingertips, such as those shown above, that sometimes need minor tweaks to fit what I’m trying to convey. Other times, I do a swift Google search, targeting keywords I want; once in awhile, I don’t even know exactly what I want. More often than not, I stumble into something that’ll work. After Googling “K-pop” and “sad,” the image of the funeral used in my meme appeared.
All death is tragic, heartbreaking, and the loss of a loved one can shift mindsets—for better, or worse. The passing of the K-pop personality in my meme was Jonghyun, someone who took his own life—selfishly, if you ask me—in 2017 (I know we want to forget 2020, but that’s where we’re at currently). I had no clue about any of this, but I was informed once the less than constructive comments began rolling in; initially it was a slow trickle, but it soon evolved into a massive tsunami—all of which I dammed with master trollery, and I flattened their opinions on the matter like I was Godzilla.
To begin, nothing I did is anything to be carried around as a badge of honor, but on a more macro-level, I can assure you how empowering it can be to not allow the emotions of others to manipulate your moves. I saw the swarm of torches encroaching from cyberspace’s dark pits and extinguished their overly-woke rage. Today’s culture is all about censorship and slathering a bulletproof sealant on everyone’s feelings; the K-pop faction I encountered highlighted how things go when their demands aren’t met.
At first, there were exchanges between me and an entire high school population’s worth of tweens. Without showcasing the petty insults that were volleyed, the numbers on their side became immeasurable, and I simply decided to continue presenting my points, as well as bury some salt in their three-year-old fresh wounds, and I chose to turn it all into a game for me. For those on the opposing side of my arguments, it became a game of life: you don’t always get what you want…
Step one in cancelling others: gather the masses to trumpet your cause and generate noise, in hopes of attracting even more attention!
When they didn’t appreciate my memes—along with some thoughtful expose—there was a push to amplify the commotion.
The Korean Zombie’s manager even Tweeted about it:
If that wasn’t enough, some highly touted K-pop news source wrote an entire article about “The Great Meme Incident of 2020.”
Step two in cancelling others: make as big a scene as possible.
After a couple days of combatting the hornet nest I kicked, I upped the ante. I posted the meme as a shirt for sale in my online store. To my surprise, this dug nails into the marrow of their bones. In all honesty, I wouldn’t feel very good about myself accepting money from someone’s death, and, luckily, I have been the best customer in my own store. For the record, had anyone, for whatever reason, actually purchased a shirt, thereby adding another couple of bucks into my coffers—I’d probably donate it to a kiddo in need of hair dye, or some other important K-cause.
The venom from this bee-bopping community was palpable, even through my screen, and their next move mirrored what you do when you’re entitled, or so you think, to your wish list always being granted: take the actual crux of the story—K-poppers are angry that Instagram doesn’t deem the post offensive enough to remove, and I refused to buy them a candy bar while standing at the checkout, inducing a dramatic tantrum—and turn it on its head.
Many began sending letters dripping with hate into my suggestion box; moreover, they didn’t have anything to do with the meme. Statements of “scandal,” “They’ve been making fun of a person who committed suicide,” or much, much worse—and odd beyond explanation—but nowhere is there a picture of the meme itself; they shared images of the singer who committed suicide or simply a snapshot of what my homepage looks like.
Step 3 in cancelling others: twist the facts into a road that leads directly to your own, selfish desires.
As this wild ride nears its finish line, I’ve pretty much just crawled back beneath my bridge—well hydrated after guzzling so many gallons of tears—and am quite content to continue wiping all of these accounts off the face of my Earth by K-popping them like bubble wrap.
Unfortunately for the group I dubbed, and will forever be known as, the Shiny Shamalamadingdong Army, they could never complete their mission of cancelling the meme at step four.
In the end, the meme still hangs on my Instagram page, waving in all its glory.
Before the door hits me on my way out, I wanted to thank the numerous—not as many as the K-Stinkers but overwhelming nonetheless—people who supported the line I’d drawn in the sand. In addition to the moral support, several shared their pleasure in my outlandish theatrics and ability to not budge from character: