Internet Funny: How the Tragic Death of Harambe Became Something Much More

Internet Funny: How the Tragic Death of Harambe Became Something Much More

Jourdan Zelaya, Features Editor

Laughter is the best medicine. Today, this colloquialism extends to the Internet, where the idea that comedy is the best way to send a message is ever-present.

The internet takes serious events and turns them into funny ideas, or memes. This humorous change is evident for almost any topic online, and one particular topic that has brought with it a number of funny memes is the tragic story of Harambe.

When this name is heard – or read – it brings to mind many different words: heroic, “brave,” if you want to take it there, and even tragic to name just a few.

While many words and thoughts come to mind when people hear the name Harambe, one’s reaction to the topic at this point all comes down to whether or not you’ve continued to follow or immerse yourself in the social media that still talks about it.

Even a little over three months later, Harambe and the events that occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo are still central to many discussions online as people debate the incident and share thoughts regarding Harambe’s unfortunate demise.

Harambe was a 17-year-old Western Lowland gorilla that was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo on May 28th because a three-year-old boy had fallen into his enclosure. Fearing for the little boy’s life, a zoo worker, who reported that he had no other choice, fatally shot the gorilla with a rifle.

When word got out, outrage ensued on social media, especially Twitter. Many users stated that the zoo did not handle the situation properly and that they could’ve easily used a tranquilizer gun to disorient the gorilla, thus saving the boy while at the same time not causing excessive harm to Harambe. Many users also said that the use of force was not necessary at all, as Harambe was not harming the child but, rather, was trying to protect him.

According to the Cincinnati Zoo’s website, Zoo Director Thane Maynard stated, “This is a very emotional time at the Cincinnati Zoo. It is a big loss to the Cincinnati Zoo. Harambe was one of our most magnificent animals; he is a critically endangered species. We’re one of the key players in gorilla captive breeding & conservation. Everybody at the Zoo feels the loss.” However, as time has passed and outrage has lessened, a new emotion has gathered alongside the outrage and sorrow for the loss of an animal of an endangered species.

This once-serious topic has become a viral sensation, a sensation that is almost exclusively humorous. Users on Twitter – specifically millennial users – have taken this moment and turned it into something that the internet is famous for doing; making jokes about it. Users have cracked many jokes about the situation, including but not limited to, creating petitions to erect a White House statue in memory of the gorilla, turning him into a Pokémon, as well as putting his face on the $50 dollar bill, replacing Ulysses S. Grant. The attempts at humor are endless.

Twitter has an average of 90 tweets per 30 seconds that revolve around a Harambe joke. Yes, the event occurred in late May, but the meme is still stronger than ever. It is still (although ironically) the topic of discussion for many people.

Personally, I feel like they should have used a tranquilizer dart/gun to disorient Harambe, but that would mean running the potential risk that the tranquilizer dart/gun would not have worked quickly enough, only angering him further instead of putting him to sleep. And if he were to get angry, zoo officials would have run the risk that he would attempt to harm or even kill the little boy who was in the enclosure with him. Had this happened and they used a tranquilizer gun rather than a lethal weapon, then surely the internet would not have cracked as many jokes as they did following the event. The truth is, this very transition – from serious to humorous – is just what the internet is famous for doing.

A look at almost any serious event – some, like terrorist attacks, the death of children and rape are, of course, off-limits – the internet turns potentially serious events into something that can be looked back upon and viewed not only as it was, but as it came to be seen: as a humorous event.

What we can learn from this is that no matter what, the internet will always find a way to turn unusual situations such as this one into something people can look at that and think, “Ha, that happened!”
The internet often crosses a fine line when it comes to things that can be joked around with. Racial matters, gender issues and religion are topics that aren’t touched very often – though some individuals tend to buck this trend – but when it comes to a little boy and a gorilla, let the blurred Mr. Krabs memes and the Arthur fists take control.