NS, 'uncles' and chicken rice: A peek into Singapore millennial meme humour
Ever scratched your head over a meme (and wondered how to pronounce it) on your social media feed? CNA Lifestyle takes a look at popular local meme pages.
First of all, meme is pronounced “meem”, not “me-me”. Memes have become a rallying point for millennial humour around the world, having evolved from stock reaction photos coupled with bold text. They are fickle flickers of pop culture, dying out as quickly as they go viral. It is not unusual for an image or meme format to last no more than a week.
You've seen them on your social media feed over the years. There's been the stick figure Bill, whom you are supposed to be more like; a spate of Grumpy Cat/LOLcats/Cheezburgerz representations of your current mood; life lessons from Lady Gaga and the 99 people in the room who don't believe in her; an evil Kermit the Frog representing the worst of your nature; and even a particularly dramatic hamster.
The humour is sometimes dark, almost always a little weird – the effects of millennials having grown up with mean world syndrome, perhaps. Absurdity is prized among meme connoisseurs, with the most head-scratching content viewed to be the most “dank”, or most valued.
But how do Singaporean millennials take their memes? With a generous helping of National Service (NS) jokes, a side of "uncle fashion", and a lot of chicken rice, apparently.
Hit meme group Memedef (a play on the Ministry of Defence acronym "Mindef") launched last February while founders Raphael Yee, 21, and Jonathan Lee, 22, were still in Basic Military Training. In slightly over a year, the page has grown to reach more than 28,000 followers on Facebook and slightly more followers on Instagram.
Yee started by creating Telegram stickers about his BMT company and things "just took off from there". He recounted: "I rang Jonathan up one day and was like, 'Hey dude, you wanna start a page?’ And here we are".
The page was launched before Chinese New Year with the name, MDES Scheme For Pes F Green Boi Memes – and a deliberate focus on non-combat personnel who are graded C or E in the Physical Employment Standards (PES). "We felt that they were very under-represented in NS conversations," said Yee.
“We were quite a hit at the start, growing by a thousand likes a week for a good two months. Things really spiralled out of control during Chinese New Year. Jon and I were making up to 10 memes a day and people were just sharing them like crazy. I’m guessing it’s because during visitation, people don’t really do much," said Yee.
Memedef has also explored Telegram to build a community for NSFs. To date, some 1,400 members in the Telegram supergroup discuss memes, current affairs and NS-related matters, with 10 volunteer moderators to “make sure people don’t break the rules”.
In February, Memedef ventured into publishing satire features in the form of The Tekong Times. “We’ve always wanted to do satire but never got that ball rolling. So, when [one of our content creators Benjamin Goh] created a concept on Weebly, I was all in on it and we rolled out a proper website,” said Yee.
While the founders of Memedef will complete their NS obligations in less than a year, Yee hopes that the page will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of our men in green. “People come to us for our memes and humour, but they also come to us for support and even to find lost 11B cards. It’s funny because someone pointed out that we have the ability to rally enough men to form a division.”
Few things are funnier than the stark differences between generations. The @uncleswithstyle page on Instagram highlights the sometimes outrageous fashion that men of a certain vintage in Singapore are wont to wear.
“Uncleswithstyle is an account that collates photographs of old people in interesting outfits seen mostly in Singapore. It aims to document the seemingly mundane theme of elderly fashion,” said founder Cheah Sziyang.
"Elderly" is, of course, subjective – at just 20 years old, the fresh graduate of Singapore Polytechnic’s Visual Communication And Media Design programme is a few decades younger than the subjects on his page.
“I found it to be an interesting theme as the outfits of the elderly capture certain styles of the past, like bell bottom pants, pleated trousers, Hawaiian shirts, as well as their hobbies and their interests, like colourful graphic tees of fitness and martial art clubs.”
Launched in June 2017, the account started as a mood board and a source of inspiration for Cheah.
“I was drawn to outfits worn by some old people. It sounds funny, I guess, but there is a certain charm to the comfortable outfits of yesteryear they tend to wear,” he said. “I soon realised that documenting the clothing styles of the elderly in Singapore could be an interesting self-initiated project to embark on.”
Today, some 1,500 followers contribute pictures of wacky outfits seen in public to Cheah’s Instagram account.
TUCKING INTO KUEY PNG
Sometimes, appreciating life’s simpler pleasures is enough. That is the message of A Different Picture Of Chicken Rice Every Day on Facebook, or @kueypng (Hokkien for chicken rice) on Instagram.
Categorised as "Art" on Facebook, the page does as it describes, uploading a different image of the quintessential Singaporean hawker favourite each day at noon.
To the more than 11,000 followers on Instagram, @kueypng is an old faithful, serving up an image of either roast or steamed chicken rice daily.
The only caveat? No location tags. The page may have visited well over 400 chicken rice stalls across the island, but they have yet to reveal the name of the single vendor.
When questioned, the admin has been known to reply with a cheeky response: “All chicken rice is good chicken rice bro/sis.”
Who says memes are silly?