The Pleasure and Play of Pepper Spray Cop Photoshop Memes

Susan A. Sci
Alexa M. Dare, University of Portland

Journal of the Northwest Communication Association, 2014, Volume 42, Issue 1, 7-34.

© 2014 Northwest Communication Association

Linked version is the final published version.


This article theorizes the use of Photoshop memes as a pleasurable form of postmodern play by analyzing the replication, selfishness, circulation, and evolution of Pepper Spray Cop memes. Rather than examine Photoshop memes individually to assess the ideological meaning of singular images, we adopt a geographic materialist approach (Johnson, 2007) to map the movement and use of Pepper Spray Cop memes by focusing on the surface of this discourse. In our analysis, we identify three prominent memetic styles that evolve throughout the life span of the Pepper Spray Cop meme:political disputation, iconographic juxtaposition, and cultural absurdity. We conclude that a material impact of the collective use of Pepper Spray Cop Photoshop memes is evident in the patterns of association each memetic style establishes via the intertextual location of Lt. John Pike and the positioning of his behavior in relation to viewers.