The internet folds in on itself. We know this. Social atomization and context collapse make it almost impossible to determine intent — or even, sometimes, meaning. Online humor has grown weirder and more indecipherable. What was once Impact-font macros and reaction GIFs has given way to “dank memes,” “deep-fried” images, Nazi Pepes, 😂, 👌, 🅱️, an undercurrent of righteous fury, and a lot (a lot) of nihilism. The apotheosis of this progression currently exists in the form of “Gang weed” (always capital G, lowercase w) a sort of omnibus meme that encapsulates at least a dozen different signals and ideas into some sort of ironic protest against … well, whatever you want.
It’s a crash course in what’s happened online over the past five years or so. Once you’ve cracked the code of “Gang weed,” everything else on the internet starts to make sense. So here’s a primer on what to look for in a “Gang weed” meme.
The most important part of any “Gang weed” meme is the presence of the Joker, Batman’s archnemesis. The Joker’s guiding ethos is one of anarchy, chaos, and nihilism. Life is ultimately meaningless, and anyone trying to fix our society will ultimately fail.
If a “Gang weed” image doesn’t feature an actual image of the Joker, it will feature a character edited to appear as if they have the Joker’s trademark pale skin, green hair, and red smile — the point being that anyone can go Joker when pushed far enough.
If you imagine yourself as a twisted outsider, willing to lay bare the ugly truths about our society, you might identify closely with the Joker. Which brings me to …
“We live in a society”
A constant refrain of “Gang weed” memes, “We live in a society” is a preface that has turned into a self-contained statement. For some, this might be a reference to Seinfeld character George Costanza’s frequent gripes, but I’ll let Redditor ButchyBanana explain:
basically, its an ironic meme which is an edit of an actual meme. the meme is a photo of joker from the batman series, and in impact font above him you can see “we live in a society where …” and then a long rant/observation and basically its a meme which is supposed to be unironically “woke.”
some guy edited the picture and left just the “we live in a society” part, giving an ironic take on the “woke” message, and the original meme in general. and since thats pretty funny, people started doing edits of it, so we are starting to see more society memes.
“We live in a society” mimics the sort of fake-deep stuff that gets attention from baby boomers on Facebook and sapiosexuals on Reddit — “We live in a society where the Kardashians are millionaires and academics can’t afford health care,” or whatever bumper-sticker sentiment you agree with. A slight variation on this is the phrase “This says a lot about our society,” appended to the end of these examples of unfairness and injustice.
Slonk “Gang weed”
This one’s easy. Smoking (or “slonking”) weed is the coolest, most countercultural thing you can do with your friends. The phrase also calls to mind real weedheads like Young King Dave, the social-media star who shot to fame telling his Instagram followers that he’s “got loud.” The Joker can frequently be seen smoking a fat blunt in these memes, underlining the Joker’s status as the last true outsider critic of the society in which we live. Badass.
The gentleman gamer is the polar opposite of the gross, slobbish gamer stereotype perpetuated by popular media. The gentleman gamer wears dapper suits, maybe a fedora or trilby. Most importantly, they treat women — potential romantic partners — with respect. Only an outsider like the Joker would be able to see that we live in a society where gamers are hated and feared, despite being gentlemen. Which leads me to …
Chad and Veronica
Chad and Veronica are a pair of names derived from “incel” message boards: Chad is the jock type that “Veronicas” always go for, despite the fact that Chad treats women like crap. In some “Gang weed” memes, the Joker — a keen and penetrating critic of romantic mores — often plays the role of “friendzoned nice guy,” and Veronica is played by Harley Quinn, the Joker’s canonical romantic partner in comic books.
“Gamers Rise Up”
Deployed with almost as much frequency as “We live in a society,” the mantra “Gamers Rise Up” often appears in “Gang weed” imagery. The phrase calls to mind the guiding principles of online movements like Gamergate and the Incel Rebellion — that gamers and men who can’t get laid are oppressed by society at large, and when pushed far enough, they will push back. The primary “Gang weed” subreddit is r/GamersRiseUp.
Family Guy and Rick and Morty
Characters like Peter Griffin and Quagmire make appearances in earlier “Gang weed” memes. Rick of the cult cartoon show Rick and Morty is infinitely intelligent, to the point where he realizes that the world sucks and we’re all doomed. Both shows feature the kind of “edgy,” politically incorrect, extremely sophisticated humor that only the intelligent, Joker-identifying gentleman gamers would truly understand.
Similarly, the guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta, the official uniform of Anonymous, also appears regularly in “Gang weed” imagery. The amorphous online collective engages in an ever-shifting mix of hacktivism, trolling, harassment, and shitposting, clouding the true motives of any one member.
Intentionally left in or poorly hidden in some memes, “Bottom Text” is the placeholder text present in some web-based meme editors. The idea is that somebody making a meme was not skilled enough to format their meme correctly and left the placeholder text in.
In some “Gang weed” memes, you’ll see a tiny macro of the Joker stating that the meme was made by “Gang weed.” This is a riff on the watermarks often applied to meme-centric Facebook pages, often politically focused.
Tall, crowded memes
An important stylistic thing to note about some of these memes is that they’re very crowded and muddled to the point of inscrutability. Some of them feature Joker going off on Chads and Veronicas in tiny Impact font. Others feature a slonking Joker literally responding to another meme as an appended image. These memes are tall in the way that older memes formatted for desktop were — vertical and more verbose than counterparts optimized for mobile devices and social feeds.
And here’s where it gets complicated. A decent amount of “Gang weed” humor features exaggerated misspellings or mispronunciations of Donald Trump’s name. Calling him “Drumpf” instead was a resistance tactic (and, supposedly, a joke) popularized by TV host John Oliver that has since been parodied because of the tactic’s utter uselessness. Trump supporters are referred to as “Drumpfters” within the “Gang weed” community, and they’re usually not welcome.
Add all of these aspects together — Joker nihilism, oppressed gamers, edgelord weed use, intentionally shoddy meme iteration — and you get a pretty good sense of what “Gang weed” is about. On Reddit, you can find r/GamersRiseUp, which seems mostly committed to apolitical shitposting. On Facebook, however, you can find the “Gang weed” page as well as the antithetical page “Christian Dads against gang Weed,” which features parody conservative memes like this one advising users to go to pages like MeAtSpin.com (editor’s note: DO NOT DO THAT). The pair of pages should give you a good idea of where “Gang weed” memes fall on the political spectrum.
So it’s an ironic parody of what feels like at least a dozen aspects of the memescape. In a message posted earlier this week in the private Facebook group attached to the “Gang weed” page, an admin wrote, “Gang weeders no breaking character … we are all libertarian anarchist … consider this to be yuor only warning …”
Additionally, the description of the “Gang weed” group states: “Gang weeders … be respectful to one another … no racscism sexism homophobia transphobia lgbtphobia islamophobia antisemitism capitalism or religion in this group.”
But as often happens with ironic memes that reach a certain level of exposure, they get picked up by people who might genuinely believe what they have to say (or at the very least, people who genuinely enjoy the edgy humor that these memes ridicule). Last week, PewDiePie posted a video of himself reading and reciting memes from the r/GamersRiseUp subreddit, exposing the meme to millions of new participants.
Recent posts within the “Gang weed” genre point to a coming struggle over the future of “Gang weed,” between its original deployment as a parody of aggrieved “stoner nihilist gentlemen gamers” and people who see an ironic meme as a way to disguise their true feeling on the matter. A recent post on the “Gang weed” Facebook page casts r/GamersRiseUp memes as lazy and ideologically vacant.
In the end, it really depends on how you choose to interpret the “Gang weed” ecosystem. At the very least, with the help of this guide, you should be able to.