There is an oft-cited dramatic principle most children learn in school called Chekhov’s gun. Its exact meaning and significance has been mangled as time has gone on by bloggers like myself, but the general idea is this: If you’re gonna show a gun in a story, at some point, someone’s gonna shoot the gun. There’s no point in showing a weapon primed for use if the narrative arc you are creating is not going to use said weapon.
Most narratives adhere to this rule. Show a gun in the first act, the gun goes off in the second or third. Internet culture has developed a corollary to this rule: If something is popular, eventually it will get a gun meme.
The term “gun meme” might refer to two broad categories of digital ephemera. The first is the more obvious one — memes about firearms and gun rights usually posted by people with “#2A” in their bio who think they are Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski or John Goodman in The Big Lebowski.
Then there’s the other type of gun meme: pop stars with stock photos of weaponry photoshopped into their hands. These gun memes serve multiple purposes, with the weapons often Photoshopped into the hands of pop stars and celebrities one might generally describe as “nice” or at least “not aggressive.” Ariana Grande, Marie Kondo, pretty much any remotely famous K-pop star (as chronicled on kpopwithguns.tumblr.com).
The discrepancy between gun holder and, well, gun, is obvious. But the memes also function as metaphors for the cults of personality the objects of online stan culture enjoy. The joke is that Ariana Grande doesn’t really need a gun to force anyone to support her. To paraphrase our president, the stanned could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and they wouldn’t lose stans.
A popular variant of the celebrity gun meme came to fruition last summer when cult-favorite singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen was handed an inflatable sword onstage, following months of fans insisting that she be given a sword. The idea spawned from a viral Tumblr post.
The stan aspect of gun memes also dovetails nicely with “delet this” [sic]. The format is self-explanatory: someone posts something bad online, and somebody “dares” them to delete their post with a picture of a gun-wielding character.
The gun meme reached a new stage last week with the announcement of a new pair of Pokémon games — Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield — along with the reveal of the three starter creatures that players will get to choose from. There’s Scorbunny, the rabbit-like fire Pokémon; Sobble, a water Pokémon; and Grookey, the monkey-like grass Pokémon.
Almost immediately, fans drew connections between the logo color for each game and the starter Pokémon. Sword’s blue logo corresponds with the water-type Sobble, and Shield’s red logo corresponds with the fire-type Scorbunny.
Where, then, does that leave Grookey? The grass-type primate, lacking a corresponding title, was assigned to the only possible option for a hypothetical third game, Pokémon Gun. (The “gun versus sword” argument is a longstanding point of contention, up there with “pirates versus ninjas” and “a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses.”)
This has, as expected, led to a slew of fan art and memes based on the idea of Pokémon Gun, a title whose mere intimation would be sacrilege to Nintendo.
(This last one is based off of an internet-famous set of panels from Hellboy.)
The idea has become so prevalent that one local newspaper even ended up including a fan-made logo for Pokémon Gun in its local newspaper.
As of right now, Pokémon Gun does not exist. But it’s possible that in a few years, Nintendo will release both games together in a new combo package, just as it has done in iterations past (Pokémons Ruby and Sapphire, for instance, become Pokémon Emerald). All of this is to say that nothing is impossible. If the internet can give Carly Rae Jepsen a sword, there’s a non-zero chance it can give Grookey a gun too.