“Can I get you a nice meme during this difficult time?” Anonymous locals serve Sitkan satire with new page of memes

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The hottest club in Sitka is Sitka Memes. He’s got it all – political satire, Danny Devito, a lost (then found) cat named Blueberry, and a group of skeletons riding a roller coaster. (In the photo above, a meme from the popular Instagram account displayed on a cell phone).

The world might have ‘Banksy’, but Sitka now has her own anonymous artist, who uses the internet – rather than buildings – as a backdrop for a satirical take on local news and events. KCAW recently discovered who manages the “Sitka Memes” account on Instagram – but the identity of the “memester” remains a mystery.

Stroll the streets of Los Angeles, London or Paris, and you might be lucky enough to stumble upon a Banksy original. The provocative street artist satirizes society, pop culture and politics with distinctive graffiti, stencils and 3D installations. He is perhaps one of the best known and most prolific street performers, and he has remained anonymous for years, adding to his appeal.

Sitka doesn’t have a lot of streets, but she might have her “Banksy” now, in the virtual space anyway. On Instagram, where a special combination of art, satire and imagery takes shape. It’s not just art, it’s the language of the Internet.

I’m talking about memes, and if you don’t know what a “meme” is, here’s Michael Mausbach, Sitka resident web culture critic, to explain.

“I feel like a meme is usually an image taken from somewhere in popular culture or art that usually has some sort of caption or series of text to go with it, and places it somewhere. so in a different context, ”says Mausbach. “Really a kind of satire. “

Mausbach is always up to date with what’s going on in the Sitka online scene. A few months ago, they noticed a relatively new account, Sitka Memes, appearing on Instagram. The humor has been expertly adapted to the small town of Sitka, touching everything from local politics to lost and found pets to the agony of buying avocados in Southeast Alaska. . One meme, in particular, really resonated with Mausbach.

“I was scrolling through Instagram and almost broke the ‘Like’ button because on October 10 they posted a meme,” Mausbach said. “I can only describe him as a Goose bumps blanket. Two roller coaster carriages cross next to each other, and you have two groups of healthy people. In a cart, returning to the start of the journey, you have a pile of corpses. In the other cart about to embark on the ride, you have a group of young, cool-faced young people.

Let me interrupt you here to say that it’s really hard to describe a meme and not get the humor out of it, but bear with me. The creepy skeletons are tagged “young people living in Sitka on Tinder”. They are desperate for the passengers of the other roller coaster, who represent the Americorps volunteers, Alaskan Fellows and other young people who move to Sitka in the fall and log into the popular dating app that does not work quite the same in a small town. like in big cities.

“And I think as a millennial living in Sitka who had to navigate the dating scene on a small island in the North Pacific, it resonated so much,” Mausbach said. “I think this ability to satire and talk about social dynamics like dating in a small rural Alaskan town, I really see a lot of value in it, and it’s definitely my favorite so far. “

Yet the reach of Sitka Memes is so wide that Mausbach wonders if the memester is not a single artist, but a collaboration..

“You know, I theorized who it might be on, there have been several people in my immediate orbit, I’m like, ‘It must be them,'” says Mausbach. “He’s someone who approaches him from a place of conservation, who I think clearly has a good sense of humor and reading. And I’m wondering if it’s a set of people or an individual, and at this point it’s yet to be determined.

“Sitka Memes is sort of a creation of a group of friends. We are a group and we are all friends, ”says Alex Tratuf. She manages the Sitka Memes account.

“I’m really just the thumb that decides what happens when,” she says. She accepted this interview as long as she could use a pseudonym. I also modified his voice to protect his anonymity.

“We all love Sitka. And you know, good joke about the crazy headlines, the things that make the news, the things that happen in town, ”she says. “And it started with us just texting our group chat memes back and forth. And finally, I was like, ‘Someone else might like that too. You know, let’s create an account. Let’s do it. ‘”

In March 2021, she posted the first “Sitka Meme”. This is a photo of the infamous Tiger King Joe Exotic saying he will never recover financially from the construction of the Blue Lake Dam in Sitka. Pop culture meets local politics. And what makes memes even more special is that you won’t get this joke if you’re not a Sitkan.

“In college, I actually took a folklore class and we had a textbook full of memes, which I found funny at first,” says Alex Tratuf. “And then we kind of explored why memes resonate so much with people, is because it’s a format you recognize, but it’s a situation that’s right for you.”

“It’s just, you know, that you feel like you are part of something, and like you really understand the joke,” she continues.

Some of the memes have gotten pretty niche – if you’re not paying attention to the local newspaper or Sitka’s virtual town hall, the “Sitka Chatters” Facebook group, the content can be harder to interpret.

Take the “Spaghetti Joyride” meme for example.

“I was actually out of town camping out of service and someone in Reach texted me and said, ‘You won’t believe what happened this weekend while you were away “Alex said.” And when I got back I got to see some screenshots, and it was just hilarious. “

A Sitkan’s car was taken for a ride over the weekend – since many Sitkans leave their keys in their cars, this is not uncommon. But the carjacker left a surprise – a container of red spaghetti sauce smeared all over the interior of the car. Sitka Memes “memorized” the incident that generated many online conversations, but it still deserved some explanation.

“What is it, you can only get a misdemeanor for a ride instead of a real car theft, unless a ferry is in town, because you can’t prove that are they really trying to drive away? Alex said. “So there are a few layers, I guess, to that one… the current events and knowing that being on an island and only having 14 miles of road, a joy ride is basically the worst penalty. that you can get for something like that. “

Sitka isn’t the only community in Alaska to have created their own memes page last year. Alex Tratuf says she drew inspiration for Sitka Memes from even smaller, more specialized memes pages in Yakutat and Cordova – but that’s all she’ll divulge on her journey. Sitka Memes works because it’s a mystery. Everywhere you go in Sitka, there might be a memester among you.

“I think it’s pretty fun for the community. It could be anyone, you know, whatever you do – your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers, ”she says. “I will say I have colleagues who follow my account, which is crazy.”

“Here is a group of people who agree that Sitka is funny and original,” she says of the people who follow the story and the spirits behind it. “And we have a really unique crowd, and things happening here that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.”



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