Media Communications Research News

Dr. Wiggins and a doctoral student from Florida State University, Jerrica Rowlett, presented in the LGBTQ division at the 68th annual conference of the International Communication Association during May 24-28 in Prague, Czech Republic.

The overarching title to their poster session was "Together: On the Construction of  LGBTQ+ Identity Online Using Memes", and Dr. Wiggins' section focused on the so-called "Babadook" meme that surfaced in 2015 onward online as well as offline. The section he presented is from a larger chapter on audience and identity in a book Dr. Wiggins is writing contracted with Routledge. The book is called "The Discursive Power of Memes in Digital Culture: Ideology, Semiotics, and Intertextuality". Here is a brief segment from that chapter:  

The "Babadook" meme originated from a 2014 Australian horror movie by the same name. In the film, a monster, known as the "Babadook", is summoned through incantations and the monster emerges from the closet to cause fear, anxiety, and paranoia. This sentiment is representative of coming out to one’s family and friends; metaphorically, the push to put the Babadook back in the closet addresses the anxieties associated with “being out” as an LGBTQ+ individual.


Introduce the internet.

In 2015 in the wake of the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, Facebook added the "pride" reaction option, and around the same time the "Babadook" meme slowly started appearing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even offline at pride parades.

Similar to Butler’s (1993) view of gender as performative and Giddens’ (1991) perspective that identity is a continuous process of reflexivity and that to speak of identity is a process of demarcation, deploying the Babadook internet meme represents a form of synecdoche.

It is a visual phrase used to represent a larger whole, namely the anxieties and pain that may accompany coming out to one’s family and friends is similar to the desire in the film to renounce and expel the Babadook. The adoption of the Babadook as a kind of temporary representative of LGBTQ+ also underscores the notion that identity is always temporary and unstable – it needs to be recursively reified in order for members of the community to know with what they should identity, regardless of the community.

Dr. Anthony Löwstedt's Contribution
In the Communication, Law and Policy division of the International Communication Association's annual conference, the largest gathering of communication researchers worldwide, Dr. Anthony Löwstedt of Webster Vienna presented a paper titled "How could global media regulation safeguard and promote human rights and cultural diversity?" at the opening session. Also presenting on this panel was the world-renowned Monroe Price of the Annenberg School for Communication.