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Cincinnati zoo director: enough of the Harambe memes

Harambe, the gorilla that died, is still a going concern in the internet’s meme-making business, and that’s not goodfor Thane Maynard, the director of Cincinnati Zoo, where Harambe (RIP) lived and loved. Over the weekend, Maynard’s Twitter account was temporarily hacked, his profile picture changed, and messages including “#DicksOutForHarambe” sent under his name. Understandably, he’s not happy.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Maynard said that the Harambe meme is not at all fun for the zoo’s staff. “We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Maynard told the AP. “Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us.”

Others in the Cincinnati feel the same way, with James Leggate, web editor at local news station WCPO, starting a (tongue-in-cheek) petition to stop Harambe petitions. “At first, the petitioners had good intentions,” wrote Leggate in an opinion column .”But then the goofuses of the internet hopped on the Harambe train for their jollies, and it has gotten out of control.”

In fairness, taking the Harambe meme too far isn’t just part of the joke — it is the joke. As Select All‘s Brian Feldman noted, the meme is really a response to the media’s (sometimes) histrionic coverage of the death of Cecil the lion. “Cecil memes happened as a response to Cecil outrage, but Harambe memes happened in anticipation of Harambe outrage,” writes Feldman. “Harambe became a referendum on and a satire of social-media-outrage culture, his name a stand-in for everything wrong with the way social media reacts to news.”

Now, though, we’re at the point where the reaction is making life difficult for staff at Cincinnati Zoo — people who genuinely loved and cared for Harambe. Does that mean it’s time to stop the memes? Well, probably, but not out of sympathy, that’s not the internet’s way; but because the joke is just getting a little old. It’s okay to mourn Harambe, the gorilla that died, but sometimes you have to let go of your grief — and your memes.


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