Written and directed by Jakob Ganslmeier & Ana Zibelnik
Animation by Oddkin
Sound by Daniel Hermann-Collini
Redpilled is a story about the spread of alt-right ideology and its close correlation with the global rise of meme culture. Told from the perspective of Wojak (lit. soldier)— a hugely popular meme character known for its versatile ability to lend itself to a number of human stereotypes – the work delves into the dangerous humour and fascination with violence perpetuated by memes. Throughout the work, references are made to recent terror attacks, such as the Christchurch shooting, drawing a direct connection between the seemingly harmless online environment of nihilism and its violent ‘real-life’ consequences.
If meme humour seems innocent at a first glance, it is because it is designed to. Kickstarting mildly racist, misogynist and antisemitic jokes prepares the ground for ideas seen as extreme to slowly enter mainstream political discourse. Through their massive appeal to younger generations, memes are increasingly being used as a gateway drug — an effective tool for spreading elements of alt-right ideology.
The term meme (from the Greek mimema, ‘imitated’) was first introduced in 1976 by the British biologist Richard Dawkins, who thought of memes as the cultural parallel to biological genes, in control of their own reproduction. Their comic element is established around a fixed set of characters such as Wojak, Pepe the Frog, Doge, Overly Attached Girlfriend, or Trollface. Like memes themselves, these characters undergo continuous evolution. Wojak, a character drawn using Microsoft Paint, was initially launched as a relatable ‘I know that feel, bro’ guy with a warm facial expression, and it evolved over time to include the categories of doomer, zoomer and boomer. Although these all parody their respective generations of Millennials, Gen-Z and Baby boomers, the narratives are generally told from the perspective of doomers with a dismissive attitude towards boomers, as epitomized in the expression ‘ok boomer’. A doomer, typically male, is the archetype of nihilism and despair. He is a victim of different hardships with a fatalist attitude towards global issues such as climate change and overpopulation. His common fantasy is to rise above the ‘normies’ after being enlightened or ‘redpilled’. This expression, which originated on the anonymous 4chan imageboard website, is a reference to the 1999 movie The Matrix. Shortly after its first appearance, it was adopted by far-right political subcultures, gradually coming to mean that a person has been disillusioned about reality, often radicalised in some way.