Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Journalism and Media Studies

First Committee Member

Benjamin Burroughs

Second Committee Member

Gary Larson

Third Committee Member

Stephen Bates

Fourth Committee Member

Tirth Bhatta

Number of Pages



Social Media platforms are a source of transformation within the democratic process. Digital memes, seemingly facile and frivolous, contain a collection of dense and broad meanings that have become creative forms of political and social expression. Many complex messages can be communicated to mass audiences through mediated interpersonal communication platforms on social media through the usage of memes. This phenomenon creates what Limor Shifman refers to as a memeplexe. The focus of this study is to explore the transformative nature of the democratic process within digital and internet culture and the formation of an emergent genre of memes called ‘Karen.’ Karen memes contain serious social and political articulations, rhetoric at the heart of issues involving racism and social justice. In this thesis, the attributes of Karen memes are established and analyzed as two specific, novel Karen subgenres--racial injustice dealing with white privilege and white fragility and COVID-19 resistance and denialism. Ethical tensions involving democracy, gatekeeping, and the targeting of individuals are discussed. These Karen memes display the serious political ramifications memes can have as a form of evolving discourse.


Digital media; Genre; Meme; Social media


Broadcast and Video Studies | Journalism Studies

File Format


File Size

2700 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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