The ultimate reaction image (The Verge, 2017)
You?ve probably seen this legendary reaction image floating around the internet for the past few years. Steve Buscemi?s unforgettable face, the ?Music Band? shirt – so many aspects of this meme are perfect and play directly into current meme culture despite originating in 2012.
I love this meme because it reflects exactly how I feel when I come across something online that I don?t understand. I?m only 21, but sometimes I feel like an internet dinosaur. Tik Tok? What?s that? Instagram spam accounts? And why does my 12 year old cousin tag every single one of his friends in his selfies?
Although this stand-alone image seems like it appeared out of the surrealist comedy aether one day and has just never left, it was actually part of a larger gag in 30 Rock. And strangely enough, the joke is related to some linguistic theory.
In this clip, Steve Buscemi?s character says that he used to be part of a special police task force of ?young looking cops? that infiltrated high schools. (This is already hilarious, just look at the face of this man.) Cut to a flashback example of this ?infiltration? and Buscemi entering a high school corridor dressed in ?teen attire?, carrying a skateboard and repping his favourite group ?Music Band?. You expect from his stereotypical street style that he?s going to try and sound like a ?cool teen?, but no. He just continues in his regular voice, asking ?How do you do, fellow kids??.
The humour in this scene comes from Linguistic Expectance Theory. Linguistic Expectance Theory is the reason that when people try and imitate accents and they?re not that great, we find it funny or cringey. It?s simply the theory that we have an expectation of how someone is going to sound based on what they look like, how they dress, context etc, and when they don?t fit this mould, it?s funny. As Buscemi continued to sound like an adult man with no understanding of youth culture, despite trying so hard to fit in visually, we can?t help but laugh.
Now, being the kind of person I am, I can?t help but think about the motivations of this character. I believe that because of how hard he tried with his appearance and ?swagger?, he probably thought he was absolutely nailing the speech aspect too. This is related to Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT).
CAT is an extremely large theory or group of theories that explains how people react in certain communicative settings ? how we accommodate the other speakers, or how we try to exclude them. There are so many aspects to CAT but this scenario brings a particular aspect to mind for me.
Dragojevic, Gasiorek and Giles (2016) explain that sometimes a speaker?s motivations to accommodate and their actual actions don?t match up. The speaker?s intentions are classed as psychological accommodation and their actual linguistic behaviour is linguistic accommodation (Thakerar, Giles & Cheshire, 1982). I think that Buscemi?s character in this skit is psychologically accommodating to the ?fellow kids? but not actually linguistically accommodating.
So, to conclude, most humour can be broken down and attributed to linguistic expectance and other theories. Sorry for ruining all comedy for you forever, but if I have to deal with it then so do you.
30 Rock Official. (2018, January 10). 30 Rock ? How Do You Do Fellow Kids? [Video file]. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiOMbqPHFwo
Dragojevic, M., Gasiorek, J., & Giles, H. (2016). Accommodative Strategies as Core of the Theory (H. Giles, Ed.). In Communication Accommodation Theory : Negotiating Personal Relationships and Social Identities across Contexts(pp. 36?59). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/manchester/detail.action?docID=4620938.
List of 30 Rock episodes. (2018, August 26). Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_30_Rock_episodes#Season_6_(2012)
Morgan, D., & Siegal, J. (Writers), & Riggi, J. (Director). (2012, February 16). The Tuxedo Begins [Television series episode]. In 30 Rock. NBC.
Thakerar, J. N., Giles, H., & Cheshire, J. (1982). Psychological and linguistic parameters of speech accommodation theory (C. Fraser & K. R. Scherer, Eds.). In Advances in the social psychology of language(pp. 205?255). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tiffany, K. (2017, July 13). ?How do you do, fellow kids? has become the ?how do you do, fellow kids? of memes. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/13/15966094/30-rock-buscemi-how-do-you-do-fellow-kids-meme-kill-it-please