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How the Scroll of Truth comic got co-opted into the web’s realest meme
It makes sense that a lot of the best memes come from webcomics, considering that both are media born and made for the internet. Sometimes, whether they mean to or not, webcomics creators hit a nerve with the meme-making “shitlords” on forums like Reddit and 4chan. Pepe the Frog is the most famous example, but he’s far from the only one. Perhaps the funniest new comic-turned-meme is The Scroll of Truth.
The Scroll of Truth meme was derived from a comic artist Tate Parker posted on his Tumblr in February. The scroll’s dark secret is that we believe the truth is worth searching for, but it isn’t always what you’d like it to be—sometimes it’s downright unpleasant and difficult to accept. When you find out that “no one reads your rants on your Facebook page,” is it better to accept reality or to live in denial?
Because the third panel contains the actual text of the scroll, the comic is highly exploitable for meme-makers. All they have to do is blank out the text and replace it with their own idea of the awful, painful truth. They don’t even have to hand-letter it like Parker did—in fact, it’s even funnier if the message appears in a mismatched font.
“Most of my comics are pretty specific,” Parker told the Daily Dot, “But this one was designed in a way that made it easy to give it a new meaning without having to alter much. By basically changing one panel you could have the comic say whatever you wanted it to say and have it still make sense.”
There are a couple of ways the Scroll of Truth meme can be used: you either identify with the scroll, or you identify with “Nyehhh!” People will either post self-deprecating truths that they themselves are in denial about, or they’ll go on the attack and post something they think others have yet to come to grips with.
The Scroll of Truth can also be used to comment on current news or other memes, like the revival of an old McDonald’s dipping sauce thanks to the popular cartoon Rick and Morty. Apparently, the creator of this version thought people were deluding themselves about how good the sauce really was.
me irl pic.twitter.com/XRpHPAUknh— Meme Bot (@SavageMemeBot) April 4, 2017
It can also be combined with other memes. This example from 4chan uses several tropes common to “deep fried” memes: a huge stack of Photoshop filters, glowing eyes, and the “B” emoji. Deep fried memes often replace other letters with “B,” primarily because white meme-makers feel they can get away with using the word “nigga” by changing it to “niBBA.”
And of course, the meme has gone meta, with scroll text that comments on the circumstances of the comic itself …
or puts the comic inside the comic, creating a fractal meme.
The meme has taken on a life of its own, outside of Parker’s original creation. Some people are even using it to claim “there are only two genders” or “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
The Scroll of Truth hasn’t gone through anything as extreme as the alt-right’s annexation of webcomic character Pepe the Frog, but it’s still an interesting example of the way the internet uses content in ways its creator may never have intended.
Parker told the Daily Dot he’s okay with it so far, though, and has accepted that The Scroll of Truth belongs to the internet now.
“At first I had seen it featured on ifunny with a new watermark on it. That got me upset because my comics get posted often without attribution. But then I started seeing it pop up more and more and I saw that people were doing some really funny things with it, and I realized it had turned into a meme and that people could do whatever they want with it,” he said.
“There’s always going to be people who are going to use stolen content for their own purposes. Who am I to say what someone else can or can not say? I’m just happy I made something that makes it easy for people to make others laugh.”
Parker says that although he designed the Scroll to be remixed, he didn’t expect it to get as big as it did. He’s seen a few of the memes, though, and his favorite uncomfortable truth is this: Cartoon Network shouldn’t show so many Teen Titans Go! reruns.
Jay Hathaway is a former senior writer who specialized in internet memes and weird online culture. He previously served as the Daily Dot’s news editor, was a staff writer at Gawker, and edited the classic websites Urlesque and Download Squad. His work has also appeared on nymag.com, suicidegirls.com, and the Morning News.