The Power of GIFs

In today’s media, GIFs have become the more common form of expression in social sites such as Tumblr and Twitter. But what makes GIFs such a popular form of communication? In earlier cases, GIFs (Graphic Interchange Format) were used to replay specific scenes from movies, shows, or games for the sake of enjoyment. However, they have now been used in ways to convey personal emotion through the web.


“I’ll show him. I’m gonna finish him like a cheesecake.”

The GIF of Fat Amy’s response from the movie Pitch Perfect is a good example of this. The small relaying clip shows her frustration and anger to fight back. This works in many ways for people who have seen the movie or haven’t. It’s a widespread feeling in which any group of people can relate to.

As Baym states, “Our expressions of emotions and immediacy show others that we are real, available, and that we like them, as does their willingness to entertain them. Our playful conventions and in-jokes may create insider symbols that help groups to cohere. These phenomena are only enhanced by the additional cues found in shared video, photography, sound and other multimedia means of online interaction that have developed over time.” (Baym, pg. 62) GIFs provide that short, simple expression without the abundance of words. They’re visually stimulating and get the point across of what the person may be feeling in which may relate to the key audience, in other words, they become a form of “digital cues” in representation of a person’s way of thinking.


“Aca-scuse me?”


“Aca-believe it!”

The Pitch Perfect movie, produced in 2012, had instantly become “internet famous” as the next classic film since Mean Girls shortly after it’s release.The overall success of the movie has since then caused mass amounts of several gifs and memes to spread regarding the classic quotes shared within the film itself (most of which came from the witty improvisations of actress Rebel Wilson). Dawkins’s analysis of The Selfish Gene explain that memes comprise of three key elements; “…copy fidelity (accuracy), fecundity (the number of copies made in a time unit), and longevity (the time-span).” (Shifman, pg.17) Pitch Perfect’s depictions of the characters within the film and it’s widespread popularity highlighted each of the key aspects to be addressed as a meme.


“Whew, I could be the ham in that man-sandwich.”

Original GIF of Pitch Perfect 2’s “Fat Amy”


Baym, Nancy K. “Communication in Digital Spaces.” Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. PDF.

Shifman, Limor. “When Memes Go Digital.” Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT, 2014. 17-35. Print.

By jac473

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