After a work’s protagonist has served his primary purpose, he commonly makes a graceful exit, announcing that it is time for him to leave. TV Tropes refers to this as Mary Poppins Syndrome — “to add anywhere from a twinge of sentimentality to a whole extra Tear Jerker scene to the end of your movie: after helping out and saving the day, The Drifter character must leave forever.”
Today, this long-standing trope has exploded into a plethora of image macros and animated GIFs, becoming prevalent enough that it a sort of media property that stands on its own. It has also become the sort of “shared social phenomenon” that Shifman describes in Memes In Digital Culture—so much so that most versions of this GIF can omit the text entirely, while the sentiment still remains.
Many sources, such as Know Your Meme, suggest that the now-immortalized phrase, “I must go. My people need me,” derives its origin as a misquote from a 1997 episode of The Simpsons (“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show“). However, the meme today is so widely adaptable (and relevant in so many situations), that it can be applied to almost anything.
The reason behind this meme’s success lies in Richard Dawkins’ three basic properties of successfully spreading memes—longevity, fecundity, and fidelity—which Shifman outlines. This category of GIFs is certainly timeless: whether it be video from a TV show, a sports game, or home video, there is never a shortage of new content of people jumping dramatically or falling over, meaning the subject matter for these GIFs are both perpetually relevant as well as widespread. This meme has been also widely proliferated among many internet forums. The subreddit /r/MyPeopleNeedMe, which boasts over 20,000 subscribers, is a testament to the meme’s fecundity. Furthermore, the GIFs can be very simple for the amateur to make, as they do not necessarily require a high level of editing or special effects for their significance to be understood. Nonetheless, even the heavily edited GIFs (and the GIFs without text), can be identified as part of this larger collective, and are faithful to the original sentiment.
Shifman talks about “sharing” as one of the most defining features of Web 2.0, as well as “repackaging” as one of the most essential qualities of successful memes. The fact that this meme takes something so simple (the mild humor and uncanny qualities of a subject suddenly flying away), and repackages it as something relatable and sharable, has unquestionably contributed to its wild popularity. The superimposed text is also often reappropriated to achieve a specific reaction or reference (such as the above tumblr example), allowing the focus to be narrowed to a particular community.
I chose to contribute to this phenomenon by manipulating a video of Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt’s character from Parks and Recreation), and making him appear to fly away upon stealing a briefcase. This plays upon the absurdity of the scene itself (Andy leaping over a desk), and also acts as a reference to the original “drifting hero” from which this meme originates. Andy has an alter-ego in the show: FBI Special Agent Burt Macklin. In this scene in particular, it is Burt who is stealing the briefcase, prior to fulfilling his special agent duties and “flying away.”
1. “But Now I Must Go.” TV Tropes. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.
2. Shifman, Limor. “When Memes Go Digital.” Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT, 2014. 17-35. Print.
3. “I Must Go.” Know Your Meme. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.
2. Dirt bike