5: The NRA and Parks and Rec – The GIF Battle

Screen Shot of NRA Twitter Post using Parks and Rec GIF of Leslie Knope saying "Thank you"

I was scrolling though my FaceBook feed  one day when an article caught my eye. It was a Buzzfeed article titled: “”Parks and Rec” Stars Slammed NRA for Using a Leslie Knope GIF.” I love the show “Parks and Rec”, and wanted to see what this was all about, so I clicked on the link. The article talks about a Twitter post from the NRA thanking their spokeswoman in her performance during a CNN town hall after the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Screen Shot of NRA Twitter Post using Parks and Rec GIF of Leslie Knope saying "Thank you"

In response, writers, creators, and actors from the show were appalled and asked the NRA to take down the post. For some context, the character of Leslie Knope is a part of the Parks and Rec department of the Pawnee, Indiana local government. She loves her job very much and is a sweet and endearing character. In response to these tweets from people who worked on the show, fans of the show showed their support for “Parks and Rec” by replying to the creators and actors with other GIFS from the show. (Below are examples of those tweets).

 

The first GIF was used by the NRA in either one of two ways: it could have been used to be funny/add some humor into a controversial and tense situation. It could have also been used to reach a wider audience – because who doesn’t love “Parks and Rec”? However, the other gifs are being used in support and defense of the show, its creators and actors. The gifs are used to show that those Twitter users feel the same way as the creators and actors of the show – that they don’t appreciate the NRA using gifs from their show to essentially support their agenda (or so their tweets seem to infer this). While these gifs are being used in the way they were intended to (to be put on social media posts to add humor/reaction to the post), these “Parks and Rec” gifs are now being “taken back” by the “Parks and Rec” community/fans to be used by them, not an organization that the creators/actors/fans may disagree with.

According to Dustin Edwards typologies of remix, this is mostly a “redistribution” of this GIF. Edwards describes redistribution as the “…sharing or adding to an already existing text for the purpose of reaching a new audience, offering and updated message, and/or spreading the text further.” (49). Initially, the NRA redistributed the first gif to add a further reaction to their post and to possibly get their post farther out there in the Twitter-verse. However, the gifs used in replies were being redistributed as supporting the show and its creators/actors, not the NRA. This action of “taking back” the “Parks and Rec” gifs is also an act of another typology of remix – reappropriation. Edwards describes this typology as “…making tactical changes to an existing tex…to signal resistance or offer a critique of the original texts or the concept for which it stands.” (47). While the gifs are not actually changed, the concept in which they are used is changed, from being used by the NRA to being “taken back” and used by creators/actors/fans of the show.

This example I have laid out ties back to rhetoricity in terms of the context of who uses the text and for what purpose. In this case, the first gif was meant to have one contextual meaning in the NRA’s tweet (support for one of their spokespeople), and the other gifs have a different contextual meaning (supporting the show and its creators/actors).

Remix is important to digital publishing, but people/organizations need to be aware of what they are using to create these remixes. Was it necessarily the smartest idea for the NRA (which is seen in the media as more conservative) to use a gif from “Parks and Rec” (who’s creators and actors are more liberal than conservative)? Maybe not. This could be why there was the reappropriation of the “Parks and Rec” gifs. Remix causes digital publishers to not only look at the text as it is, but also the context behind it: where the text originates from, the ideologies behind it, etc.

 

Word Count: 690

Works Cited:

Edwards, Dustin W. “Framing Remix Rhetorically: Toward a Typology of Transformative Work.” Computers and Composition 39 (2016): 41-54. 24 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.

Shearing, Hazel. “‘Parks And Rec’ Stars Slammed The NRA For Using A Leslie Knope GIF.” BuzzFeed, BuzzFeed, 22 Feb. 2018, 8:56 am, www.buzzfeed.com/hazelshearing/parks-and-rec-stars-slam-the-nra-for-using-a-leslie-knope?utm_term=.mbVzmjyYBO#.xeNLdKA8wj.