Adam Downer knows about memes. He literally works for the website Know Your Meme, an encyclopedic record of internet culture.
At the core, all memes, including the Harambe ones, are about “social capital and a way to spend time online,” Downer said.
The Harambe meme first looked like photoshopped images of the gorilla with celebrities who died around that time. And there seemed to be a lot of those high-profile passings then.
“2016 was a year for coping with death, and people coped with Harambe’s death by putting him into a fictional pantheon with other fallen heroes like David Bowie and Prince,” Hathaway said. “He got to ride their superstar coattails into heaven.”