From Doge to Cheems, how dog memes have conquered Tamil social media

Though the dogs have been around for about a decade, ‘Dogelore’ found new ground for their antics through Tamil memes this year.
Cheems dogelore Karen
Cheems dogelore Karen
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For an average Chennai Super Kings (CSK) fan, the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) season was forgettable. However, for a meme-savvy CSK fan, the team’s below-par performance on the cricket ground was compensated by the viral ‘doge’ memes that took over social media during the IPL season.

Inspired from the famous ‘Dogelore’ (which refers to the meme universe featuring dogs), these meme pages, which had names involving the term ‘cheems’ like ‘Cheemsdaa’ or ‘Cheems Rajah’, were published with a variety of dogs as funny characters that come with elaborate storylines. If it was not the IPL, then the dogs in the meme-world would talk about bunking classes and heading to Marina beach or engaging in a hot discussion around the Schrodinger’s cat-like status of arrear exams in Tamil Nadu.

Dogelore originated from a meme dating back to 2013, featuring Kabosu, a Shiba Inu breed of dog. Kabosu is the main character ‘Doge’ in dogelore. ‘Cheems’ is another dog based on a dog named Balltze. In the original meme, Cheems is characterised by adding a stray ‘m’ or a ‘b’ in words, calling a cheeseburger, ‘cheemsburbger’ for example. Perro is a lab-retriever pup mix in the 'dogelore' universe and is Spanish. In the original world, it is the drug dealer and is associated with the word ‘Quieres,’ which means ‘Do you want?’ in Spanish. ‘Walter’ is a tall dog, characterised by its extraordinarily large nose and occasionally a wide smile. Karen, Lil Bro and cousin Bro are all Doge’s relatives, as per the dogelore.

Walter, Cheems and Doge

Lil Bro, Murphy, Karen and Perro

Both Cheemsdaa and Cheems Rajah began as a creative pursuit solely intended to drive away the lockdown blues spread by the pandemic, according to the admins of both these pages. While Cheemsdaa is run by one man based out of Trichy, Cheems Rajah is operated by seven youngsters across various parts of Tamil Nadu.

While most of the dogs portrayed in these two pages have already existed since around 2010, Karuppi is a new addition into the dogelore. “Karuppi was inspired from the Kollywood movie Pariyerum Perumal and was created by another Tamil ‘doge’ meme page. When I came across these doge memes, I realised that I can visualise any story through these doge memes and gave it a shot. It worked well for me,” says Suresh*, the admin of Cheems.

Ramesh*, one of the admins of Cheems Rajah, also attributes the original characters to a subreddit (which refers to a forum within the social media platform Reddit) called r/dogelore. “I used to follow that subreddit and found the stories to be funny. However, those were not suitable for the social and cultural context of Tamil Nadu. So I wanted to adapt it to appeal to our sensibilities and thus Cheems Rajah was born,” he says.

The IPL came as a breath of fresh air for the audience that had been stuck in lockdown for most of the year. Starved of entertainment, social media users quickly took to the funny characterisations and punchlines used by the dogs in these memes. The admins also took pains to assign a team to each dog to represent, as they donned team jerseys and conveyed jubilation or disappointment based on the teams’ performances. While Doge represented CSK, Cheems was Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Walter was Mumbai Indians while Murphy represented Rajasthan Royals. Karen represented Kings XI Punjab and Perro was Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Karuppi was assigned to Sunrisers Hyderabad and Lil Bro and cousin bro were representatives of Delhi Capitals.

“I had always wanted to mark Cheems as RCB because RCB has been trying to play well for 12 years and that kind of suited Cheems’ personality. If RCB had won this edition, it would have been awesome to portray Cheems as a king. Similarly, CSK was always Doge in my mind because it was easy to play with Doge’s facial expressions. But this season went awry, unfortunately,” Ramesh explains. Though only four or five teams were initially planned for the memes, the idea quickly blew up and more dogs were brought into the storyline, he adds.

One of the major criticisms that both these pages face from social media users is the use of profanities in the memes. Though a stray ‘m’ is thrown into the profanity, social media users have continued to take offence, advising admins to avoid using these expletives.

Responding to this, Ramesh says that it is known that these memes are for a mature audience. “Some small abuses in a meme page are not going to affect them at all. Nobody is going to take inspiration from our page to go and abuse people in person. We do have certain no-gos — like we don’t do child sexual abuse content, we don’t use casteist slurs and things like that. Apart from that, we would like to think that our audience is mature and sensible enough to just take it as humour and nothing more,” he adds. He also says that several users requested him to avoid swear words in the memes because they could not share it with their families.

Suresh, meanwhile, points out that the target audience for such content is distinct and hence most of them enjoy the memes and understand it for what it is. “So the responses have always been encouraging. I still receive a few threats from people, but then I just make a meme on them, laugh and move on,” he says. Adding that he will continue to post doge memes on his page, Suresh says that his future plans will soon include new socio-doge shows in his YouTube channel aimed at creating awareness on current issues.

(*Names changed)

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