wants moar: visual media's use of text in LOLcats and silent film

Posted in 2008 Journal


Visual media has a history of using text to both frame and augment an audience’s understanding of visual content. This paper compares the recent LOLcat Internet phenomenon with intertitles from silent film to explore the ways in which filmmakers and LOLcat creators have each used text to expand the narrative possibilities of digital imagery and film. LOLcats and intertitles both use text to establish content diagesis, and both utilize expository and dialogic text to establish specific points of view. These uses of text-based Barthesian anchors tell viewers exactly how the visual content should be read. These mediums differ, however, in their relationship with technology. Intertitles provided filmmakers a temporary narrative solution that was largely abandoned upon the advent of sound. LOLcat creators, on the other hand, made purposeful use of text despite richer alternatives. As such, LOLcats may seek to invent new textual practices, but the use of text is integrated into their definition.
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