RIP Kim Jong-il: Memes for the Departed Dear Leader
Last night the Western world found out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had passed away at the age of 69, on a train, closing a strange chapter in history while also beginning a new one mired in confusion and worry over how his son will take the reins of North Korea. Kim Jong-un's young age -- just 27 -- led most to believe he will usher in a new, youthful, less stringent era in the strict Communist country. Still others are sure that he will instead become a puppet for a worse regime behind the scenes.
Kim Jong-il's lasting legacy will be leading a country into poverty while building a war machine, banking on his cult of personality and helping create myths about himself. According to North Korean lore, he wrote six operas in the span of two years, coached the national World Cup soccer team with his mind and an invisible cellphone, invented the hamburger and once shot 38 under par on a golf course, a feat not even the greatest golfers in the sports pantheon can do. If all this is true, the world lost a true raconteur and utter bad-ass on Saturday morning.
This video of North Koreans weeping in a square over the loss of their leader quickly began making the rounds on Monday morning. It's hard to tell whether the crowd, made up of Koreans young and old, are designated mourners whose job it is to mourn for cameras, or if they are actually in true hysterics.
To someone in this part of the world, such sadness over a deceased dictator seems contrived, given our own elected officials' fallibility and shadiness, so outbursts like these from sheltered and lorded-over North Koreans look incredibly silly.
The man was once injured falling off a horse and decided that everyone on his staff should be as high as he was, ordering them to all be injected with the same amount of painkillers he was prescribed. So he's either the coolest boss in the world or an unbelievable tyrant. The secret prisons, murders, forced abortions, slavery and public executions outweigh the fun.
About a year ago, Kim became a meme, with a Tumblr site devoted to pictures of the dictator looking at things in factories and on tours of his country. He looks at once childlike and clueless, gandering at corn, buckets and slabs of meat. His death will undoubtedly put a damper on this Tumblr in the future.
Of course, 2004's Trey Parker and Matt Stone-directed puppet-driven terrorism farce Team America: World Police got a shot in the arm from all over the Internet in the wake of Dear Leader's death, every time someone switched their L's for R's in tweets and posts for a few hours. Kim Jong-il -- well, his puppet -- was the main character in the film. I always wondered what the North Korean regime thought of his portrayal as a bloodthirsty, wanderlust-soaked dreamer in the film.