They See Me Rollin’, They Hatin’
Discourses on Disability, Race and Masculinity in the Wheelchair Drake Meme
Keywords:Disability Studies; Digital Memes; Discourse Analysis; Masculinity
Aubrey Graham, more commonly known as hip-hop performer Drake, presents himself as a man of contradiction—a lover and a fighter, sensitive but hard, successful but humble. Despite this subjective work, designed to present a complex embodiment of an artistic and financial success, the discourse of Graham online is often underpinned by suspicion and derision that seeks to redefine him as a pretender who is unworthy of the status he claims. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “Wheelchair Drake” memetic cluster, which uses an old Degrassi: The Next Generation promotional image of Graham sitting on a wheelchair, combined with humorous juxtaposition of rap lyrics, to critique Graham’s status as both a performer and a Black man. In various Wheelchair Drake memes, physical impairment becomes a living metaphor for a spoiled identity; the memes argue that, just like ableist imaginations of physically disabled people, Graham is doomed to a life of impotence and dependency. Built upon a sample of 583 user-generated images, coded into 9 thematic groups, this article excavates the latticed discourses of masculinity, disability and race that animate the Wheelchair Drake meme and consider the ways that this memetic cluster subjects Aubrey Graham to the strictures of ableist hegemonic masculinity.
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