Ahegao Face Meme Analysis
You’ve seen these faces before. Eyes rolling, tongue lolling out, in a fit. But what do they mean?
The ahegao face is a staple in anime memes and fantasies alike. The widespread popularity of such a strange facial expression shows it has a serious unconscious significance. In my previous analysis of ahegao, I focused on the surrealism of the imagery and how it correlated with a lack of embodiment. This was incomplete. I didn’t explore the symbolism behind Ahegao. So let's dig in and figure out the symbolic significance of the ahegao face.
Hmm, lets think.. so the Troll face is like a Satyr mask: smiling and full of mischief, and rage faces in general are like stock masks, which each express a simple but strong emotion. Which mask in the ancient gallery looks like the modern Ahegao face?
To give a Jungian analysis to something as far out as Ahegao, we have to sort of turn off the part of our mind that says “this is really weird” or “this is meaningless degeneracy” or even for you weirdos out there “this is hot”.
We have to see a drawing. A drawing that depicts a woman, with a lolling tongue, entranced eyes, and an emotional expression. When we reduce it to these we can see a very close match. The Gorgon, a female monster from Ancient Greece. She has a fierce expression, and a wide open mouth with a lolling tongue. In Mythology these monsters were grave threats to many heroes, the most famous of the Gorgons being Medusa, with a terrible hair made up of snakes, and the ability to turn men to stone simply by gazing at them.
How does this symbolic correspondence tell us anything about the psychological importance of Ahegao? Well, to get into that, we have to open up a book. One of my favorites in fact! Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. This book has been a profoundly influential one, especially on the ideas I talk about in these videos. If you want to dig deeper into the symbolism I draw from the internet, give her a read! She’s a ton of fun.
Anyway, back to Gorgon and Ahegao faces, Paglia writes:
"The Great Mother is the master image from which split off surrogate subforms of female horrors, like Gorgon and Fury. The vagina dentata literalizes the sexual anxiety of these myths.
The toothed vagina is no sexist hallucination: every penis is made less in every vagina, just as mankind, male and female, is devoured by mother nature...
The Greek Gorgon was a kind of vagina dentata. In Archaic art, she is a grinning head with beard, tusks, and outthrust tongue. .."
So we see that the Gorgon is a very sexual symbol, like Ahegao, and shares in her expressions. Curious. She continues:
"Men, never women, are turned to stone by gazing at Medusa. Freud interprets this as the “terror of castration” felt by boys at their first glimpse of female genitals. Richard Tristman feels the staring mechanism involved in male consumption of pornography is a compulsive scrutiny or searching for the missing female penis. That female genitals do resemble a wound is evident in those slang terms “slash” and “gash.” Huysmans calls the genital flower a “hideous flesh-wound.” Flower, mouth, wound: the Gorgon is a reverse image of the Mystic Rose of Mary. Woman’s genital wound is a furrow in female earth. Snaky Medusa is the thorny undergrowth of nature’s relentless fertility.”
Now this gets a bit strange for most of you, if you watched my video on the psychology of fetishism, you know Freud thought fetishes occurred due to the traumatic experience of young boys finding their mothers don’t have a penis, that this frightened them, they realized theirs could be taken away too. This fear became symbolized in Medusa. Keep in mind, the penis, or phallus, is more than just flesh, the phallus represents mens ability to have power over the world. So when Medusa’s horrific ahegao face reminds him he’s vulnerable, he is turned to stone, he stagnates, too terrified to move.
This is the function that internet pornography, especially something like hentai which is so distant from material reality that it’s absurd. They cause the viewer to turn to stone, he no longer has the energy to go out, to live. He is thoroughly entranced, and unconsciously consumed by this Gorgon. When one gives all of their energy to these pornographic visions of surreal female figures, they are in fact feeding something. Paglia shows us what.
"Joyce has only one subject—Ireland. His writing is both a protest against an intolerable spiritual dependency and ironically an immortalization of the power that bound him. Ireland is a Gorgon, in Joyce’s words “the Mother Sow who eats her children.” Knight compares the mazelike meander design on Greek houses to “tangled thread” charms on British doorsteps: “Tangled drawings are meant to entangle intruders, as the tangled reality of a labyrinthine construction at the approach to a fort actually helps very much to entangle attackers.” Language as labyrinth”
Here we come full circle, to one of the concepts I have talked about quite a lot, as many of you have caught on to. But you can see through her writing, my concept of the Devouring Mother is not something I pulled out of nowhere, and that the symbolic links between something as silly as the Ahegao face, and as archaic as the Gorgon’s head can be very clearly demonstrated. To Paglia the Gorgon is a Subform of the Great Mother, the Devouring Mother. She viewed these as Cthonic earth spirits. The internet is a secondary chthonic, a deep dark, second nature, the Other World.
*An additional amusing but important element is the Devils fear of Vaginas, a very notable trait for the Satan, that Old Serpent, to be terrified of vaginas! Freud views this as a secondary symbol following the castration anxiety induced by Medusa. As for how it relates to the meme? The internet is rife with a memetic misogyny, as compensation for the astounding fear that real women evoke in these satyrly children of the Web. Little devils themselves, they are puffed up and frightening until they catch a glimpse of nature herself.*
The Gorgon and Ahegao are not the only places where we can find this archetypal expression, it is very apparent in the holy iconography of Kali Ma. Her fanged mouth open, with tongue outstretched. Devdutt Pattanaik writes: "Kali’s tongue here is a weapon, to be feared, a reminder that nature ultimately consumes all life."
This symbol of the devouring mother as a horrific divinity with a lolling tongue is cross-cultural, the Western Gorgon, the Eastern Kali Ma, and the Neo-Japanese Ahegao. It’s no surprise when looked at symbolically!
What I have observed is simply that mankind has repressed mother nature through industrial expansion. And we’ve even begun to repress reality itself by introducing alternatives like the internet and video games. I say, the return of the repressed is a Law of nature, and that if one looks at the writing on the walls of the labyrinthine internet, it shows these ancient archetypes remain in power, their aesthetics have simply evolved for our new world.
When we learn to look at memes not with a modern lens, with a symbolic one, we find extremely fascinating connections across all time. Give a try to looking symbolically at the internet. This is what it means when we say, Memes Matter.