Woke memes for Burmese teens: A Q&A with Baelachaung

 

In a little over a month, a mysterious Instagram account called baelachaung has attracted over 1,000 followers to its seemingly endless stash of incisive memes about the paradoxes of Myanmar urban life. From smug expats to flashy fuckboys to parents who just don’t understand the generation they’ve produced, no one is spared from baelachaung’s wit.

The two Yangon-bred ladies who run the account have protected their identities carefully, always insisting on being identified by their Instagram handle, which is a play on the name of a spicy, salty Burmese shrimp condiment. But these sassy satirists have much more to share with the world than just their names.

Coconuts spoke with them via email to learn more about their ideas and their blossoming fame.

Why did you decide to start a meme page?

We believe that laughter is the best medicine. There are already so many stressors in the lives of Yangonites, so we thought, why not?

How do you want your audience to feel about your jokes?

Just have fun with them! They’re not meant to be taken too seriously at all, we just want to make people’s days a little lighter.

What kinds of responses have you gotten so far?

We’ve gotten amazing responses. Our content seems to resonate with a lot of people. We never expected to receive this much attention at all but we haven’t gotten hate mail (yet), and that’s always nice.

I can imagine a lot of people feeling targeted by your jokes – rich kids, parents, fuckboys, expats. What would you say to someone who got offended?

Our memes are made all in good fun, we promise! We definitely make fun of ourselves through them, people just don’t know it since we are anonymous.

You describe Yangon as a place where it’s hard to find love, hard to date, hard to maintain privacy. How do you navigate with this in your own lives?

We have accepted that there is no privacy here. It’s just a matter of time before our friends, parents, cousins-thrice-removed find out about our secret someones. But we also love the thrill of hiding our love lives. It’s a love-hate relationship.

What’s your first thought when you see a man with a gem-encrusted ring?

ZADDY

You seem to dislike The Vibe. If you could design your own ideal Yangon nightlife spot, what would it be like?

Are you kidding? We LOVE The Vibe! It’s one of our go-to spots on our annual nights out. Our ideal Yangon nightlife spot would be if The Vibe started selling mohinga.

Can you explain the ‘H’ belt joke?

The Hermes belt is a Burmese fashion staple and has become somewhat of a status symbol amongst Yangon men. We find its popularity highly amusing, so we incorporated it into our jokes.

Your jokes are united by a disdain for elitism, sexism, racism, and colonialism, which seems to be a rare attitude in Myanmar, especially among grown-ups. How did you develop this attitude?

We are two young women who grew up in Yangon, and though we would not change that for the world, we also saw and experienced certain prejudicial values first hand – male-chauvinism, classism, racism, etc. We started to pay more attention to them as we grew older and knew that such harmful attitudes did not align with our own personal values.

Do you think the country is getting more woke? Do you think you’re helping?

We definitely believe the country is starting to become a lot more progressive and inclusive, but so little of that is actually portrayed in the media. Don’t get us wrong, there is definitely A LOT more work to be done, but there are also good things happening, especially among young people. We intend to celebrate that by making more #wokememes.

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