It seems like the internet becomes more inhospitable each day. Regulations have chased porn off the internet, social media is a cesspool of bad opinions and corporations are using their branded accounts to create elaborate deaths for their weird anthropomorphic Peanut mascots. Oh, and the looming threat of facial recognition technology hangs over the fun of every new face filter. The internet has become a suckier place. But there’s one tiny corner of the web that is still good. SparkNotes.
The website and handy series of book-explainers and study guides is a familiar resource for students everywhere. A lifesaver in the moments when an assignment was simply too boring to bother. (For me, this was the second Ayn Rand book I was told to read in high school. After reading Anthem, I was good on Atlas Shrugged.) It was a place to get a basic gist of books you didn't read. Enough, hopefully, to pass a pop quiz.
Somehow, they’ve retained that the level of utility. SparkNotes is as alive and kicking as ever, and transitioned from printed materials to a website seamlessly. But not only do they continue to offer their study aids online and in print, they also trade in some of the most deeply satisfying memes on Twitter and Instagram. While other companies are using their official accounts to push ads trying to convince us that we need them, SparkNotes is busy bridging the gap between Shakespeare and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
It’s nerdy humor and certainly isn’t always top tier comedy, but it is simple and good-spirited. There’s so little left online that doesn't ask anything from you. It’s basically just SparkNotes and those pages that only post astrology memes or puppy pics.
Below, an example of a perfect tweet:
It combines The Simpsons, a classic piece of art in its own right, and acute literary analysis. In eight words and two pictures, a majority of the dramatic moments in Victorian literature have been summarized. It might not help you with an English quiz, but it will make you laugh. At the very least, it made me laugh.
There doesn’t appear to be any sinister motive behind making these literary memes. At a certain point, the service does charge $0.99 a month or $4.99 a year for their app, but if you want to have a better understanding of Shakespeare, it is all there for free. It is a useful tool that ensures a much lower barrier of entry for people who want to appreciate and learn from some of the most famous texts. It also makes the subject more fun, and the memes are the cherry on top. Imagine being in a high school English classroom today? With a Mr. Morgan type at the teaching, of a class, there’d regularly be memes up on the smartboard.
While the rest of the internet gets worse, SparkNotes is making it a little better, and a little more clever. I’m thankful for that.