Forget promposals — in today's edition of the kids are all right, homecoming has collided with Harambe.
Teens across the United States are not only using memes of the gorilla killed this summer at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden to ask each other to the annual welcome-back-to-school semiformal but also rallying votes to make him homecoming king.
Harambe, a 17-year-old Western lowland gorilla, was killed by Ohio zookeepers in May after a toddler fell into the animal's enclosure. The incident sparked a controversy, with some critics arguing the child's mother should have been paying more attention and others arguing that the decision to fatally shoot Harambe was the only way to save the kid's life.
Since then, the ever-inventive internet has turned the gorilla into a meme, a viral cultural joke that often relies on images. Shortly after Harambe's killing, Weird Twitter — which is exactly what it sounds like — began spreading hashtags like #RIPHarambe and photos that showed Harambe next to other late icons like Prince, according to KnowYourMeme. It became common for social users to ironically memorialize Harambe as "an angel," and the zoo's Aug. 22 statement asking people not to keep making memes of the gorilla only made the trend more popular.
Given that 93 percent of people between ages 12 and 17 regularly use the internet, it makes sense that the Harambe meme would take hold of America's youth. Teenagers were out of school all summer when the Harambe fever first hit. So now it's their time to shine.
High schools' September calendars typically include homecoming, a tradition for students involving a spirited football game and dance. For the miniature prom, teenagers often vote for a homecoming king and queen to represent them.
This year, many students' top choice is Harambe. A quick search of Twitter shows dozens of teens urging their friends to support the gorilla for homecoming king. Others are using ghost-Harambe's endorsement to promote their own candidacy.
They're also using memes to creatively invite their peers to the dance — think huge printed photos of Harambe, banana jokes and, yes, even gorilla suits. A Monday reddit post by user wyatttros showed a boy holding a poster reading "Let me be your Harambe... and drag you 2 Hoco." (The girl agreed.)
The trend isn't limited solely to high schools. A 337-member Facebook group of students from St. Ambrose University in Iowa is selling homecoming shirts with a clipart version of Harambe on them. The shirt mockup reads: "They can't kill our buzz. RIP. 1999-2016."
In any case, Harambe fans seem like they won't let administrators curb their passion. In the name of journalism, your intrepid IBTimes correspondent (me) interviewed her little brother, a 16-year-old in Florida who said he thought about 20 percent of his high school had voted Harambe for homecoming king — despite the knowledge that the principal probably wouldn't let it fly.
"We know they won't allow it, but it's a nice thing to do for a gorilla we all loved," he said.