In the know
A local facebook page lampoons Reno’s residents, businesses and social issues—but sometimes you might miss the joke.
Living in Reno in the past few years has become somewhat … complicated. From the arrival of Tesla and the housing crisis, to local elections and the sudden surplus of pizza joints around town, there is no shortage of issues facing the city—or opinions about them among its residents. Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV is a Facebook page that’s been dedicated to satirizing Reno’s biggest issues and cultural figures since it started last September.
“I wanted to make Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV because it was sort of a way to poke fun at, you know, the little idiosyncrasies and the quirks about living in the city,” said the page’s administrator, who asked that his identity be concealed. “It’s become known as the hip, kind of, food and drink town. But there’s also other problems such as the housing crisis that’s currently happening, or there’s a lot of things that have been going on for years.”
The administrator condenses his casual observations on life in the city, and more than a few political beliefs, into memes that he shares to the more than 5,000 people who currently follow the page.
“A meme is basically a joke or an image or maybe a thought that goes through, kind of, a popular zeitgeist at the time, and becomes something that a lot of people can either laugh at or relate to, and it’s something that people share,” said the administrator.
Pronounced “meem,” the term is a shortening of the ancient Greek word mimeme, meaning “imitated thing.” Some regularly memed topics on Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV include housing issues, local politicians, drug use, the nightlife scene and well-known Reno businesses. They often receive hundreds of online reactions and draw public discourse from locals in the comment section.
Memes are often familiar images like cartoon characters, newscasts or pictures of any particularly expressive situation or person (or animal, for that matter). An image caption then repurposes the scene to tell a different story. As a format, memes are easily digestible on social media platforms’ endless news feeds, and they quickly evoke a positive or negative reaction. Readers who don’t frequent social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram might not quite get the joke, but that’s exactly how memes are designed to work. They’re often dependent on knowing the situational reference of the image—meaning sharing them contributes to a kind of hivemind effect online.
“It’s just something that, people see it and they kind of want to pass it on because they can relate to it, or they can laugh at it,” said the administrator.
All the memes on Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV capitalize on Reno-specific issues, like shopping at Junkee, outrageous cocktail prices in midtown or getting too high on legal edibles. One specific meme references an alleged instance when Ryan Goldhammer, owner of Noble Pie Parlor and Pignic, watched a couple at his restaurant break up and then consoled the heartbroken man with a finger-gun gesture and an unhelpful “Zing!”
“Yeah, I have absolutely no idea [where that joke came from],” Goldhammer said. “I don’t know if he just completely made it up because it’s just so silly and weird and off the wall, or if it was rooted in some sort of accidental truth. I’m not really sure.”
Goldhammer stated, for the record, that he never took the opportunity to “Zing!” one of his freshly-dumped customers before, and the administrator confirms that he made up the joke as part of a critique on the way certain commenters took to the page to complain about Noble Pie.
“I had kind of made a comment with the page pointing out that every time, you know, [I] make a joke about Noble Pie, someone pops up with their Yelp review and like, I don’t care if, you know, Ryan Goldhammer himself popped out, you know, heard your girlfriend broke up with you and said, ’zing,’” said the administrator.
Still, the joke had legs, and people commented on the post asking if it was true. Since then, memes have been made featuring a heartbroken couple and the cartoon silhouette of Ryan Goldhammer “Zing-ing” them in the background. Still, Goldhammer believes it’s all in good fun.
“I think even when they’re making fun of something or if they’re making fun of even a person or a place, I feel like there’s definitely almost a bit of love for that place and they’re poking fun at it,” Goldhammer said. “It’s kind of weird, like it is sort of pointed toward a certain audience and the people that are out in that culture—nightlife. But I don’t think it’s beyond the comprehension of the general public.”
The administrator confirmed that most of his satirical memes come from a place of love for the city and its inhabitants, but loving Reno, he said, also requires him to inform the public of things he feels are against the city’s best interest.
“So basically, it just started with me making jokes about living in Reno, and as it went more viral, it felt like maybe there was more important things that needed to be said as far as what was going on in the city,” he said.
Alongside memes about spending an all-nighter at Shea’s Tavern or booking a DJ at 1up are more than a few that explicitly mock the rightwing notion of Nevada being “Californianized,” or similar claims that immigration is the cause of Reno’s major issues.
In fact, during last year’s election cycle, Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV made Reno mayoral candidate Eddie Lorton one of its primary targets. In order to combat what he perceived to be dishonest statements from the campaign and from shady political group Reno Elections throughout the cycle, the administrator claimed to have conducted his own primary research in a series of memes aimed as discrediting Lorton’s platform.
“There were a lot of, let’s say, scare tactics used in order to get people to vote for a new mayor,” the administrator said. “Saying that there’s a crime problem in the city and … the city’s on fire because of financial reasons or whatever, when that really wasn’t the case. And so, because of other people providing a lot of factual data and information, I was able to stop sort of a misinformation campaign through memes actually.”
The page even went so far as to share the photo and information—a practice known online as “doxing”—of a local tattoo shop employee rumored to have been involved with the neo-Nazi party. This post was met with public debate in the comment section about the role of public pages to pass judgment on members of the community. For his part, though, the administrator makes no apologies for his political bent, and considers using his platform to spread awareness part of the responsibility of having a popular page.
“You love it because you live here, you love it here and you’re poking a little bit of fun at the things that you notice around you, kind of observational humor,” said the administrator. “But part of that is when you have—like, when I noticed that there is kind of a larger audience building, there’s a responsibility as well because you love the city that you want to keep people informed. You want to keep them abreast of some important issues, such as the housing crisis.”
Going forward, Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV’s administrator plans to do more for the lack of affordable housing in Reno than just make jokes.
“The certain [memes] that have a little bit more graphic design element to them … a lot of those get turned into a shirts that are for sale that I have been using to try to help raise money for a lot of causes—mostly the homeless issue,” said the administrator.
Welcome to Beautiful Reno NV’s online webstore features designs like “Reno” spelled in white powder with a straw located next to it, or one bearing the phrase “keyboard commando,” and yes, the Ryan Goldhammer “Zing!” image as well.
The administrator has also set up a second page called Reno Renter Resource to act as a forum for Reno resident’s struggling with housing concerns.
“I started a group for people to join as a resource for people who maybe are experiencing issues where they are having trouble finding a place to rent or experiencing issues where they are renting from, kind of, a predatory landlord or rental agency or they’re having problems with pests or just, you know, just disrepair in general and having to pay a lot of money,” he said. “It’s kind of a resource where people can help each other so to speak.”