‘Captain, it’s Wednesday’: How a meme translated contemporary exhaustion

RIO — If you’re a regular on the networks, you’ve probably already come across or will come across some variation of this meme today. And, if you live in Brazil, the chance of identifying with him is great. The most common version, which has been circulating with force on the internet, shows two iconic characters from the cartoonist Hergé, Tintin and Captain Haddock, chatting at a counter. An exhausted Haddock vents: “What a difficult week, huh!” Tintin, at his side, corrects: “Captain, today is Wednesday.”

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The meme’s trajectory is sinuous, as it always happens in this field. Its origins date back to a 2000’s comic series, “30 Rock”, in which Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin engage in the same dialogue. Years later, some smart soul came up with the idea of ​​putting it in the mouths of Hergé’s characters, giving a new meaning to a random drawing by the Belgian artist (the latter, who died in 1983, did not have the final say in the appropriation). With the loss of temporal sense of the pandemic, the excessive workload, health concerns and the frenetic pace of the news, the joke gained traction. It’s easy to understand why. After all, it translates a feeling that is in force today: exhaustion.

One of those responsible for popularizing the meme is the profile @whataweekhuh, which is dedicated exclusively to posting the image in question every Wednesday for its 212,000 followers. In recent weeks, shares have gone from 4,000 to more than 30,000.

“Wednesday became the official day of exhaustion,” says the account responsible, who identifies himself as Pepelu, a Spaniard from Albacete. — Seeing everything that has happened in the world since I created the profile in late 2019, you can imagine why people think the week is taking so long to end.

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Coincidence or not, Wednesday has been occupying a special place in the international news of 2021. The Capitol invasion, Donald Trump’s second impeachment vote and Joe Biden’s inauguration took place, respectively, on the first three Wednesdays of the year. . But for researcher Aslan Cabral, creator of the humor page on Instagram as Igreja Universsauria, there is yet another factor making the “Wednesday meme” spin.

— I think that those who share do it almost as if publishing about this tiredness could give them strength to keep going, — he says. — I love the concept of “I can’t take it anymore” and go on with it.

Scene from the series "30 rock", which originated the meme Photo: Reproduction
Scene from the series “30 Rock”, which originated the meme Photo: Reproduction

The meme was a way for marketing analyst Helô Coltro, 36, to overcome her exhaustion. Earlier in the year, overwork gave him a Burnout Syndrome (physical and mental exhaustion). The identification with the dialogue of Tintin and Haddock was such that she started posting it every Wednesday. The image has even become one of his most used WhatsApp stickers.

— With the pressure in the home office and the amount of things I need to do at work, the notion of time seems to have changed a bit — says Helo. — A thousand things to solve and it’s still fourth, you know?

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His goal in life now is to “turn” into another Wednesday meme: a scene from the feature film “Much pleasure” (1979), by David Neves, in which the character of Otávio Augusto, a good life from Rio de Janeiro, interrupts his obligations in his architecture office and announces: “It’s four o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday, the week is practically over!”. The video is also shared every Wednesday on a Twitter profile. (@End Week), punctually at 4 pm, as a kind of reminder that in the world of trickery, the week can, indeed, end in half. And without causing us guilt — at least in the national cinema version.

The dream of shorter weeks, by the way, may not be that far away. The subject has been discussed at a global level for some time. In July, the Japanese government acted as Captain Haddock and recommended companies to reduce their weekly hours by one day. The rulers predicted economic and social advantages, and even an increase in the birth rate.

UFF researcher and coordinator of the university’s Museum of Memes, Viktor Chagas believes that the popularity of the Wednesday meme is a symptom of the “level of hopelessness and cynicism to which we are all subjected” in recent times.

“To say that there is still a lot to come implies, in a way, to suggest that we have not yet gone through the worst and therefore we should calm down,” he observes. — It is an anesthetized and typically cynical reaction of someone who is not surprised by anything else, as it generalizes the absurd…

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For Brazilians, Wednesday has its own symbolism: the end of Carnival. That’s when we burn the Momo doll to mark the end of the fun and the beginning of the Earth’s rest, represented by the ashes. As carnival artist Milton Cunha reminds us, it is also a time of rebirth.

“We die every Wednesday, exhausted,” says Cunha. — We look for the harvest and quickly comes the collection period, which is difficult, with so much bad happening. So, yes, we live in an eternal restart of cycles that last a week, and that’s not much. It’s better not to abbreviate. Or we’ve become a finite maze, everyone questioning the end times.

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The carnivalesque completes saying that “all we want is an Ash Wednesday that will never come”. For those who are tired of waiting for it, American leadership consultant Greg McKeown, who launches the book “Without Effort” (Sextante) in Brazil, offers tips for dealing with burnout. Specialist in “essentialism”, a concept that proposes prioritizing the right tasks to save time, he indicates daily exercises such as making lists, creating habits and, above all, relaxing.

“The easiest way to replenish our energy is to take short breaks continuously,” says McKeown. — We can be like performance athletes, who take advantage of their bodies’ natural rhythms by dedicating mornings to essential work. Burnout is not a badge of honor, and the best way to navigate this period of Great Anxiety is to take care of yourself first.