Ebola-chan is an internet meme popularized by 4chan depicting a moe anthropomorphization (gijinka) of the Ebola virus. The first known image of Ebola-chan began on the Japanese social media site, Pixiv, in 2014. A few days after, it was posted 4chan's /pol/ (politically incorrect) thread, who began posting messages praising Ebola-chan. Soon after, 4chan users began spreading the meme to Nairaland, the largest online message board in Nigeria, accompanying images of Ebola-chan with racially charged messages and associated conspiracy theories. This included claims that Ebola was CIA-made and that white people were performing rituals for Ebola to spread. The meme's spread has been considered racially motivated and has been attributed to increased mistrust between West Africans and medical professionals.

A cosplay of Ebola-Chan

BackgroundEdit

In 2014, ebola virus epidemic broke out in West Africa. The first cases of the outbreak were recorded in Guinea in December 2013. Subsequently, the outbreak spread to the neighbouring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone,[1] with addition outbreaks in Nigeria and Mali.[2][3] The epidemic would go on to receive widespread, world-wide media coverage, with increased public awareness and concern over the virus and its transmission.[4]

HistoryEdit

The first known image of the "Ebola-chan" meme was originally published on Pixiv on August 4, 2014.[5][6] On August 7, 2014, Ebola-chan was posted to the /pol/ thread on 4chan. The image was accompanied with a tongue-in-cheek message that would threaten users with death and pain if they did not reply with the phrase "I Love You Ebola-chan.” The image began appearing on Reddit, Facebook, and DeviantArt, with users often making comments such as “GOOD LUCK EBOLA-CHAN!” and “HAIL BLOOD-GODDESS! HAIL EBOLA-CHAN!”, accompanied with racially charged messages.[7][8]

Users on 4chan began uploading the meme to Nairaland, in an effort to "increase tensions between blacks and whites in Africa" by convincing people in West Africa that Ebola was created by the white race, taking advantage of African beliefs in voodoo.[7] These images would include makeshift shrines and allusions to death cults, blood sacrifices, and demon worship. While the initial post was mostly seen as an attempt at 'trolling', many Nigerian users of the site were later convinced that American and European users were performing “magical rituals in order to spread the disease and kill people" and regarded Ebola-chan as a plague goddess.[7][9] Other threads would promote the conspiracy theory that Ebola was CIA-made and being intentionally spread by the United States.[10][11] This would expand into users claiming that Ebola doctors were part of the cult and intentionally spreading the illness.[12][8] In September 2014, 4chan administrators began removing posts of Ebola-chan from the site.[8]

On October 9, 2014, a man walking his dog in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts found an alter containing an image of Ebola-chan. Accompanying this was a carved wooden mask, an unlit candle, Christmas decorations, sheets of paper with incomprehensible writing and symbols, and a bowl of rice mixed with twigs and fake blood. The police investigating the shrine believe it was connected to a recent total lunar eclipse, or a blood moon.[13]

DescriptionEdit

Ebola-chan is an anime anthropomorphization of the Ebola virus. The character has a long pink hair that curls in the characteristic shape of Ebola.[5] Ebola-chan has been described as being caucasian-stylized.[12][6] Ebola-chan was often depicted wearing a nurse outfit and holding a bloodied-skull.[5] Some depictions of the character include small purple demon wings and a happy disposition. Oftentime, the character would be depicted in a sexualized manner, alongside a lesbian partner.[6]

ReceptionEdit

Ebola-chan has been criticized as racially motivated and a concerted effort to increase black-white tensions. During the height of the outbreak, aid workers reported they faced mistrust and misinformation in affected communities, with many West Africans believing that the disease was the work of 'sorcerers'. The International Business Times and Washington Post would describe Ebola-chan as an exacerbating factor.[12][8]

Ebola-chan has been compared to the gijinka ISIS-chan, as they were both used to personify controversial topics.[14] In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 4chan would create Corona-chan, a personification of coronavirus which would also be compared to Ebola-chan.[15][16]

Popular cultureEdit

The game Yandere Simulator contains an "Ebola Mode" easter egg where Ebola-chan is used as a playable character.[17][18]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ WHO Ebola Response Team (23 September 2014). "Ebola virus disease in West Africa – the first 9 months of the epidemic and forward projections". New England Journal of Medicine. 371 (16): 1481–1495. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1411100. PMC 4235004. PMID 25244186. ... we estimate that the case fatality rate is 70.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 69 to 73) among persons with known clinical outcome of infection.
  2. ^ End of Ebola transmission in Guinea (Report). WHO Regional Office for Africa. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Update: Mali confirms new case of Ebola, locks down Bamako clinic". Reuters. 12 November 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  4. ^ Basch, Corey; Basch, Charles; Redlener, Irwin (December 30, 2014). "Coverage of the Ebola Virus Disease Epidemic in Three Widely Circulated United States Newspapers: Implications for Preparedness and Prevention". Health Promot Perspect. 4 (2): 247–251. doi:10.5681/hpp.2014.032. PMC 4300452. PMID 25649411.
  5. ^ a b c yukawanet, Writer (2014-09-04). "エボラの萌え擬人化「エボラちゃん」が海外で大評判!". 秒刊SUNDAY (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  6. ^ a b c "Viral Lesbians – by Tiffany Jones". Bent Street. 2020-07-15. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  7. ^ a b c "4chan Racists Are Stoking Ebola Fear in Nigeria With This Anime Meme". Vocativ. 2014-09-17. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  8. ^ a b c d "4Chan's latest, terrible 'prank': Convincing West Africans that Ebola doctors actually worship the disease". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  9. ^ "Ebola e le teorie del complotto: dagli zombie al demone bianco". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). 2014-10-11. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  10. ^ Kharel, Gopi Chandra (2014-09-19). "Ebola is CIA-Created Demon? Conspiracy Theory Goes Viral as Meme Shows Disease Created by 'White People'". www.ibtimes.co.in. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  11. ^ "Eine Manga-Figur versetzt Nigeria in Angst". 20 Minuten (in German). 2014-09-22. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  12. ^ a b c Iaccino, Ludovica (2014-09-18). "Nigeria: Is Ebola Meme Being Used to Spread Fears Virus 'Was Created by White People'?". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  13. ^ Republican, George Graham | Special to The (2014-10-11). "Man who found 'Blood Moon' shrine on East Longmeadow rail trail says it's reference to Ebola". masslive. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  14. ^ "The Meme that Was Supposed to Take Down ISIS". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  15. ^ "As Coronavirus Spreads, Artists Are Coping With Waifus and Fursona Art". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  16. ^ Pauliks, Kevin (2020). "Memes of the virus: social criticism of the corona pandemic on the internet" (PDF). TelevIZIon.
  17. ^ "July Progress Report | Yandere Simulator Development Blog". 2020-11-11. Archived from the original on 2020-11-11. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  18. ^ "January 15th Update | Yandere Simulator Development Blog". 2020-11-11. Archived from the original on 2020-11-11. Retrieved 2022-09-15.