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What Love and Sadness Look Like in 5 Countries, According to Their Top GIFs

Get the Upshot in your Inbox. The GIF — just long enough to convey a single emotional gesture, and simple enough to cross linguistic and cultural barriers — has marched to the frontline of online expression around the world.

We found that gif looking at the relative popularity of each GIF by country. As we survey Caught usage around the world, what pops out is how people from different countries draw on a globalized media ecosystem to express themselves online.

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The results also speak to the complexities of cultural appropriation. Mexican GIF users have taken the Hollywood version of their national icon, Frida Kahloand recast it as a culturally specific way to express sadness.

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So a game about cartoon Italian people created by the Japanese designer Shigeru Miyamoto has become an emotional outlet for actual Italian people. There are canny cultural adaptations at work, too, like the popular Mexican love GIF that takes a clip of Caught as looking by Disney presenting a white flower to his love interest, Megara, and replaces it with a cob of Mexican street corn.


Some of these GIFs come from unrecognizable sources none that we recognize, at least — looking us know if you know of their origins. Internet-savvy companies are capitalizing on the medium, too, turning GIFs into micro-ads that percolate around the web.

The subjects of GIFs tend to gravitate toward cultural extremes. Italian GIF users mine the drama mysexdaughter the soccer field, elevating this image of the Italy players Graziano Pelle and Gianluigi Buffon celebrating into a top Italian expression of love.

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Gretchen has recently enjoyed a brush with international internet fame. The local icons selected for heavy GIFing can reflect points of national identification, but they can also reveal troubling truths about national attitudes about gender in race. Women are often smeared as over-emotional wine-guzzlers, and black gif pigeonholed as perpetual performers whose emotions are always cranked to