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Varg Vikernes (born Kristian Larssøn Vikernes) is a Norwegian black metal musician, whose solo project Burzum began in 1991 and is still active. He was also the bassist of the band Mayhem from 1992 to 1994, before he was convicted of murder and arson. After sixteen of twenty-one of his sentenced years in jail, he was released on parole in March of 2009. Varg is more famous for his crimes than his music, followed by his political activism for the far right. In fact, Varg’s notoriety could very well be responsible for some of the stereotypes of the black metal scene:
- Anti-Christianity – Varg participated in the burnings of four historic Norwegian churches, though contrary to rumor his motivation was rooted in paganism rather than Satanism. He stated that his destruction of churches was an act of revenge against the Christian people, who historically had desecrated the Viking burial grounds. Any joke about church burnings on the internet is likely in reference to him, and actual church burnings have occurred in his name.
- Nazism – Upon his imprisonment, Varg spent his time developing his nationalistic and racialist beliefs through his writings, all of which can be read at his website, Burzum.org. But his interest in Nazism goes even further back in his history, as evidenced by an early photo of him in which a Nazi helmet can be seen on his bookshelf. Many bands who play National Socialist Black Metal note Varg’s music as an influence.
- Violence – Black metal musicians are often stereotyped as violent, with thanks to Varg’s murder of bandmate Euronymous. The murder was committed at Euronymous’ apartment in Oslo, where Varg stabbed him twenty-three times. Varg claims that the motivation was self-defense. At the time of his arrest, his home was stocked with explosives and ammunition.
Wherever a large amount of people are discussing music online, chances are that Varg Vikernes will find mention eventually. But as mentioned before, his crimes and philosophy are discussed far more often than his music, as a trip to his Last.fm page will assure. His popularity increased in 2009, when not only was he paroled, but he also announced his return to black metal with the new album Belus (formerly The White God), as while in prison the only music he produced was of the dark ambient genre.
Varg is the mascot of message board General Mayhem, complete with an emoticon modeled after him. The connection is obvious: The board is called General Mayhem, Varg is the most recognizable member of a band called Mayhem. According to the GenMay FAQ:
Who is Varg? Why does my thread need more of him?
Another random event via Test, Varg was an obscure hard metal gothy rocker who supposedly killed his own mother. Your thread needs more Varg, as does this FAQ. Everyone needs more Varg, you can’t have enough!
An Advice Dog spin-off featuring Varg appeared, labeled “Advice Vark” [sic]. At this time of writing, Advice Vark is Baby Tier, though at one point it had reached Legendary Tier. Most of the jokes are about Vikernes himself, but some are about black metal culture in general.
Varg is the subject of numerous ytmnd pages, some of which contain clips of his music while others don’t. Mondegreens are a common theme, due to the nature of Varg’s shrieked vocals.
Varg is a popular personality on 4chan board /mu/. One meme associated with him is Burzday, which according to Urban Dictionary, is “A day celebrating the birthday of infamous Black Metal musician/frontman Varg Vikernes of the band Burzum. Originally derrived from a .GIF of Vikernes waving his arms from side to side with captions reading ‘EVERYBODY DANCE! IT’S BURZDAY!’” Burzday isn’t limited to Varg’s actual birthday. At any time, a thread can be created announcing that it is Burzday, meaning that the OP wants you to post pictures of Varg.
Varg as Memetic Character
After looking at the various captioned and/or edited photos of Varg, one notices a pattern. Though Varg’s appearance has changed a lot during his musical career, there are four “signature looks” that have gained the most popularity with internet users.
- A young Varg, circa 1992. These photos show him with long hair and a fresh scar on his chin, looking menacing while wearing armor and holding a spiked club.
- Varg in 1993 and 1994, during his trial. Varg is shown with the same long hair, but he’s also grown some facial hair and he wears casual clothing, in most images a dark sweatshirt. His expressions are playful and almost childlike, in stark contrast to the grimness of the crimes for which he was being tried.
- Varg at a court session in 1997. His hair is cropped short and is a golden blond color, while he wears a green buttoned shirt with black pants and suspenders. He smiles, except for one picture where he has a puzzled expression.
- A much older Varg toward the end of his sentencing, with shortish hair and a full beard, aged by his years in jail. One often-used photo depicts him grinning.
Each of these four images not only represent Varg at different stages of his life and career, but they also represent the different roles that internet users have placed him in. We see Varg the Metal Warrior, Varg the Little Scamp, Varg the Wacky Nazi, and finally, Varg the Troll.
Varg the Metal Warrior
If anyone is ever talking about Varg’s music, this is likely the image associated with it. With this role of Varg, one will see references to church burning, the violent nature of black metal, screeched vocals and the resulting Mondegreens, and what is regarded as the glory days of Mayhem and Burzum. This is also the image used for the Varg emoticon on GenMay.
Varg, the Little Scamp!
This role serves a dual function. One is the obvious humor behind seeing a criminal tried for murder behaving as if he were simply a naughty child. The other is that this is when Varg was supposedly at his peak of attractiveness. One only needs to look at the comments from female users on the Last.fm images from this era to confirm this. These pictures share a common trait with that of a lot of other memes – sheer cuteness. There exist several drawings of a chibified Varg from this era. The single most prominent photo, one that is used in a variety of animated .gifs, is taken from a video in which Varg is being sentenced to his twenty-one years in jail. He looks at the camera and smiles.
According to sources such as TV Tropes, this is the look of Varg that inspired the design of Metalocalypse character Toki Wartooth.
Varg the Wacky Nazi
His cropped hair and suspenders automatically grant him the appearance of a Hitler youth, which goes along with Varg’s own Nazi beliefs. This is the look associated with “Nazi Varg,” even though Varg actually took on the appearance of a skinhead when he was younger. These images are when Varg looked the least “metal,” hence why they are used in as many YTMNDs as they are.
Varg the Troll
An imprisoned Varg still laughs. This picture is used in response to those of burning churches, and in about any situation in which Varg could be laughing. It is the image used for ‘Advice Vark,’ where he’s giving out signature trollish advice. While just as mischievous as Varg the Little Scamp, he’s more malicious. After all, this picture is from a time when Varg would say things like:
The “black metallers” will probably continue to “get loaded”, “get high”, and in all other manners too behave like the stereotypical Negro; they will probably continue to get foreign tribal tattoos, dress, walk, talk, look and act like homosexuals, and so forth.
The Future of Varg as Meme
Varg Vikernes is more than a mere musician, he’s a symbol of black metal and its history. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever go away, as due to his controversial nature, anyone who even knows who he is can be trolled by the use of him in a memetic context. New material will only continue to surface as long as he’s alive making music and writing his essays.
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