About ten years ago, left-leaning comedians were all the rage. Jon Stewart revolutionized political satire with The Daily Show, SNL was thriving and conservatives were seen as dated/out of touch. Most of this had to do with the unpopularity of Bush coupled with conservatives (particularly evangelicals), getting too preachy about social issues. When looking at the overall political landscape of the mid-2000’s from a neutral perspective, the reason why liberals ran comedy is apparent. Bush was incompetent, spoke poorly and had no backbone. He was easy to mock, as were those who wanted to force their views upon others.
Fast forward to today and the political climate has shifted dramatically. Donald Trump was elected president by directly calling out the failures of both the Bush and Obama administrations, this is true. But what really pushed him over the edge? The ridiculousness of the far left. They have become the people who constantly push social agendas, endorse clearly incompetent leaders like Hillary Clinton and are totally unable to view the world outside the lenses of their agenda. The left-wing comedians who used to be the rebels have become the establishment. They are completely out of touch and are only in tune with coastal elites.
The end result has been the rise of counter cultures, particularly meme culture. As dumb as that sounds, such a thing exists and it has had an influence on politics.
The Left Really Can’t Meme
First of all, most memes aren’t political in nature. Any mouth breather in existence can make a meme and the end result is mostly absolute garbage. Trends last for maybe a day, jokes get hammered into the ground and some people still haven’t figured out that nobody uses impact font anymore. But the moral of the story is that memes have come a long way since bad luck Brian.
Good memes, like most things good in comedy, work because they’re somewhat true or relatable. Spongebob memes are popular because the vast majority of anyone under 25 has seen spongebob. They’re also typically subtle. A funny meme won’t be screaming “HERE IS THE JOKE!”; you’ll just be able to pick up on it.
But like the dinosaurs that were the Bush Republicans, today’s left has not adapted to the trend. Anti “PC culture” memes are everywhere and popular left-leaning ones are rare. Of course there are flair ups, but overall “the left can’t meme” is largely true. Even on overwhelmingly liberal dominated sites like Reddit, memes that can be described as “left-wing” hardly over make it to the front page of r/dankmemes. They’re mostly apolitical or “anti PC” in nature.
Nothing quite display’s the left’s failure to embrace this subculture like the Gritty “meme”. As a native of the Philadelphia area, it pains me what Twitter hipsters are doing to a great new mascot. The “meme” tries to portray the Flyers mascot as a radical Marxist revolutionary who fights fascism. It has absolutely no traction outside of leftist echo chambers and boy, do they push it hard.
Good memes grow organically and there is nothing organic about the Gritty meme. Absolutely zero about Gritty has anything to do with fighting fascism (which we all know is anything right of center to the far left) or communism. The memes pushing this get next to no buzz, yet have dozens of articles written about their supposed effectiveness.
Why the Gritty meme has such resilience | Inquirer https://t.co/B1VcZrr9Op
— Philly Inquirer (@PhillyInquirer) November 19, 2018
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) November 19, 2018
"He's a lovable, tangerine beast, but depending on who you ask, he's also the epitome of the Philly fan, the manifestation of our regional spirit, an icon for gender fluidity and the new face of the radical left." Per @cassieowens https://t.co/IyB8fgmpDA
— tommy rowan (@tommyrowan) November 19, 2018
I get that the meaning of memes change and I also understand that sometimes the joke has nothing to do with the source. But is anyone out there really talking about Gritty as “the face of the radical left” or is it just a circle-jerk? Do people actually find this funny or are blue checkmarks just talking to themselves again? Spoiler alert: it’s the latter.
The Gritty memes that have gotten buzz have nothing to do with politics. They poke fun at how ridiculous he looks or have to do with sports.
I Photoshopped the new Flyers mascot "Gritty" into the background of a bunch of stock images…
— Benstonium (@Benstonium) September 27, 2018
The official “Gritty” Twitter account is also funny; winning over every true Philly fan with this classic day one tweet.
Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird. pic.twitter.com/wLmGBa0Oyh
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 24, 2018
Nobody is talking about Gritty as a “left-wing icon” except out of touch talking heads who are relics of the past. If the “joke” is so obscure that it needs to be explained, there isn’t much of a joke. Pampered suburbanites who are 200 grand in debt for a sociology degree might enjoy patting themselves on the back about it, but that’s all that will happen.
The Left Wants To Meme Though
What the attempt at propping up this garbage meme shows, however, is that the left clearly realizes that memes are a legitimate political tool. They’re essentially political cartoons produced on a mass scale if they’re designed that way. That’s why leftist publications have been pushing memes so much lately. Ever notice those *insert something literally nobody is talking about* “got the meme treatment” stories on Twitter? It’s because they want a slice of the pie.
The problem is, most leftists haven’t adapted to memes – at least political ones. They still share Daily Show videos of some smug New York liberal saying “orange man bad” as if it’s still as groundbreaking as it was 15 years ago. They don’t understand why funny memes are funny because they’re not taking an objective look at popular opinion. Their radical Marxist routine might play in Psych 100, but the vast majority of people really don’t care all that much. They want to be entertained, not lectured. If there is a message to be gained, it will be picked up. That isn’t even mentioning the fact that socialism still isn’t a popular ideology despite support for certain government programs.
On the other hand, the modern left legitimately believes what they’re selling and that we peasants just don’t get it. Photo-shopping Gritty next to some Soviet commissars is funny, we just don’t have the brain power required to understand such brilliance. They remind me of the episode of King of the Hill where Bobby goes to clown school.
But fear not liberals. The pendulum will eventually shift back to the left’s favor when the right inevitably goes overboard; but for now, the left is playing catch up when it comes to meme culture and comedy as a whole. These things follow a natural cycle and liberals missed the boat on memes. The occasional funny “thoughts and prayers” meme won’t change that.