coping thru memes

uniting the internet with one cold elderly man.

last week was notable partly for the inauguration of Biden, but also for the extremely innocent image of one Bernard Montgomery Sanders sitting in his winter coat[1]yes he just has the one coat! that shouldn’t be weird and cozy handmade mittens going hella viral.

i didn’t think it was such a big deal, and in the grand scheme of things, of course it isn’t. it’s a meme! but when i found myself making ‘shops of the senator several days later, i realized it had gone a little deeper.

gentlemen, I am once again asking you not to fight in here. this is the war room.

after the various traumas of the past year, this photo of Bernie reflected a mood that is extremely relatable. that’s a large part of what makes Bernie so meme-able in the first place. his “cranky grandpa who doesn’t take anyone’s shit” persona resonates with a lot of people. we’re all frustrated with our government’s abysmal pandemic response, a shattered economy, and the notion that we must save capitalism even though it’s fucking killing us. among other things!

bernie has just the one winter coat. this is practical! most of America probably owns close to one coat. his mittens are Peak Vermont [2]locally made, with recycled materials by a teacher it’s inspired creations (like this adorable crochet) that are donating proceeds to charity. Jen Ellis, creator of the Bernie Mittens, even has a few pairs up for auction.

the vibes given off of having better things to do than attend a useless ceremony hits hard at this moment. the relatable socialist comes through yet again.

another aspect to this seemingly random meme becoming stratospheric is very basic: we’re all stuck inside and miserable, and we found a way to make each other laugh.

it is just very funny that an image of Bernie, shut out of another opportunity for national office, is what goes viral after a true shitshow of an election. despite all the democrats consolidating around Biden, we end up with Bernie upstaging him at his own inauguration. also: it’s fun! making memes is a good creative exercise, with the bonus adrenaline rush of notifications if yours strikes a chord and goes viral. it is more challenging than it appears. the subtle art of making a good meme requires capturing the original photo’s energy in a new and unexpected place.

meme making is an art, and like all good art, we should take the time to appreciate the craft.

i spent more time than i care to admit scrolling google images from particular search terms. nothing seemed right! then i’d tab over to twitter and see ideas i’d never think of in a million years. effort is a key factor in what goes viral: if it looks like you’re trying, you’ve failed. bernie isn’t even doing anything, that’s the beauty. he’s sitting there, being himself.

i don’t always participate in memes. but when i do, it’s because they’re: low barrier to entry [3]my ‘shopping skills are pretty hack and slash and amusing to me personally. as an older millennial, there are plenty of memes that i just don’t fucking get, or take too much effort to participate in. certainly, i am not the avatar for everyone on the internet, but i believe part of it’s skyrocketing virality is due to these factors.

I would insert graph here on Meme Levels, where Bernie has flown past Science Twitter, Parent Participation and Corporate Monetization lines, but I’d spend more time doing that and then get distracted and start yet another project and end up never finishing this blog. Plus, Jack on the Discourse Blog summed it up pretty succinctly.

I will not spend time declaring the meme “dead” or “over”, because once a meme is unleashed, it has a life of it’s own. it is not for any one human to arbitrarily decides when the ride ends. the levels to a meme can be cyclical, after all. who knows, maybe after a period of dormancy we see Bernie pop up at the next inauguration[4]assuming we still have a semblance of a democracy, lol and the meme could rise anew and begin a cycle all over again.

we are now at the point on the ride where corporations have seen the popularity and jumped on board. bernie himself produced a now sold-out sweatshirt to ride this wholesome journey as far as it’ll go. it’s the most cynical and un-fun stage of a meme’s life. but we all got here together, mostly. what a journey.

we’re just trying to carve out a little bit of fun in this hellscape, folks. our country’s pandemic response is basically starting from scratch a year in, things are horrible in many ways and there’s exhausting work [5]from continued police violence and white supremacy to homelessness, and protecting workers’ rights to be done. let us put Bernie into bento meals and blockbuster movies.

here are some of my favorites:


1 yes he just has the one coat! that shouldn’t be weird
2 locally made, with recycled materials by a teacher
3 my ‘shopping skills are pretty hack and slash
4 assuming we still have a semblance of a democracy, lol
5 from continued police violence and white supremacy to homelessness, and protecting workers’ rights