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Let's Overthink The Joyous 'Dark Brandon' Meme

By Alberto Cox Délano | Politics | September 1, 2022 |

By Alberto Cox Délano | Politics | September 1, 2022 |


I’m in dire need of a pick-me-up because this Sunday Chile will vote to ratify or reject the New Constitution that I have talked about — perhaps the most advanced in terms of environmental protections, gender parity, and basic rights (though perfectible in some issues) — and if the polling trends are correct, it seems it’ll be rejected. So in the meantime, please let me draw some joy from the unlikeliest of places: Joe Biden and the Democrats getting their mojo back.

As Mark Twain famously said, explaining how a joke works is like dissecting a frog; you kill the danged animal. I should know, as someone who keeps trying to get a certain boomer in his life to laugh at certain memes. However, having studied Sociology and getting by through the Lingüistics component of my BA, I am ruined and I can’t enjoy a simple great joke without going full-structuralist-deconstructionist on the poor thing. Enter the Dark Brandon memes.

Short story for those still out of the loop: As Biden has been on a streak of policy and legislative success, as the walls close in on the former guy and as the GOP is beginning to realize that killing Roe vs. Wade might bring unprecedented pain … to them, some creative folks out there repurposed “Let’s Go, Brandon,” the one-joke chant against Biden US fascists had because they are too limpy to say “fuck Joe Biden.” In turn, those rowdy folks turned the moniker on its head, releasing a series of pictures showing Biden/Brandon as a badass, laser-eyed, grimdark anti-hero. But also one that says “malarkey” and pummels the land with progressive policies that benefit millions. As you might expect, pundits were confused and someone at The Atlantic got triggered:



What does the Dark Brandon memeology look like? Pretty cool it does. Here it is with screenshots for archival purposes:

Parting of the skies:
Dark Brandon3.png

First, they came for the fossil fuel industry, then they came for the predatory studnet loans, and by the time they came for the War on Drugs, I joined the Worker Vanguards:


With the sampling of examples done, let’s start with the over-analyzing: Why does this meme brings us so much joy, even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist? Why does it go so hard even though we all know this is a joke, that Biden’s policies are just minor reforms in a sea of neoliberalism and when the Midterms (and US slivers of democracy) are still in play?

Why? Because we need it. Not just the Ws, we also need to see the GOP losing. And I am using “need” in the sense of something that you actually require to move forward.

The USA has been subjected, over the last two decades, to at least 12 years of relentless right-wing cruelty in office, and that’s not counting all the shit Obama had to deal with when trying even the most minor of reforms and for being a Black man in the highest office. The last seven years, ever since the former guy kickstarted his career, have been demoralizing and everything that seemed to have been won — even the long-term social progress accrued like silt after decades of grinding — seems to be falling apart by that 25% of US people that are just plain fascists, always were and went masks-off when the cool Black guy won. People who cannot find joy and cannot laugh if they are not punching down.

So when you see them starting to lose their grip on the keys to power, you have the right to enjoy it, just as much as enjoying the relief of having your student loans halved. Over the course of the same seven years, anything liberal in thought, anything or idea that promotes compassion, empathy, tolerance, and, ultimately, joy has been attacked over and over again (directly and with guns many times). It has been coded as weak and feminine to the point one too many of us progressives have internalized even though we’re the same ones trying to tear down the edifice of gender roles. Everything we stand for has been mired by imposter syndrome at the level of whole demographic cohort. Meanwhile, on the other side, it’s just a collection of depraved know-nothings who refuse to accept these policies will help them too.

We needed an outlet.

These Dark Brandon memes come into play using one of the structures behind the kind of jokes that age the best: Semiotic distance. Or something like that. The hilarity is in the distance between Joe Biden, the guy we like (even for those of us waaaaay to his left) for being this:

Being portrayed also as a Chaotic Good hellspawn that will, through any means necessary, bring the US into the 21st Century, makes it less of a capitalist horror show and will stem the wave of fascism. We all know he is not that; we all know that this presidency might not be as transformational as the US needs. This is all just a collective confidence boost for decent Americans, embodying their dream of a Union actually attempting to perfect itself, but no longer asking kindly. And with a sense of humor about it.

The best part is that the Dark Brandon meme, being in on the joke, makes it impossible for US conservatives to mock, and by extension, this transfers to Biden’s administration and its policies.


Someone mentioned that the GOPers are trying to mock Biden by depicting him in the same ways as they like to portray the former guy, but in earnest: Machine gun-toting Rambo, crusader, smug aviator. And that is a trap of their own making; if they make fun of Dark Brandon, they are also putting their obsession with hypermasculine politicians in the spotlight, one that doesn’t favor them very much. Meanwhile, on our side, we couldn’t give a bigger damn about a politician projecting strength through the kind of performances GOPers love so much. The Dark Brandon memes mock the entire obsession of the right-wing with domination and the performance of masculinity while celebrating the accomplishment of laws and policies that are actually, objectively good for everyone.

But also, it’s about expectorating our well-earned anger and well-founded hatred. We (both US Citizens and those on the outside looking in) might like Joe Biden as a person but oppose his Centrism; we might also not like the Democrats overall. But with Violeta Parra as my witness, we f**king hate the GOP more. There are times when hatred and anger in politics can be usefully channeled, and are even justified under certain protocols. Generally under a dictatorship or against dictatorial politicians. We have given the GOPers way too much grace, to picture their collapse at the polls as a sort of dark revenge is just a fun way of coping with it all.

Alberto Cox would also like to send the same energies to the Chilean branch of the GOP, and yes, they call themselves Republican Party, because originality is for Lefties I guess.