Biden White House embraces 'Dark Brandon,' a parody of the 'Dark MAGA' meme used by the far right
- The "Dark Brandon" meme developed as an ironic portrayal of a more ruthless President Joe Biden.
- Biden officials began using the meme on Sunday after the Inflation Reduction Act passed the Senate.
The "Dark Brandon" meme has been embraced by White House officials and at least one sitting Democratic member of Congress, possibly bringing about the end of the meme's life cycle.
"Dark Brandon is crushing it," tweeted Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary, on Sunday night, referring to President Joe Biden.
—Andrew Bates (@AndrewJBates46) August 7, 2022
Rob Flaherty, the director of digital strategy at the White House, simply posted a darkened, heavily filtered image where Biden is depicted with laser-like eyes.
—Rob Flaherty (@RFlaherty46) August 7, 2022
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut also posted a version of the meme without a caption.
—Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 7, 2022
"Dark Brandon" — a largely ironic meme that blends the Biden-pejorative "Let's Go Brandon" slogan with the "Dark MAGA" aesthetic — imagines a more ruthless version of Biden than the image the president often portrays. It first emerged as a jokey, internet-leftist response to the "Dark MAGA" crowd — a group that promotes a scenario where an authoritarian and more radical version of Trump returns to the White House bent on revenge.
The memes of Biden, which followed a similar editing style to "Dark MAGA," with effects such as laser eyes over the president, served initially as an ironic attempt to criticize the left's idea of Biden's job performance on issues such as the climate crisis, inflation, and high gas prices, Know Your Meme said. Many of the memes were nonsensical, such as Biden with an eye patch and beard with the caption "it's over, Jack," but they were also different from the extremely earnest online content that's usually associated with centrist liberals.
The almost nihilistic "Dark Brandon" memes took on a new meaning in recent weeks when mainstream Democrats began to co-opt them, posting the memes in support of Biden and giving his public persona what Slate described as "some long-diminished vigor." The shift largely seemed to occur after online posters used the "Dark Brandon" format to praise the Biden administration's killing of the Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri at the end of July, Know Your Meme said.
The meme is the latest example of right-wing online content — after some time — being repurposed by liberals and leftists. "Brandon," a coded word for "Biden," started when conservatives coined the phrase "Let's Go Brandon" in an effort to covertly utter "Fuck Joe Biden."
The flood of "Dark Brandon" memes came on Sunday evening following the Senate's passing of the Inflation Reduction Act earlier that afternoon. The bill, essentially the latest version of the previously named "Build Back Better" social spending and climate bill, passed on a party-line 51-50 vote after a "vote-a-rama" that lasted 14 hours, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
The House is expected to take up and pass the legislation on Friday, sending the bill to Biden's desk and giving the administration and congressional Democrats a new political win.
Bates also drew criticism from Republicans for posting an image that — while reminiscent of the movie poster for "The Dark Knight Rises" — included an image of an eagle that they say is reminiscent of Nazi imagery.
But the original author of the meme, Tobin Stone, told The Daily Dot that the resemblance was not intentional.
"The eagle is not, and was never intended to be the reichsadler," Stone told the outlet, referring to the eagle. "It was just intended to be a representation of America's national bird, the bald eagle, and any reasonable person would interpret it as such."
One prominent use of the "Dark MAGA" meme occurred when Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn was defeated in his May primary. Days after his loss, he took to Instagram to declare that "it's time for Dark MAGA to truly take command."
The aesthetic has also been used by the far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (@RepMTG) May 7, 2022
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