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Biden embraces ‘Dark Brandon’ meme as he launches re-election bid

Biden’s use of ‘Dark Brandon’ reveals ‘self-awareness of how the meme livens and rejuvenates his public persona,’ culture reporter says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 25 April 2023 22:18 BST
President Joe Biden confirms 2024 reelection bid

The re-election campaign of President Joe Biden has embraced the “Dark Brandon” meme, with it featured on a 404 error message page and the laser-eyed 80-year-old already appearing on t-shirts.

The new site for Mr Biden’s 2024 run features a campaign video and requests for supporters to donate to his re-election effort.

For those who may end up on a page that doesn’t exist, they’re shown an image of the meme-version of the president.

“Let’s get you back on the rails,” the page says, with Mr Biden blasting the user with his red eyes.

The phrase is possibly a reference to Mr Biden’s affection for Amtrak, which he used heavily while serving as a senator representing Delaware for 36 years before becoming vice president.

The “Dark Brandon” meme began to evolve in late 2021 when a Nascar reporter seemingly misheard a crowd chanting “f*** Joe Biden” as “Let’s go Brandon”.

The phrase became code for bashing the president in right-wing groups.

Last year, far-right Trump supporters created a number of “Dark MAGA” memes, depicting an authoritarian Trump with laser-like eyes, and often with explicit calls for violence.

Those memes inspired ironic “Dark Brandon” memes in response, turning right-wing caricatures of the 80-year-old president into a laser-eyed demi-god-like figure.

An official campaign site now sells “dark t-shirts” for $32 that they say are “best worn while vanquishing Malarkey”.

Vox culture reporter Aja Romano told NPR that “Biden’s embrace of the Dark Brandon meme shows not only an awareness of the meme and what it represents to many of his followers, but self-awareness of how the meme livens and rejuvenates his public persona”.

“Especially as he gears up for a difficult reelection, look for him to lean even more into the ‘Dark Brandon’ meme on social media as a way of galvanizing supporters online,” Romano added.

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