We’ve all seen them: the Joe Biden and Barack Obama memes. They’ve been around a little bit earlier if I remember correctly, but seem to have been hiding in relative obscurity until that certain thing happened a little while ago. And you also know what the hell I’m talking about: the election of Donald J. Trump to the office of President of the United States.
I think it was a shock to most people. Most polls prior to the election had Clinton with a notable advantage, and as the night wore on things became bleaker for the Clinton camp. Eventually history was made and, well, you know. I don’t want to do a recap of it because I’m pretty sure everyone knows what happened and has plenty of their own opinions on the matter. I’m still trying to fully process what has happened myself, and I’m proud I was able to get some sort of post out within a week.
So what’s with the Biden memes?
What is a “Biden Meme”
Most of them show President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden doing something. They’re usually mundane photographs from some point in the past 8 years that show the two interacting. (Like the previous picture. Obama is on the phone, probably on speaker, and Biden is listening intently.) Or Biden will be looking at a paper with Obama pointing at it. Or he will be relaxing in a chair while Barack has his hands clasped over his face, looking rather exhausted or deep in thought. The pictures themselves aren’t anything fancy and would fit properly as a photo to any typical news story.
What makes them a meme is the silly-ass dialogue that occurs between the two. Confronted with the prospect that the unlikely Trump will soon be moving in, Biden (usually) is seen plotting against the new president in hilarious ways, with Obama (usually) acting like the adult and telling Joe that he can’t follow through with what he is plotting. Biden is a playful, revengeful, teenage-esque character with Obama acting as an adult figure, or maybe an accessory bro to the prank. He might not approve but he does little to prevent Biden from following through with his plot. These include leaving fake birth certificates around the White House and changing door knobs to cats, all of which are hilarious throw-backs to various things Trump has said on the election trail the past year and a half. Some also show Joe being very petty and simply wanting to punch (“offer him a ‘knuckle sandwich'”) or insult Trump/Pence, or him wanting to booby-trap the white house ala Home Alone style.
Why, of all things, Biden memes at this point in time?
Despite initially running against each other (and a bunch of others) in the 2008 primaries, they actually are rumored to be best buddies. Check out this tweet from Biden:
Isn’t that cute? It’s from Biden’s official twitter page too.
It’s this camaraderie that the memes speak towards: Biden and Obama really do seem to be best buds with a relationship that many other Presidents and VPs probably don’t share. Can you picture Bush and Cheney in these memes? How about McCain and Palin? Hillary and Kaine? No way. I mean maybe you can picture JFK and Johnson being bros, but Trump and Pence….no way. It’s a serious matter between those two. To quote our future president: Sad.
The memes aren’t true, of course, and this is where they turn bittersweet. I doubt that when Obama and Biden leave the White House in a few months they’ll hang out on the weekends or watch Netflix together. Maybe they’ll visit each other occasionally, but they’re not actually roommates, contrary to the memes. We’d like to pretend though. It’s cute to think they really are the best of buds, even though they likely aren’t as close as portrayed. And sadly, they really won’t prank Trump or Pence. Biden won’t really say “A loser say’s ‘what?'” as he blocks the door to the White House.
And we are talking about Barack Obama and Joe Biden here. Imagine a president who is set to lose all the policies he enacted in the past eight years, perhaps immediately. Is he worried about his legacy? Is he angry? Regretful? He still act’s respectful, but you have to imagine the man screaming inside. The first African American president who will be followed not by a female in the name of progressiveness, but by Trump. The same goes for Joe, too. The man lost his son not very long ago, and was the reason he himself didn’t run for president. Some of the photos in the memes are from right after his son died. The man was grief stricken, and you have to give him credit for staying as strong as he has been in his position.
And this is where the memes get their strength: they reflect the current situation between these two men who have been in the White House for the past eight years; they capture their humanity even in the highest office in the land. And even though they acknowledge a Trump presidency and their own legacies look to be lost, they take it in stride by simply wanting to prank them as they leave. They’re happy, carefree, and not worried about the future one bit.
The memes are literally a coping mechanism for something that is hard for a lot of people to grasp. Harambe was another popular “tragedy” that has been memeified. The gorilla, shot and killed over something he was unable to comprehend, was an unsettling thing to think about. It was a nuanced issue: did the ends justify the means? Would the kid really have been hurt? Were the parents to blame for Harambe’s death? It just doesn’t seem fair how the entire thing ended. We were affected as a people, and we turned to memes of Harambe to laugh, to cope, and to help us get by. Now, when we reflect on Harambe, instead of the confused grief we originally felt we can smile as we imagine “dicks out for Harambe,” and how the poor gorilla has been enshrined in our cultural lexicon as a meme and a way to make people laugh.
So here we are: people are terrified of Trump, his rhetoric, and what the next four years will bring. Imaging yourself as a child of an illegal immigrant family, or a Muslim, or anyone else Trump’s rhetoric has targeted. Maybe you’re dependent upon the Affordable Care Act. Maybe you are a proponent of sustainable energy and science. You’d be very pessimistic of the next four (and possibly eight) years. Those who didn’t support Trump, or who feel they might be future victims, are terrified and utterly powerless now that the election is over. It’s a scary prospect for them. So what do we do?
We make memes of Joe and Barack as they prepare to booby-trap the white house. We laugh, and secretly we cry. It’s a way to cope with our fear and how our voices didn’t count this time. It’s how we mourn for the two leaving the White House. We have nothing else to really do–what’s done has been done–so we nervously laugh and smile. We share and others like them on facebook, and we don’t feel so alone. There are people out there laughing at the memes and we’re united in creating, liking, and sharing them. Even though it’s all pretty silly and futile, we’re enshrining Joey and B’Rock into our cultural lexicon. When we recall the past week to our kids and grandkids, no matter what happens the next four years, we’ll still have the memes and memories to put a smile on our faces.