The Philadelphia Story: A 2020 Election Meme-oir

Kyle Krajewski
November 10, 2020

It’s been a big week, right Earth?  

We just spent at least 7 days swinging back and forth between Trump and Biden, Biden and Trump, and briefly (very briefly) Kanye and Jorgensen.  

But the real stars of the election weren’t the GOP or the Dems or Saturday Night Live.  No, the real stars were the STATES—especially the folks in those “battleground” states of Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, and PENNSYLVANIA. And the lead singer in this hair metal band called the Keystone State is, and always will be—get out Sammy Hagar—Philadelphia.  

And when Philadelphia is in the global spotlight, no one handles it quite like we do.

Yes, Philadelphia had its star moment during election week. As we danced, drum-lined, sang, and chatted, the world began to meme. That’s what made Philadelphia the true winner of this election. Not the results. Not the vague threats. Not the media circus. But the memes. If anything, Philadelphia taking center stage never fails to result in great content. That’s something we can all agree on.

So let’s take a peek at last week’s meme-oir and see some of the best memetic content on the web.

As early as Tuesday, this reality began to set in:

The beginning of something beautiful! The Late Show host’s tweet spread like wildfire on election night. Early results turned in for President Trump. But with millions of mail-in ballots expected to break for Biden, the internet had an inkling for what might be coming should the race get close over the following few days: Gritty. Always Sunny references. The loudest, most viral corner of Twitter.

No one meme could better sum up how America felt Wednesday and Thursday. The world was over it, endless hours waiting for Nevada to get off the pot. All the news outlets saying the same thing on repeat. We all felt like Miranda Priestly, eye-rolling into oblivion at an incompetent assistant.

And just like that, there it was: our first It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reference. The episode had begun and the memetic shenanigans would ensue.

Every sports fan has this particular moment—The Miracle in the Meadowlands—tattooed in their memory. With a little bit of meme magic, this beautiful moment of Philly success can be recontextualized to uniquely apply to the week’s events all around the world. 

The results are up in the air.
Biden drops it!
Will Trump’s team pick it up and win?
Wait! It’s not over!
Biden picks it up and finds a hole!
He’s going to take it all the way!

It’s not a Philadelphia-centric meme extravaganza until Gritty arrives—in this particular instance, leading a revolution. Gritty is a special kind of social media phenomenon. Not only is he one of the most iconic mascots in sports, but—in a memetic sense—he has become emblematic of everything Philadelphia, both to locals and outsiders alike. 

Embraced by the left, he has found himself an unlikely hero of “the resistance,” and his goofy orange smile and googly eyes have generally come to represent all that is odd and offbeat online.

But his unique adoration is nebulous to our international cousins.

You can’t state it any more clearly than that.

Imagine this: You’re driving down a colonial Philly side street in the midst of winter. It’s narrow and you can feel your tires slipping and sliding on the slush. But you look ahead and see an opening on your right. A parking spot! Victory! As you inch closer, you see it: a lawn chair. The spot is accounted for. What a uniquely Philadelphia thing you have just experienced.

There is no more concise way to accurately visualize what our president went through last week. 

A returning classic! In 2018, this video went viral on Reddit for setting Philadelphia’s weirdest moments to Philadelphia’s unofficial song: the 6ABC Action News theme music. An unwritten rule in meme culture is to not steal from other creators, rather share ideas and source material to morph into your own piece of content. A job well done in this instance!

In 2001, Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson had one of the best single-game NBA Finals performances of all time against one of the best Los Angeles Lakers teams ever assembled. He capped the performance off by crossing over Tyronn Lue so badly he fell on the ground, then drained a stepback jumpshot. Rather than helping him up, he simply looked down at him as if he was not worthy and proceeded to step over him. An iconic NBA moment.

Any time a winner prevails over a loser, this scene becomes instant memetic representation. In this instance, with its Philadelphia backdrop, it hits the spot even moreso.

Worlds collide! Here’s a great example of two pieces of memetic source material morphing into one. The memorable confession from Game of Thrones meets the iconic Philadelphia mascot. Dame Diana Rigg would be proud. With subtle tweaks to the visual and the line spoken, this scene takes on a whole new meaning. It was indeed Philadelphia who helped Donald meet his demise.

Another Always Sunny reference. What’s happening in this scene is clear: Mac gives Dennis bowl. Dennis has other plans. Dennis dislikes bowl. Remix: Rural PA wants Trump. Philly doesn’t want Trump. Philly gets rid of Trump. It’s a simple formula!

We shouldn’t need to explain the Philly Special if you’ve made it this far. It was key to the Eagles’ Super Bowl win in the same way that the mail-in ballots were key to last week’s win.

Joe Biden is an Eagles fan, by the way. Go Birds.

Sometimes simplicity is the best approach. Using a sign in a meme is the easiest and most direct way to get a message across. With that, the audience doesn’t need to put that many contextual pieces together. Just add your message and imply it’s being said by the character you are using as a vehicle for that message. In this case, of course, Gritty.

In 2020, the truest sign of a worldwide momentous occasion is the instant memeification of the source material. And there is no greater honor than someone else meme-ing you. This past week, Philadelphia (and Pennsylvania at large) was honored to be the YOU. Sure, Nevada and Georgia had their 15 minutes of fame, but Philly truly was the star of the show. 

Did we miss any of your favorite memes from the past week? Drop ‘em in the comments!