by Catherine Gonzalez ‘22 and Melanie Zhang ‘22
Published March 3rd, 2021
After the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021, Bernie Sanders has, once again, taken the internet by storm in the form of a meme. Decked out in a thick, warm coat and distinctive woolen mittens, Sanders has journeyed through Hogwarts, Disney World, and many galaxies far, far away.
Political photojournalist Brendan Smialowski, who took the original photo, said that the picture was “not the nicest composition in the world.” However, the picture has garnered its immense fame not in spite of this fact, but because of it. “Somehow Bernie, as a figure, has been seen often in memes before, but this specific instance [lets more] people ‘relate’ to him,” said Ashley Kwon ‘22.
This new “Bernie meme” provides a reminder that public figures are just like the rest of us. “He is a serious politician who is recognizable amongst younger people, who can appreciate him being in funny situations,” stated Michele Meola ‘22.
The trend has continued beyond the meme, as Sanders has begun to evolve, taking on new forms such as a tattoo, a crocheted doll, and even a sweatshirt design. Sanders has used the popularity of the meme to raise $1.8 million dollars through merchandise to help those in need, which has benefited many Vermont charities such as Feeding Chittenden, Meals on Wheels, and The Chill Foundation.
Meanwhile, the creator of Sanders’ mittens, Jen Ellis, has received thousands of requests for similar mittens; while she is no longer regularly making mittens to sell, she has made three more pairs which will help fund her daughter’s college education, benefit a LGBTQ+ organization, and assist a dog rescue. She is also partnering with Darn Tough Vermont to create socks inspired by Sanders’ mittens, the proceeds of which will go to the Vermont Foodbank.
In a time of political turmoil and stress, this meme is a rare moment of joy for all, whether as simply “something positive and funny to look towards,” according to Savani Deodhar ‘22, or a way to make a difference offline.