Gas prices: down. The votes of Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema: secured. al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri: dead.
Who did these things? If you ask parts of the internet, the man responsible for these developments is none other than Dark Brandon.
But how did this meme trend, depicting President Joe Biden as an omnipotent, monster-like hero capable of great violence and force, even come about? Further, how did it come to represent an appreciation for Dark Brandon and his administration sincerely?
Be advised: You are about to enter a “no malarkey” zone.
Where Did “Dark Brandon” Come From?
Dark Brandon began as a combination of two separate meme trends originating among former President Donald Trump supporters. Let’s break down these two specific precursors.
Let’s Go Brandon originated in October 2021 on Twitter after a crowd chanting “Fuck Joe Biden” was purportedly misheard by an NBC reporter as “Let’s Go Brandon.” Clips of the chant went viral among conservatives and the internet at large, representing (in their view) the out-of-touchness of the mainstream media and its bias in favor of Biden. It then became an ironic chant and slogan that Republicans as high up as Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, repeated, with many calling the President “Brandon” instead of his real name henceforth.
Dark MAGA originated in the spring of 2022 on Twitter, shared widely by various posters into the summer months. The memes imagined a more “unhinged” version of Trump seizing power in 2024 and used deep-fried colors, glowing laser eyes and edgy or violent imagery to depict a darker, more powerful version of the former President.
How Did Dark Brandon Emerge?
Dark Brandon combines the Brandon nickname assigned to Biden with the aesthetics of Dark MAGA content. The first instance of the phrase “Dark Brandon” on social media is from a tweet riffing on the titles of Batman movies. But the meme attained its first flush of notoriety when posters started making jokes in the early summer of 2022 using “Dark Brandon” and Dark MAGA imagery of Joe Biden ironically. Often, these posts mocked and criticized Biden for not showing the strength depicted in the memes.
When Did Dark Brandon Become Unironic?
Following the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri by an American drone and a series of reported successes for the Biden administration in late July (including the finalization of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and drops in unemployment and gas prices), liberal supporters of the President began using the meme unironically to signal their approval of his decisions and actions.
How Do People Use Dark Brandon?
The core components of a Dark Brandon meme are the dark tones, deep-fried style, and laser eyes. Often, they are paired with descriptions of feats accomplished by “Dark Brandon.” As the meme has increasingly turned into a sincere appreciation of Biden, it also tends to point out the flaws of his predecessor.
Dark Brandon is arguably one of the more unique products of our current media ecosystem, where irony can turn to sincerity in an instant, and memes work their way through and between wildly opposed political movements.