For the most part, this tongue-in-cheek variety of homophobia remains a relatively marginal position on the online right. But her prominence in DeSantis’s latest campaign video suggests she could infiltrate the conservative mainstream and could pay dividends among a group of Republican voters. « After all, [DeSantis’s backers] they’re looking for voter Trump,” said Daniel Adleman, an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at the University of Toronto, who has written on the overlap between pop culture and far-right ideologies. talk, but take the walk — that Trump is full of lip service, but that DeSantis is the one who keeps almost Trumpian promises. »
To help put it all together, here’s your ultimate guide to the memes and images from DeSantis’ recent video. This might be your first time meeting them, but it probably won’t be the last if you pay close attention on Twitter, Threads, or whatever new social media platform launches next week.
This meme, depicting a chiseled bodybuilder with a massive chin and well-trimmed beard, is a staple of discourse in the manosphere. Often referred to as « GigaChad, » the name borrows from the popular internal slang word « chad, » which is used to refer to a stereotypical alpha male. The origin of the meme is shrouded in mystery – it is he is said to have been taken from a series of photoshopped images of bodybuilders taken by a Russian photographer, but first came online in 2017, when a version of the image was posted on the popular message board 4chan. The post introducing the meme defined GigaChad as « The perfect human specimen meant to lead us against the reptilians » – a nod to a fringe conspiracy theory that posits that the world is run by reptilian humanoids.
Since its introduction, however, the meme has become the symbol of an ideal male form which, according to certain currents of right-wing thought, is about to be swept away by the alleged feminization of American culture and media. Consider it the David statue of the manosphere.
You might recognize it from the 2000 movie American psycho – based on the 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis – but Christian Bale’s character has taken on a whole new life in the manosphere. In the film, Bateman is a chauvinistic, status-obsessed Wall Street banker who — spoiler alert — may (or may not) lead a secret life as a serial killer and cannibal. (The film leaves open the possibility that Bateman’s murderous activities are part of an elaborate and delusional fantasy.) Ironically, Bateman idolizes Donald Trump, a symbol of New York’s affluent new rich during the 80s.
Online, Bateman and other Wall Street icons like The Wolf of Wall StreetJordan Belfort (who also makes a brief appearance in DeSantis’ video) has come to symbolize the set of hypermasculine virtues that the manosphere is propagating. “If you are a superficial reader of Patrick Bateman, he represents an avatar of the Reagan era, a cocky, shameless, impudent man who is able to make the best possible use of neoliberalism as it existed in the 1980s and, by extension, as it exists now,” Adleman said. “I could see that it could appeal to the alt-right 4chan crowd in this post-Trumpian era.”
Giga isn’t the only Chad popular with this crowd. In mid-2019, an image of a cartoon character with blond hair, blue eyes and a bushy blonde beard started making their way onto Twitter and other online message boards. The caption for the illustration consisted of a single word: « Yes. » The image has since become the blueprint for a meme universe known as « Yes Chad, » featuring illustrations of men — yes, always men — projecting an air of masculine authority and steely masculine confidence. (Sometimes, the meme is paired with a illustration of a blonde woman in a blue dresswhich symbolizes the so-called « trad wife ».) The meme also carries some not-so-subtle racist undertones, as it depicts the ideal man as an Aryan archetype.
In the video, meanwhile, a cartoon of DeSantis in the style of « Yes Chad » flashes between a clip of the governor giving a speech and a shot of him walking with his clique. What, exactly, DeSantis is saying « Yes » is left for the viewer to decode.
The fictional protagonist of British television drama Peaky BlindersTommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, is the leader of a criminal gang who evade the law and rival gangs in post-war England to expand his criminal empire. But online, Murphy’s character has become associated with the trope of the « sigmoid male‘, a type of man who – in contrast to the stereotypical ‘alpha male’, who sits at the top of a social hierarchy – has transcended social norms to play by his own set of rules. A quick Google search shows YouTube video pages with titles like « 12 reasons why THOMAS SHELBY is the ultimate SIGMA EVIL.” (In a declaration released Wednesday, the team behind Peaky Blinders disavowed any association with the DeSantis ad.)
Presumably, the confrontation between Shelby and DeSantis is intended to highlight the latter’s willingness to play dirty and break through conservative conventions – such as, for example, fight with Disney or sending migrant planes to Martha’s Vineyard and California.
« I’m going to leave aside the weirdness of trying to prove your manhood by posting a video that blends images of you between oiled and shirtless bodybuilders, » Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last weekend when inquired about DeSantis video – apparently referring to several shots of sleek looking male bodybuilders flexing their bulging muscles. But in certain corners of the online just where the popularity of bodybuilding is on the rise, it’s not strange at all. For a possible explanation for this trend, look no further than that of Tucker Carlson much talked about documentary The end of men, who advanced the argument that the destruction of men’s bodies through poor diet and poor exercise habits is part of a larger globalist plot to take over the world. Understood in this context, rebuilding a man’s physique is not only good for his health, but it is also a vital first step towards toppling the power of the corrupt global elite.
DeSantis hasn’t revealed whether weightlifting is a big part of hers recent weight loss effortsbut during the election campaign he certainly leaned into the anti-elite rhetoric linked to the bodybuilding fad.
Is that Brad Pitt watching from behind that bronze helmet? Yes yes it is. As movie buffs and mythology nerds will know, Pitt played the ancient Greek hero Achilles in the 2004 film Troybased on Homer’s epic poem the Iliad. Like in IliadPitt’s Achilles emerges as the film’s hero, bursting onto the battlefield near the end of the conflict to avenge the death of his comrade Patroclus at the hands of the Trojan hero Hector.
Like many online commentators pointed out, there is a touching irony that a video aimed at LGBTQ people included an image of Achilles, as many scholars have interpreted Achilles’ friendship with Patroclus as a type of same-sex relationship. But the valorisation of Achilles fits perfectly into a larger context far-right obsession with ancient Rome and Greece, which some conservatives consider the cradle of « Western civilization ». Have you ever heard of the « Bronze Age Mindset »? We bet the creators of this video have.