It all started in October 2021, at a NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. The crowd was chanting, “Fuck Joe Biden,” but reporter Kelli Stavast seemed to think the crowd was saying, “Let’s go Brandon” (a man named Brandon Brown had won his first career NASCAR event that day.) Extremely online right-wingers were delighted by this epic mistake and turned the phrase “Let’s go Brandon” into an anti-Biden meme. It appeared on everything from T-shirts to Christmas ornaments. Representative Lauren Boebert wore a hideous LET’S GO BRANDON dress to Mar-a-Lago. The subtext of the phrase is that Biden is so elderly that he’s not in on the joke that “Let’s go Brandon” is really “Fuck Joe Biden.”
Somewhere along the way, perhaps as a response to the GOP talking point that Biden is a weak president, some very online people on the left decided that Biden was actually a kind of centrist supervillain. This idea was bolstered when Biden’s COVID diagnosis coincided with the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Online leftists started using a meme that shows Biden with glowing red eyes—a.k.a. “Dark Brandon.” (There are several theories about the origins of Dark Brandon images, some of which were created by the artist Yang Quan.) Soon, there were memes from Biden supporters pointing out that when Biden got COVID, a terrorist died, whereas when Trump got COVID, he could hardly breathe. Perhaps everything happening in Bidenworld was actually some grand plan, the memes suggested; perhaps Biden was (as Trump supporters used to say about Trump) playing four-dimensional chess. Eventually, even members of the Biden administration started tweeting pictures and referencing Dark Brandon—a progressive hero with the appearance of a supervillain.