If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen a Mayor Lori Lightfoot meme, shared a Lori Lightfoot meme, or eventually created a Lori Lightfoot meme yourself and shared it. Chicago’s mayor, a trailblazer in many ways, has taken to YouTube to show us her lighter side in dealing with the coronavirus lockdown. And by letting us laugh at her, she is allowing us to laugh at ourselves and better cope with the situation.
Chicago has a habit of creating politicians who go on to national acclaim, and with her memes, Lightfoot has joined in that tradition. People all over Chicago and all over the country have joined in the merrymaking of memes and masks, with such Instagram hashtags as #lorilightfoot #whereislorilightfoot and such Facebook groups as Mayor Lightfoot Memes (nearly 70,000 members) and Mayor Lori Lightfoot Social Distancing Memes (over 4,500 members). I haven’t seen such a widespread enjoyment of dark humor since the peak of Grumpy Cat, God rest her soul.
The Facebook groups are lightly moderated and basically have one major rule: good vibes only. While a handful of people are critical of the mayor and her crackdown on social distancing violations, an even bigger number of Chicagoans are showering her with praise in the Facebook groups, even thanking her for her vigilance — especially since she posed a reopening plan asking for feedback from the public. Chicagoans seem eager for a place online that’s full of laughter and free of political strife.
Chicagoan and single father George Gant, who chronicles his experiences in his cartoons, jokes about Lightfoot’s rules while he understands the need for them. Gant said, “If I had to give any advice, I guess I would just say that even though things are pretty rough right now, understand that it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And if this shutdown gives you an opportunity to do/create/learn about/try something that you’ve been wanting to, by all means, go for it. If not, that’s cool too. Just stay safe.”
Kevin Moyers owns and operates the Etsy store Bunny17Media, which sells all kinds of Lightfoot merch, along with other designs. “Politicians lose their image to (the) public domain,” Moyers said. “I don’t feel right profiting from someone else’s image without approval, but I know Mayor Lightfoot likes the memes, so I saw an opportunity to give back to the city in some way. I heard about Chance [the Rapper] donating to CPS, and I thought that was a great idea.” Bunny17Media donates 100% of its profits on Lightfoot merchandise to the Chicago Public School Back to School program.
Nick Franklin, owner of Franklin Printing & Graphics and creator of #whereislorilightfoot, also made all those life-size cutouts of the mayor appearing all over town. And the PNG image file is widely available for people to use in making their own memes.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity.P.T. Barnum
Shannon Conway, owner of the Etsy store DeerFriendChicago and co-moderator of the Mayor Lightfoot Memes Facebook group, explained her motivation for making her Lightfoot merch. “I thought it was a fun way to bring laughter to the city through these trying times,” Conway said. “The fact that the memes caught on across the whole nation and not just in Chicago was a great indicator of how Chicagoans come together during rough times.”
DeerFriendChicago has been in business since 2012, but Conway saw an opportunity to celebrate the hilarity of the shutdown situation and show her respect for the mayor. “I love how inclusive she is as a mayor. A lot of political figures ignore what their people have to say on social media, but I admire that she dives right in and even creates her own memes to post as well,” Conway said. “She’s not afraid to stand up against other political figures for what she believes in. The only thing I really don’t like about her is that she is a Sox fan. GO CUBS!”
And as Moyers said, the mayor herself is a fan of the memes. “I love ’em,” the mayor said on ABC 7 Chicago. “Like in any difficult time, I think we’ve gotta have a sense of balance, and humor is a part of it.”
I think that Chicagoans are doing an admirable job with social distancing. But communication, common courtesy and a sense of humor in a time of crisis all help. So keep those memes and Lightfoot sightings coming. And don’t let the mayor catch you buying booze after 9 p.m.
Featured photo: Erik Island
Cartoon courtesy of George Gant
Neck gaiter photo: Bunny17Media