The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.
Most days Twitter either ruins the day or keeps you sane. That little blue bird icon will either unleash a firehose of bad news or a good chuckle. ’Twas ever thus. As Covid-19 has raged on, the content has mostly skewed macabre, but with that came a fair amount of gallows humor. Things like the #2020Challenge and the trapped Suez Canal boat got folks through. This week, there was a new one: My Fall Plans / The Delta Variant.
Somewhat similar to Expectations vs. Reality memes, the set up is simple: on the left side, a picture of someone or something (typically well-known or famous) with the text “My fall plans”; on the right side, an image of something that ruined the image on the left, with the text “The Delta variant.” Let’s look at one of the first—if not the first—examples of the meme. On Sunday, Twitter user @jush_for_fun posted the text along with a photo of Shea Couleé from RuPaul’s Drag Race. The “Delta variant” counterpart? An image of Sasha Velour, who defeated Couleé after a stunning season in a huge upset.
Fun, right? Yes. Also, helpful. Look, not to do that journalism thing where there’s a paragraph in the middle full of data and facts, but Covid-19 cases are on the rise. Currently, half of the US is fully vaccinated, but just yesterday The Washington Post released a report that, driven largely by the highly transmissible Delta variant, hot spots are now showing up even in highly vaccinated counties. New cases are up 86 percent compared to two weeks ago, and hospitals in places like Texas are being deluged with patients. Vaccines are helping slow the spread, and vaccinated people who get breakthrough Covid infections seem to have milder symptoms, but there’s no denying Delta is ready to ruin summer, and likely fall, too.
Frankly, that’s a lot to digest. As my colleague Greg Barber pointed out this week, the Delta variant is already warping our risk perception, and after more than a year and half of lockdowns and uncertainty and fluctuating mandates, it’s hard to put the severity in context. Which is why, perhaps, this meme can help. It’s hard to focus, in these waning days of sunshine, on what the rest of 2021 could look like if Delta goes unchecked. Undoubtedly, the meme makers understand the threat, but if their creations go into the feeds of the vaccine-hesitant, maybe comparing Delta to the final scene of Carrie or the bees in My Girl will help. Or the iceberg in Titanic. Or the slow cooker in This Is Us. That’s a lot of hope to put into a meme, but if nothing else maybe it could offset Chet Hanks’ Instagram rants.
Honestly, offsetting seems like the best we can hope for. There are so many conspiracy theories, so much misinformation about Covid-19 and the vaccine that at this point, that that’s what the population needs to be inoculated against. As the summer continues, vaccinations are increasing, but so are Delta infections; the US—and the world—needs all the help it can get. Even it involves reminding everyone of pop culture’s biggest bummers.
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