Ken Bone, a former christian rock band drummer and IZOD junkie was the highlight of Sunday nights horrific presidential debate. Bone, an undecided voter asked the candidates a very straightforward, and earnest question about energy policy and quickly became the internets calibre. His now iconic red sweater, sold out within a matter of hours as shoppers planned their Halloween costumes. Shortly after he became a household name, the red-sweatered voter spawned a “sexy” Halloween costume. He was then offered to a porn contract.
Along side his porn offer, he become a popular meme.
Memes are essentially dehumanizing. To become a meme, an image must be dissociated from its reality and turned into something else. To become a meme is very different from being an actor and then becoming a meme than becoming a meme off of a regular picture. In the case of Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things,” Barb, the awkward girl who asked for extra homework and stayed home on a Friday night to organize her rock collection. Her daily wardrobe consisted of mom jeans and giant glasses, is so uncool that she’s way cool.
It’s okay when the object of ironic enjoyment is a fictional character who doesn’t have to live the rest of their life after becoming a viral meme. If Barb’s face is emblazoned on street art and t-shirts, that’s profit for the actress who plays her, Shannon Purser. “Stranger Things” was the up-and-comer’s first TV role, and becoming a meme could easily lead her to bigger and better parts. After all, it’s just a character, it’s not who Purser really is. When it’s a real person, the tone takes on what is referred to in Uproxx as a “subtler form of playground bullying.” You can’t call Ken Bone “fat and bald,” because that would be mean, but you can compare him to one of the characters from the board game “Guess Who.” On the Internet, fan appreciation sometimes look a lot like trolling.
Can you tell the difference between the two cases? It may be hard to define, but you know it once you see it. For instance, tweets of people commenting on his weight or appearance are obviously crossing the line. For example, @kathiemrr: “He’s not fat. He’s Ken big bone.” Others have even compared him to Jerry Gergich, the overweight oaf from “Parks and Rec” who memorably had a fart attack. Those are easy to recall. But, what about the tweets calling for Bone to run as a third party candidate or even suggesting that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize? Are they really celebrating a nice guy who just happened to be thrown into the political spotlight or are they doing something else? And what happens to Bone when it all goes away?
Bone, who works at a power plant, has said that he’s ready to go back to his usual life and cash out his 15 minutes of fame when its up. After all, he’s just a regular American voter who somehow finds themselves as a momentary media sensation. In the meantime, he’s making the most of his fame. After reactivating his old Twitter account, Bone has received over 200,000 followers and tweets about Dad Jokes and musings about the insanity of Internet fame. “Just saw this,” Bone posted along with a photo of himself he received in his junk email. “I’m spam now! That’s the mark of a real fake celebrity.” He’s so self-aware and such a good sport that it’s hard to be mad that he’s getting the attention, even if he has started shilling for Uber.
The Internet is on the verge of ignoring what made this a memorable moment to begin with: Bone’s question was a reminder that this no good, horrible, very bad election affects actual humans, whose income are dependent on the outcome of the election on November 8. It’s not about the Orange Hitler, it’s about the everyday Americans who continue to be caught in the crossfire of an increasingly ugly race. It’s okay to make Ken Bone a star, but we all need to remember that he’s a regular human just as we are and not just your meme.