With her nontraditional candidacy and general New Age vibe, it's easy to understand why Marianne Williamson has become one of the most popular meme subjects (her meme fanbase calls itself the "Orb Gang," after all). While some of these memes are either unironic or "post-ironic" shows of support for Williamson's candidacy, others are more clearly meant as mockery. Based on a recent Instagram post, Williamson and her campaign might have trouble telling the difference. In a post asking for donations to qualify for the third Democratic Debate in Houston in September, Williamson includes a photoshop attaching her face to the body of Melisandre, the Red Witch, from Game of Thrones.
This isn't the first time a politician has made Westeros-themed campaign materials (see Trump's "Sanctions Are Coming" tweet, which drew condemnation of HBO), nor is it the first time Williamson has posted geeky pop culture memes (her Evangelion meme post might be even more baffling). It is, however, a really confusing association for any political candidate to make. Melisandre is a character who is perhaps most infamous for convincing Stannis Baratheon to burn his daughter Shireen at the stake as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. It's one of the most upsetting death scenes in a show that made an art of upsetting death scenes, and also the one Williamson is photoshopped into.
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Hey, everyone! We need to get back into “Please send at least $1” mode now. We need 27,000 more unique donors by August 28 in order to make it into the third debate in Houston next month. Some pundits keep saying I won’t make it, but we will! Please use your network of friends and colleagues, social media and all other available resources to get the word out and the money in:) Donate at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/marianne-williamson-2020-committee
It makes sense why Williamson's detractors would compare her to Melisandre. Both are essentially "wild cards" in the games of power, shaking up traditional political proceedings with unexpected mystical spirituality. Shireen was a disfigured survivor of a terrible disease, so making Williamson into Melisandre could be seen as a particularly harsh commentary on Williamson's much criticized record on disability and health issues.
But why would Williamson or her campaign make this comparison? It's possible neither she nor her social media people have even seen Game of Thrones. Trump's various Thrones references certainly didn't seem like they came from a guy who actually watched the show. Williamson's Melisandre photoshop could have been posted in ignorance of the character's nature.
Another option, however, is that Williamson and/or her social media people know who Melisandre is and what a generally evil character she is, but simply do not care about any negative associations. Attention is attention, and posting pop culture memes is going to get attention. It could very well be an attempt to take ownership of a negative image people have of her, akin to Trump taking ownership of "deplorables" or Hillary Clinton taking ownership of "nasty woman." It could just as easily just be an attraction to any image of Williamson regardless of positivity or negativity, so long as her face is out there.
It's incredibly easy to make jokes about Marianne Williamson, and even easier to make further jokes about the ways Williamson campaign is utilizing jokey memes on social media. The last time a major candidate was roundly treated as a joke, however, that candidate made it to the White House. In this age of irony and "post-irony," be careful how you joke.