David and DeSantis: The Powers and Pitfalls of Poetics in Visual Memes

Patricia Sawin (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

In March 2023 a Christian charter school in Florida forced its principal to resign after teachers showed 6th graders photographs of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. An explosion of memes capitalized on photoshopping the iconic image into clever remixes. These condensed, poetic memes satirized the parents’ unsophisticated accusations of pornography and the anti-gay and pro-gun policies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. While powerful in the instantaneous evocative association of multiple images and arguments, the memes effectively precluded a more nuanced engagement that might honestly explore the line between wholesome and prurient representation of the naked human body or even begin to bridge the nation’s dangerous political polarization.

Part of 01-11 National Politics, History, and Folklore, Thursday, November 02, 8:30 am–10:00 am