There's one person who came out of the second presidential debate as the clear winner. No, it wasn't a candidate, but rather an undecided voter in a red sweater, and now he has reached a social media status unseen by most: he became a trending meme trending for multiple days. The man in question is Ken Bone, the town hall audience member who asked about energy policy. He's been interviewed by the top newspapers in the country and sat down for late night interviews. But why is America so enamored? This tweet sums up the Bone allure.
Touted as one of the many #KenBoneFacts that are trending nationwide, a Twitter user called Nebeel wrote the clearest explanation yet: Americans right now are all like, "Dear lord, elections are a mess, clowns are lurking, and Harambe's gone. We are desperately in need of a hero." And does he have a point.
Elections generally are messy, but this one is arguably a hot mess. On Sunday night, Trump brought the already low-blow race to a new level when he invited women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to the debate (in the past, Clinton has denied the charges). They nearly sat in his VIP booth with Melania, Ivanka, and the Trump men before the Commission on Presidential Debates threatened to have security remove them.
On top of that, clowns really do seem to be lurking. NBCNews.com has a story titled "America Under Siege?" and it's all about the creepy clown sightings that have wigged out a vast swath of the country. Atlas Obscura has even created an interactive map where clowns have been spotted around the U.S. Some are just sightings, but plenty have been threats. When you're freaked out by people in white face paint and big, red noses, there's nothing more comforting than a sweater and nerdy glasses.
And that brings us to Harambe. He's not pulling his weight in the meme department these days, but the same things that made Harambe successful could send Bone to the mountaintop of enduring meme fame. Venkatesh Rao of The Atlantic dissected what makes Harambe (or any meme) meme-worthy: It's "a cultural signifier that spreads simply because it is good at spreading. It is neither worth spreading the way a TED talk aspires to be, nor particularly worth resisting. It spreads because it can." And that's all true of Bone — but there may be a heroic aspect, too.
At least that's what some are saying, and there could be some truth behind these words. Surely many acquaintances on your social media continue to point to the election as a choice of the lesser of two evils (even though it's not at all). But for those who are looking for someone to connect to, Bone might be the answer. He's turning into this year's hope and change — even though he's been compared to a Toy Story villain.