Ana Rodart ︎

Image: © Dimitri Rodriguez/ Reproduction.  

Mimetized progressivism

The new languages of progressive politics in the Post-Trump digital era.

Despite her millions of followers, Kim Kardashian is not able to garner votes like the passionate Lady Gaga or the smiley Lizzo. Don’t get me wrong, the Ex-Mrs. West is still quite influential in this little world of fashion and beauty, but her reign is limited to what we can express in extremely elaborate images. Even though Kim has turned aesthetic standards upside down like a hurricane, she was never the lady of causes and emotional words. And the imagery that precedes the election, as the new generation of voters has been showing in the progressive sphere, needs layers; not the ones you use to remove your pores, but the ones that dominate the weight of symbols and make explicit the truth of a trajectory.

To the sadness of those part of fake news group and who search for manuals, the new languages that have been guiding progressive advancements go far beyond viral content and memes. In an era in which we plunged into the excess of images and discussed geopolitics in micro videos about Shingeki no Kyogin, this phenomenon is related to the ability to understand symbology, to appropriate them and translate them into viral speeches. Everything goes through understand-decode-share.

In this weird moment of imagery burnout, the weight of the symbols and authenticity remain as essential values, at least among the group that wants to build a fairer tomorrow. This makes it easier to understand the popularity of progressive political leaders on digital platforms. Let’s check some examples. Do you remember Biden & Kamala Harris’ (gosh, it seems ages ago already) inauguration? Between poet Amanda Gorman’s and it girl Ella Emhoff’s hyped looks, what made the crowd’s eyes light up were J.Lo’s Chanel suffragist pantsuit, Michelle Obama’s Sergio Hudson monochromatic combination, Lady Gaga’s most memorable dress by Schiaparelli and Kamala’s Christopher John Rogers purple suit — which rescued the color for the feminist cause and made a move to the reconciliation between republicans (red) and democrats (blue). And we couldn’t forget to mention that, in spite of all the event that is the inauguration of a new American president, what sticked to everyone’ minds were the cold Bernie Sanders was feeling, who didn’t make any effort to hide his tiredness and chose a pair for adorable mittens, made by a teacher (awnnn!). The success of these people online is not, therefore, limited to the ability to produce fun or impactful images; it is the consequence of an authentic speech. As aforementioned: understand-decode-share.

have you signed them yet? Huh? — you know, supported by social networks and a context of accelerated social transformations, the new progressivism has given a new face to the global political debate, bringing up topics such as racial equity and climate justice to the mass media and making the legitimized spheres of power somewhat more accessible. And the attitude of progressive leaders has been, little by little, following this movement.

a touching campaign with a quite scarce fund and a lot of passion. In that year, she became the youngest woman elected to the US Congress. Her name turned into, not by chance, an all-caps symbol, quite easy to become a hashtag. The congresswoman's speeches follow the same pace, with a so perfect timing to the networks that they are reproduced as rap verses in TikTok make-up tutorials — where youth shows, in all its tones, that understands the weight of Alexandria’s Stila red lipstick. And brevity is the lingua franca of generation Z and millennials, as defined by Wired.

streamed Among Us matches to more than 430,000 Twitch users, becoming the author of one of the most watched broadcasts on the platform.

María Arenas, from Tandem studio, the pieces not only contradicted the tones of red and blue traditionally used by Democrats, but also applied a pop treatment in the Norwester font - used in capital letters! - and graphic elements that would make any comic book lover's heart warm. The messages got a slant that accompanied Alexandria's optimistic outlook - a position inspired by Arizona's deputy César Chávez and activist Dolores Huerta, both Hispanics. There was also another important detail in the communication of the then candidate: the presence of texts in Spanish, having the same space of the English parts. The message was delivered: Alexandria's Latinity would not only be proudly taken on, but it would also be a resource to promote dialogues in a fragmented America.

Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American legislator in the country's history, continues with strategies similar to those of her New York friend (from whom she receives skincare tips, how cool is that?). Part of the Squad of racialized congressmen who, in recent years, have been resisting the extreme right movement in the country, in an affronting tone, Omar took advantage of Trump's attacks to create her own slogan. And, due to the performance of her campaign, which prioritizes actions for the black community of Minneapolis, the strategy has paid off.

Isra Hirsi, who is only 18 years old, shows that new progressist strategies have been echoing among new generations. Isra is an environmental activist and Co-Executive Director of the US Youth Climate Strike, a youth movement that seeks to fight for climate justice by encouraging voting, raising awareness of draft laws and reporting companies with bad conduct. Between classes held by video conference and episodes of Criminal Minds, she engages in local actions and shares her knowledge in activism practices at TikTok. The word “practices” here is essential, because with Isra it is all about acting: "You can read all the books you want, but reading books is not going to save lives," she told i-D.

unpretentious choreographies with her mom. Although, in this regard, for the Democratic Party they still go against what is normally followed, in other progressive organizations around the world, this attitude tends to be strengthened.

Erika Hilton, from Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (PSol). After acting as a state co-deputy in a collective mandate headed by Mônica Seixas, she became the first trans and black city councilwoman elected in São Paulo in 2020. Her pop appeal is undeniable: that year, she was the most voted woman in the city and in Brazil. In addition to her concise speeches and her combative posture, she is resourceful with fashion coding spaces, has super colorful feed and dominates the language of memes.

Ofelia Fernandez has become the youngest deputy of Latin America. She won the public eye when she was still a student leader and was asked to present her arguments in favor of legalizing abortion in the country's Chamber of Deputies. She had just voted for president for the first time when she was elected. On social media, Ofelia posts selfies worthy of an Euphoria character. The records of her rally journeys, when she walks with potent black boots, and gather around with cool friends, seem to have just left an indie festival. In her Instagram feed we can find texts that she quickly edits herself in stories and are later on posted to pass the message with agility. The Green Wave tones, the purple attributed to the feminist cause are there; not because of a feed meticulously arranged, but because they are present in Ofelia's daily routine.  There’s no posing, baby shots or the need of captivating puppets. It’s all about Ofelia and her inflammable energy.
quite plastic aesthetic and a cacophonous plea, it is a breath of fresh air to see that we can be guided by people who know and tell where they come from, without any major staging. Because we are done with that, right?