George Santos: a case study on meme-ing politics


Photo via Picryl | Santos served as a U.S. representative for a year before being expelled.

Caroline Bryant
The Southern Editor

When the House of Representatives expelled New York Republican George Santos from Congress on Dec. 1, no one expected him to retaliate by becoming a pop culture icon.

Since his expulsion, his flamboyant personality has taken over social media. When searching Santos’ name on TikTok, the top results are “George Santos Cameos,” “George Santos funny moments” and “George Santos iconic moments.” Videos under these results include him purchasing food for journalists to distract them from asking questions, demanding Congressmen to hold a baby, and most popularly, his Cameo videos. Cameo is an app where customers can purchase personalized video messages from their favorite celebrities.

When booking a Cameo from what he labels himself as a “Former congressional ‘Icon!’” with the nail polish emoji, one can purchase a video message from Santos for $350 (a $150 decrease from December). In an interview on The Point, Santos told host Marcia Kramer that he had made  more money in one week from Cameo than he ever did in one year in Congress.

Despite being indicted with 10 federal charges, the girls and gays love him. And this isn’t the first time this Gen-Z population has glorified a politician’s looks or persona. Take President Joe Biden. When he was elected as president in 2020, a photo of a young Biden in a red button-up resurfaced on the internet and went viral. People started selling T-shirts, stickers, buttons– whatever they could slap the photo onto for profit. Why? Because the girls thought Biden was hot.

If they’re not hot, they become a meme. When former president Donald J. Trump turned himself into a county jail in Georgia, people edited his mugshot to transform him into a “hot Cheeto girl,” with large hoop earrings and long acrylic nails, munching on the cheesy snack. When Republican Senator John Kennedy told anti-police voters to “call a crackhead” in his 2022 campaign ad, TikTokers put funny filters and subtitles over his video.

Even Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd became a viral meme for responding to rising murder rates with “Chill out, drink a 7UP, eat a MoonPie.” A cartoon of Judd with his infamous quote on a T-shirt is now at several stands at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, rising mental health issues, and gun violence becoming a common occurrence, Gen-Z is politically active in hopes of reversing these global issues. That said, one would assume they would take politics and politicians seriously instead of making a joke out of them.

But the FaceTuned memes and endless CapCut edits aren’t created because they don’t care. It’s just how they cope.

“For some people, using memes to convey information can add both meaning and levity to very threatening situations,” clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Manly said in a Teen Vogue article: “Memes and War: Why People Turn to Jokes During Times of Crisis.”

As stated earlier in the article, American politics is frequently memed by Gen-Z because it’s chaotic. To the demographic, something feels like it is always going wrong because there is a lack of Gen-Z representation in politics to share their ideals of how to fix the chaos. 

In 2021, CNN stated the Senate was 50% over the age of 65 years old or older, with 54% being Republican and 65 years or older. That’s the opposite of the liberal, under-26 demographic. No wonder they don’t feel seen.

Since politics is always in the news, it’s quick and easy to make the government laughable. And with some things these politicians say, it’s not that hard. They bring the jokes themselves.

For instance, in a video published by @georgesantoscameo on TikTok, an account that posts a variety of Cameos by Santos, Santos said, “Chris you sick psycho, you want me to yell at you? Are you out of your mind? Have you not seen me lose my mind enough this year…”

Yes, yes they have. That’s why people keep ordering Cameos with funny prompts to make memes.

Gen-Z acknowledges that he’s lied. They acknowledge that he isn’t fit to be a Congressman. Turning Santos into a celebrity makes the mess easier to get past.


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