Into The Gritty-Verse

A few weeks ago I was in Philadelphia for a work-related trip, and when people learned that I research and write about memes, they often wanted to talk to me about Gritty. For those of you who may not know, Gritty debuted in late September 2018 as the new mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers. Just a month later, the ice-skating orange monster was formally welcomed to the city in a resolution that “honor[ed] the spirit and passion that Gritty has brought to the City of Philadelphia and to the entire country, both on and off the ice.” While he appears at first glance to be nothing more than an overgrown orange Muppet, he is described here as a “non-binary leftist icon” and “a source of joyful comic respite in a time of societal upheaval.” Gritty has earned accolades that other public figures would kill to receive in their lifetimes.

And these sentiments are not just uttered confidently and without embarrassment by city council members hoping to ride the coattails of a new local hero. In the new issue of Artforum. a “Year in Review” featuring Gritty on the cover, deputy editor Elizabeth Schambelan talks about how the mascot “elicits the full gamut of emotions,” how this “anticlown” seems “a fitting mascot” for 2018, “a realistic representation” of our never-ending unreality. In a comprehensive write-up for The Ringer on Gritty’s origins, his makers, and his later recontextualizations as antifa meme monster, Michael Baumann notes that Gritty “is all things to all people.”

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