Whichever one of Chris Cillizza's nephews showed the CNN editor-at-large the Leeroy Jenkins video last weekend has some serious explaining to do.
In Cillizza's latest expedition into 2005's biggest memes, he uncovered a bizarre similarity between the classic World of Warcraft raid video "Leeroy Jenkins" and the Trump administration's attempts to reopen the American economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. The article, "How we 'Leeeeroy Jenkins'-ed the coronavirus reopening," features Cillizza mustering up enough How Do You Do, Fellow Kids energy to confuse the issue.
"'Leroy Jenkins' is the perfect way to understand how we got to a place," writes Cillizza, "where 48 of the 50 states will be at least partially reopened by May 17 despite the fact that very few of them have met the federal guidelines for reopening."
"Once Leroy -- er, I mean Kemp -- had run through that reopening doorway, the other governors had no choice but to follow."
What he's trying to say is that we're opening up too early and that a Leeroy Jenkins, in this case, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, ran full-speed into the raid without waiting for the rest of team, dragging the other governors with him. Of course, this is not exactly true. Not only because "other governors" had other choices, but more to the point, the Leeroy Jenkins video was famously staged, a fact Cillizza doesn't mention until the end of his essay.
"The Point: So, yeah, we Leroy Jenkins-ed the reopening of our country. Except that the people involved in that video later admitted it was all staged and fake. This reopening is all too real."
Um…ok. Cillizza's false equivalency between Leeroy Jenkins and the coronavirus reopening is a gold medal in mental gymnastics. He forces the metaphor (metaphorces?) without considering what's actually happening in the Leeroy Jenkins video. Leeroy just wants to fight. To quote Michael Mann's Heat, "The action is the juice." That's the joke. He wants to fight and drags his teammates down with him. Meanwhile, in reality, thousands of people have died due to this "Leeroy Jenkins-ing." While the video might be good for a tweet response to the announcement that businesses will reopen, potentially infecting customers with the coronavirus, things fall apart when nuance enters the equation.
Memes are great at expressing one specific emotion, which makes them perfectly suited for social media. They can communicate a broad idea, but in Cillizza's attempt to dig a little deeper and extend this analogy, he conflates the deaths of more than a hundred thousand people with a fake Warcraft raid. It begs the question: What was the purpose of the metaphor again? Is it to engage younger readers? Show some authority over the internet lexicon? Entertain people? Why do this at all? How is this stretched metaphor about Leeroy Jenkins better than saying "governors are opening too early."
After posting his piece, many online have pointed this out to Mr. Cillizza
hundreds of thousands of people are dead
— nuanced opinion guy (@charles_kinbote) May 11, 2020
— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) May 11, 2020
— Dope Tugging Knobs for Biden (@LizardRumsfeld) May 11, 2020
Chris Cillizza was 29 years old when the Leeroy Jenkins thing happened. It was so funny to him that he still thinks about it in his mid-40s.
— ➰ (@MoonCalledMoon) May 11, 2020
muting chris cillizza and leeroy jenkins
— matilda the hun (@mat1ildathehun) May 11, 2020
This isn't the first time Chris Cillizza has waded in the meme waters. Two months ago, he made an extremely timely video about how 2020 would be the meme election year, pointing to such current memes as One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor and Thanks Obama as examples. Again, whichever one of Cillizza's nephews showed him MemeCenter really needs to step forward.