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Donald Trump’s Nickelback Meme Explained
Remember how, back in 2017, a couple of misguided commentators fell into the habit of dubbing any five minute span that the newly-inaugurated president Trump passed without figuratively crapping himself the occasion on which he truly “became president?” Well, maybe it finally happened, in the sense that he took one small, inconsequential action that summed up the spirit of very dumb, mean, and deeply conspiratorial presidency: He tweeted a Nickleback meme. Here’s everything you need to know about a story that somehow involves the President of the United States, a Canadian rock band, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the bassist from Nirvana.
How did Nickelback become a part of the Trump impeachment controversy?
Eager to defend the now multiple occasions on which Trump appears to have asked foreign powers to interfere in an American election by investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter, the president’s been pushing a thoroughly unfounded theory alleging that Biden used his power as Vice President to protect his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
Nickelback, meanwhile, are a post-grunge band that became a 2000s punchline by becoming the unfortunate poster children for the genre’s widespread but lovable corniness, despite the fact that many of their hits, inducing “How You Remind Me,” “Someday,” and “Rockstar,” are legitimate bops. Their 2005 ode to high school nostalgia, “Photograph,” has become a meme due in part to the hilarity implicit in the fact that it’s a song called “Photograph” whose very first line is, “Look at this photograph.”
The two worlds met when Trump tweeted a meme Wednesday that featured an edited version of the “Photograph” music video. Inserted into the picture frame that frontman Chad Kroeger thrusts towards the camera as he sings, “Look at this photograph,” is an image of Joe and Hunter Biden alongside a man the video identifies as an “Ukraine Gas Exec”—implying that Joe Biden somehow engaged in corruption in the Ukraine. (The man in question is actually an American.)
So what happened next?
The American public only had a few hours to attempt to reckon with the fact that their president had shared a conspiratorial Nickleback meme on Twitter before the video was excised from Trump’s tweet. It seems that the band or its label wasn’t into the idea of having its music video repurposed into a vehicle for misleading the American public, and issued a copyright complaint to have the video removed. A Twitter spokeswoman told ABC News that the company responded “to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives.”
Of course, some Trump supporters were less than pleased to see the video taken down. Original Buffy the Vampire Slayer Kristy Swanson (??) tweeted her outrage.
And then Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic stepped in?
That’s right. The Nirvana bassist has risen to defend Nickelback from political attack. After footage of Fox News commentators mocking the band in the wake of a House-floor debate about its music (a completely real thing that happened this spring) resurfaced Wednesday, Novoselic tweeted his love for the group.
On Thursday, he reiterated his support for them in their Twitter battle with Trump. He was even generous enough to call Nickelback a grunge band.
Aside from earning support of a grunge great, the controversy has another upside for Nickelback—it’s apparently helping Canadians to embrace their much-mocked rock idols.
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.