It appears that the Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty has become an icon of the left:
Last week, a headline on neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer read like something from an alternate universe: “Alt-Right Icon Gritty Seeks to Follow Adolf Hitler’s Footsteps and Become Time’s 2018 Man Of The Year”. It was at least the third piece the site has posted in the last month proclaiming Gritty – the googly-eyed, giant, orange, hockey-playing monster mascot for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers – as a symbol of the far right.
As it happens, the Daily Stormer is playing catch-up, in reality trying to re-appropriate Gritty as a symbol – to take him away from their ideological opponents on the left. Because, you see, Gritty was already a partisan. Gritty, this smiling muppety nightmare on skates, is antifa.
When Gritty was unveiled in September, the immediate reaction was horror and revulsion (including from this very publication). But within hours, the tide began to turn, thanks largely to Gritty’s early Twitter activity – particularly when he told cross-state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins to “Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird” – as well as his instant visual meme-ability. The gigantic face, the wide mouth set in a permanently crazed smile, and the massive swirling eyeballs made Gritty a grotesque underdog in a social media world of aesthetic perfection. He is hideous, yes, but one cannot help love him for it – recalling for many hockey fans the historically rough-and-tumble Flyers, or, for others, the city of Philadelphia itself and its famously aggressive sports fans. His entrance to the Flyers’ first home game of the season further solidified his status as a sympathetic destructive force: he came in on a wrecking ball.
Then, very quickly, Gritty’s relationship to hockey, or sports, fell by the wayside. Into the mix, another underdog cause attached itself to Gritty: the political left.
A few days after Gritty first appeared, Jacobin magazine, a socialist publication, tweeted simply: “Gritty is a worker.” Whether it was this tweet which sparked what has come since, or whether Jacobin caught on very early to Gritty’s leftist memeification is difficult to ascertain, but in the weeks since, Gritty’s image has been used by anti-fascist protesters, anti-Trump protesters, and in countless left-wing memes.
I am amused, and completely flummoxed.