The Brief: A growing movement to make Manny from Diary Of A Wimpy Kid the new face of the American flag seeks to trigger Fox News while spreading anti-racist activism.

Bluesquiggle
DEEP DIVE

Since Manny, a character from Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, has become an activist, anti-racist, and revolutionary symbol for young people both online and off, there is a growing movement to change the American flag to feature Manny. Although this movement is large, it’s mostly spreading ironically, as a hoax to fool Fox News and Trump supporters.

A Change.org petition to change the American flag to feature The Manny has received over 1.13 million signatures. The description of the petition states that “Our flag is outdated, doesn’t portray a good message, and frankly, is ugly looking. Generation Z has developed this prototype for our flag as we dive into our future of the U.S.A.” The petition explains that Manny has replaced the stars and stripes because he “symbolizes unity, justice, and being unproblematic,” that the top left corner has been changed to black because BLACK LIVES MATTER, and that “the red stripes have been replaced with yellow stripes to symbolize happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, and intellect.” It also calls for the national anthem to be changed to Black and Yellow by Wiz Khalifa in honor of the flag’s new colors.

On his TikTok page, Will Wahony, the author of the Change.org petition posted a video urging his followers to spread the word about the Manny Flag to prank Fox News into making a story about Gen Z trying to change the American flag.

@wahony

let’s do it 🙂

♬ original sound – wahony

People have been changing their profile pictures to the Manny Flag and spreading buzz on social media about the Manny Flag. The Anonymous Twitter account @YourAnonCentral tweeted a link to the petition and Fox News has allegedly been in touch with at least one Twitter user about potentially covering the story. This prank echoes the actions that groups of young people have been taking online including TikTokers signing up en masse to Trump’s Tulsa rally and stans spamming police snitch platforms with K-pop fancams.

@wahony

probably the most important video i’ve ever made.

♬ original sound – wahony

The website mannyflag.org urges visitors to sign petitions and donate funds related to racial justice efforts and includes a section titled “How Gen Z Can Make A Difference,” providing concrete steps on how young people can get politically involved and make their voices heard.

One prominent criticism of this online campaign is that it is framing Black Lives Matter as a meme and punchline of a joke rather than a serious movement. Will Wahony addressed this directly on Twitter, writing “i just wanted to show everyone how powerful we are as a generation. i never meant to do any harm or make a joke out of BLM. i am sorry. i wanted the manny flag to be a symbol, not a meme. i’m sorry 😔.” He went on to tweet “people wouldn’t have cared at all if it wasn’t a meme at first. now i’m GETTING PEOPLE TO CARE through the meme. it’s not distracting the people who already cared about BLM, it’s bringing in new people interested in making change.”

There’s no doubt that Manny and his accompanying flag are gaining mass attention, demonstrating the collective power of young people on the internet. Efforts to make The Manny a new symbol of the United States aren’t actually about changing the flag or national anthem, but about trolling conservative leaders and news outlets while emphasizing how powerful and widespread anti-racist sentiments are.  The debate as to whether or not the meme-aspect of The Manny undermines the political elements of the movement highlights how in 2020, memes and politics are increasingly intertwined and the lines between the sincere and the ironic are blurred.