By Kathryn Nicassio
About and origin
Why settle for Justin Trudeau just to avoid a Conservative government when one could “dream big” and vote for real change? And why should Trudeau be the progressive choice this time around when NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is just as electable? These are some of the questions NDP supporters wanted progressive voters to consider before hitting the polls in October.
The selected meme refers to the iconic moment in the 2004 hit film Mean Girls when Gretchen Wieners finally “cracks” and loses her cool while presenting her essay on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In this context, Caesar represents Regina George, the undisputed ruler and Queen Bee of North Shore High who leads the popular gang “The Plastics”. But Regina is not Queen by rights – as her arch nemesis and former bff Janis Ian tells Cady (the protagonist) at the beginning of the film, “Regina George is an evil dictator”. Enter Gretchen, who sees herself as Brutus, the man who is credited with freeing Rome from Caesar’s tyrannical rule.
Although Mean Girls memes are plentiful on social media, the six-panel format of this object-label meme is not included on Know Your Meme. It is similar to the six-panel version of the “American chopper” meme most often used to “humorously illustrate various debates in pop culture fandom”. According to Know Your Meme, it is often used to depict political disagreements in an increasingly polarized political atmosphere.
Context and circulation
The “We should totally just reject Justin!” meme appeared on the Facebook page Leftist Memes for New Democrat Teens. 418 posts were published on the page between September 30th and October 28th, making it by far the most active pro-NDP meme page in the sample of this project. The meme was posted on October 7th, 2019, one day after the first English debate which was a success for the NDP’s leading candidate. According to the CBC, surveys by Leger, Abacus Data and the Innovative Research Group (IRG) pegged Singh as the winner of the debate and found that he had “impressed more people than he disappointed”. The positive reception of Singh’s performance lead to predictions that the Liberals or the Conservatives would need to form a minority government after the election, and strategic voting and vote splitting became important topics of conversation following the debate.
The original meme was captioned “Gretchen said vote NDP” and was shared 149 times. Comments on the posts, while favourable, still showed the majority of commentators were uncertain about Jagmeet Singh’s chances to win.
Both the context (the Mean Girls plot) and the subcontext (Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) give this meme a dramatizing effect. That is, it tells viewers a story about Trudeau and Singh through the characters Gretchen Wieners and Regina George as well as the characters Caesar and Brutus. It doesn’t get more dramatic than comparing Trudeau to the self-proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity” of the Roman Empire, and Singh to the man who conspired to assassinate him for the good of his country. In this context Singh is cast as the hero Canadians need to save them from the “dictatorship” of Trudeau. While Trudeau was elected democratically in 2015, most NDP supporters point to the fact that he won a majority with less than 39% of the popular vote. Moreover, Trudeau campaigned on electoral reform only to abandon the idea once he was elected. Indeed, that broken promise drew criticism from Canadians across the political spectrum. Singh, on the other hand, has championed electoral reform, even putting it to a referendum in British Columbia in 2018. Keeping that in mind, the comparison between Trudeau and Caesar, although dramatic, is a fairly accurate depiction of the general sentiment of NDP supporters towards Trudeau as a leader.
In the context of the Mean Girls plot, the comparison of Trudeau to Regina George and Singh to Gretchen Wieners is spot on. Regina is the Queen Bee of North Shore High. In the scene depicted in the meme, Gretchen finally loses her patience with Regina and questions why Regina gets to “stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smushed under [her] big feet?”. Regina George, like Trudeau, has a reputation for being good-looking and arrogant. Trudeau’s good looks and alleged arrogance are often the topic of conversation for his critics, evidenced by the many articles and op-eds written on the topic. A Canada.com article titled “Justin Trudeau’s good looks expected to cover up other weaknesses” argues that Trudeau’s looks make up for his incompetence in the eyes of voters, who seem to subconsciously equate his attractiveness to trustworthiness. Similarly, Regina George’s beauty is key to her status as Queen Bee of the school.
The “We Should Totally Just Reject Justin!” meme clearly exemplified the primary concern and general sentiment of NDP voters. They felt that it was time to challenge the status quo and elect a candidate with genuinely progressive policies instead of strategically voting for Trudeau simply because he is regarded as the lesser of two evils. Although that didn’t translate to votes for the NDP, the depiction of Trudeau as the dictator and Singh as the hero represented a key narrative among NDP supporters in the run-up to the election. Through this narrative, they tried to appeal to other NDP supporters to not “vote strategically”, and to cast Jagmeet Singh as the more competent candidate, despite his underdog status.
 Mean Girls. Paramount Pictures, 2004.
 Grenier, Eric. “Polls Say Singh Won the English Debate, but Tonight the Pressure Is Back on Bloc Leader Blanchet”, CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, October 10, 2019.
 Zussman, Richard. “British Columbians Reject Proportional Representation, Vote to Stay with First-Past-the-Post.” Global News, December 21, 2018.
 Mean Girls, 2004.
 Some examples include an opinion piece in The Star titled “Liberals won despite Justin Trudeau, who is as arrogant as ever” or a piece in the Edmonton Sun titled “Trudeau’s arrogance knows no bounds”.
 Berthiaume, Lee. “Justin Trudeau’s Good Looks Expected to Cover up Other Weaknesses.” Canada.com, September 2012.