From The DesMoines Register – How this ‘crying liberal’ Iowan became a worldwide meme for those gloating over Trump’s win. Turns out she now lives in Sydney. Here’s the story.
I’ve seen the face of the loser.
I’ve seen the face of dejected Hillary Clinton supporters everywhere.
I’ve seen the look of utter horror at the prospect of living at least four years under the presidency of Donald Trump.
That face has a name: Janna DeVylder.
Yes, DeVylder, 42, who grew up in Council Bluffs and now lives and works on the other side of the globe in Sydney, Australia, has become the international symbol of the inconsolable popular-vote winners of our presidential election. (Online she was zinged as the “poster child for the mentally insane Hillary snowflakes.”)
In other words, she has spent the last two months as one of the world’s most popular political memes.
She’s the face of blue-Democrat America that saw what seemed like a sure claim to the White House slip away in the deep-red rural counties and the Electoral College.
DeVylder has lived a surreal, virtual double life as her meme of infinite varieties has spread far and wide across the internet.
I tried to get Reuters, the photo’s owner, to let us publish the photo in print, to no avail. But just Google “crying liberals” and you’ll see it. DeVylder’s face pops up probably as the very first image: She’s wearing cobalt blue eyeglasses, pearl earrings and a matching necklace and a homemade Hillary pin. She even purchased a secondhand gray pinstripe pantsuit just for the occasion. Oh, and you can’t miss her festive red, white and blue top hat.
But the first thing you notice is her convulsed posture and anguished expression. Her shoulders droop forward, while her head is flung back. Her eyes are scrunched shut. Her mouth hangs open in a frown, and you can’t help but imagine hearing her pitiful moan.
The photo was snapped on Nov., 8, Election Day (although because of the time difference technically it already was the next day in Australia). DeVylder, as if you couldn’t tell from her getup, had voted absentee for Clinton. She holds dual citizenship.
She and some friends attended an election viewing party at the University of Sydney. DeVylder was so excited that she took the day off work — made easier by the fact that she’s her own boss. She and her husband run their own design firm with a third business partner.
DeVylder expected a low-key event. What she got was a teeming throng of hundreds of American expats and curious Aussies packed into a room with a giant video screen, CNN sponsorship and Trump supporters chanting, “Lock her up!” So she did the only sensible thing: She grabbed the free plastic hat offered at the door and dove headlong into the fray.
DeVylder’s pantsuit and general look made her a magnet for multiple TV and radio interviews. But initially she didn’t notice all the photographers who had staked out the crowd, including Jason Reed of Reuters.
His was the perceptive eye that captured DeVylder’s reaction — not to the final result but merely to Trump’s win of an early state. And like a dutiful news photographer, he quickly filed it for his editors.
Not more than 90 minutes later, as DeVylder still sat in the very same seat in Sydney, she received a message from her friend Matt back in Davenport, Ia.: I think I just saw your face come up on Yahoo News, he told her.
In a relative eye blink she had been zapped around the globe. And little did she know that that was only the beginning.
To be fair, Reed’s original caption was rather innocuous, and didn’t include DeVylder’s name: “Supporters of U.S Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton react as a state is called in favour of her opponent, Republican candidate Donald Trump, during a watch party for the U.S. Presidential election, at the University of Sydney in Australia, November 9, 2016.”
Reed himself has shot photos in Iowa, but never has he had a photo reach so far, so fast.
“I was surprised to see the amount of interest in this image considering the sheer number of similar pictures being taken across the United States on that day,” he wrote to me in an email.
When the photo seeped into social media and the political blogosphere, it took on a life of its own. It seemed to reduce Trump’s surprise victory to a single frame and face perfect for attracting schadenfreude.
Her “conservative friends in the Midwest,” DeVylder said, “who visit different websites than I do, kept seeing it come up.”
Some of the captions and headlines paired with DeVylder’s face:
“When everyone gets a trophy … you don’t know how to lose.”
“Best pics of distraught Hillary voters from last night as they sob and lay in fetal positions. Run to your safe spaces!!! Trump is president!”
“Classes canceled to allow college students to ‘cope’ with shock of Trump’s win” (DeVylder, a mom to two sons and two stepdaughters, is happy to pass for an undergrad.)
Conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham tweeted DeVylder’s photo with the quip, “To think we had 18 year olds taking Omaha Beach, at Battle of Chosin, Ardennes ….”
DeVylder, who was lured to Australia by a job and made a life there, may even end up on T-shirts and coffee mugs in Texas.
This is made all the funnier because she wasn’t crying in the photo. As she put it, she was just “a bit expressive.”
But that doesn’t matter because the image managed to unwittingly capture DeVylder’s general feelings about the election. And she likes it. She told Reed as much via email.
DeVylder probably was one of the perfect people to fall victim to this meme: She’s a practical, thoughtful and somewhat bemused Iowan with a psychology degree from the University of Iowa who finds all this utterly fascinating.
Not only has she taken it in stride, she has blogged about it.
She considers it a teachable moment.
“You realize how easy it is to take your eye off the ball,” she said of how complacent she had gotten about her politics, “and you expect that other people are doing things that will keep the status quo that you appreciate, and that the progressive cause is a cause that will just keep going.”
In retrospect DeVylder said that she attended the party feeling a little cocky, expecting to toast a win.
“Even when you think things are good from your point of view that doesn’t mean you can stop working at it,” she said. “That’s a life lesson, right?”
Instead of getting mad, she retaliated by posting her own versions of her meme:
“I’m not crying because we lost. I’m not crying because there’s no trophy. I’m crying because we are losing our collective humanity.”
“Crying, for the lessons of history have yet to be learned.”
“Realizing that this election has brought out the worst in us.”
“The moment she realized we don’t even try to understand each other anymore.”
Just when DeVylder thought her face had been plastered in every corner of the web, it erupted again when Sean Hannity shared it on Facebook at the end of the year, with the timely message: “The Electoral College electing Trump is unfair … says the party that used ‘super delegates’ to elect Hillary.”
Here again, DeVylder tends to get analytical, not defensive. Her meme life has left her feeling that conservatives and liberals alike can be hypocrites. Everybody has confirmation bias. We all love to feel smug in victory.
“We fight in some instances for inclusion and open arms,” she said of her half of the political spectrum, “and yet we draw lines when it comes to people who may be conservative.”
But even for the nicest of Iowans, at some point introspection becomes annoyance. DeVylder would like to think that her digital doppelganger has expired, but she expects to endure at least one more round.
“I’m anticipating that it will be used again for the inauguration,” she sighed. “You just know it will.”
That’s a safe bet for Jan. 20. At the very least, DeVylder seems to have rekindled her political fire. In blogging about the incident, she publicly committed herself to a laundry list of next steps, including:
- “I will not find joy and boast in other people’s sorrows.”
- “I will model for my children the way I would hope they would conduct themselves.”
- “I will not fight hate with hate.”
- “I will work to ensure more young people engage and vote.”
- And she ended with a question: “What will you do?”
Who said no good could come from a mean-spirited meme?
I hope we can continue to gloat come November. Otherwise they will have to exchange my face for hers.