CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said that she will do whatever it takes to ensure Chicagoans follow the state’s stay-at-home order and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a wave of images and videos spreading online that seem to show her enforcing the order herself, even if it means standing on the Sears Tower or peering suspiciously at an empty Wrigley Field.
Pinning down the origins of a meme can be tricky, but in this case a series of images posted by Chicago native Danny Martinez after Lightfoot ordered the lakefront shut down on March 26 seems to have inspired the trend.
“Man y’all made us lose our lakefront privileges. Got da Lightfoot OUT HERE enforcing,” he wrote in the Facebook post.
Martinez, 27, said he’s been making memes for a while to share with his friends. So when he saw the news about the lakefront closure, he was inspired to show Lightfoot out enforcing it herself.
“I was like man, wouldn’t it be funny if Lori was there, being in all these places at once,” Martinez said. “It’s been pretty crazy, I honestly didn’t think it would get this big.”
Martinez said he was surprised by the pace at which people started sharing his images, and his original Facebook post was shared 25,000 times.
The original image of Lightfoot he used, and which has been appropriated by other meme-makers since, comes from a March 20 press conference where Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state’s stay-at-home order.
Other posts featuring photos of Lightfoot from the press conference actually spread on social media prior to Martinez’s posts, including one by Barstool Sports commenting on her suit and another comparing her current appearance with an older headshot.
“Chicago what did y’all do to this woman,” the post said.
But since they went viral, Martinez’s images of Lightfoot have inspired a wave of copycats. They’ve shown her guarding the Bean in an empty Millennium Park, or peering through a window to startle someone for even thinking about stepping outside.
One of the latest shows Lightfoot staring down the crowds shown in Georges Seurat’s painting “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” (featured in the Art Institute and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), and then shows the park emptied of people.
The memes have attracted the attention of Lightfoot herself, who says she’s enjoys them and even “acted out a few in my household at night.”
“I think this is a really difficult time and people are afraid, the stress levels are high and like at any difficult time, I think we’ve got to have a sense of balance and humor is a big part of it,” Lightfoot said Monday.
Martinez said he’s now posting more images to a dedicated Instagram account. He said it helps him fill the time as he stays inside his Lincolnwood home, following the state’s stay-at-home order while the Apple store he works at remains closed.
“It’s been keeping me busy, and I think it’s been keeping me busy for all the right reasons,” he said.
Because beyond spreading a bit of light online, Martinez said the posts actually reinforce the key message from health experts and even Lightfoot herself: stay inside.
“I like it because not only am I bringing humor to Chicago, all of Illinois, but to spread awareness because at the end of the day, that’s the most important message,” he said.