Kamala Harris laughing with palm trees in the background

Maverick Pictures/Shutterstock Tanya Syrytsyna/Shutterstock (Licensed) Linzi Silverman

Is Kamala Harris’ ‘coconut tree’ video the Biden admin’s most iconic meme?

It raised a few eyebrows, but lives on forever.

 

Marlon Ettinger

Tech

Posted on Feb 25, 2024   Updated on Feb 23, 2024, 9:13 am CST

Kamala Harris hasn’t been the most visible vice president in history—the White House once had to remind people she was still VP—but she has managed to attract a half-ironic, hardcore meme following that sometimes extols and sometimes questions her wackiest moments. The biggest one involves a coconut tree.

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But first some context.

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Kamala was going viral even before Biden picked her for the VP slot—with progressives and leftists dubbing her “Kopmala” while she got raked over the coals for her dicey criminal justice record during her time as California’s attorney general.

Then, there was the K-Hive, an abrasive, hyper-devoted online contingent of Kamala supporters during the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, when Harris ran for the nomination. They frequently clashed with progressive online posters, like supporters of Bernie Sanders’ run, and earned a reputation for not being the most pleasant characters to rumble with.

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Those memes didn’t end when she became second-in-line to the presidency. The first viral moment came when the Biden-Harris campaign filmed a phone call between Harris and Biden after the 2020 race was called in their favor.

“We did it, Joe!” Kamala exclaimed happily on a phone call to Biden. “You’re going to be the next president of the United States.”

That audio got popular on TikTok, with posters subbing it in to celebrate their own anodyne achievements.

Harris has also raised eyebrows for her distinctive, explosive laugh, with many posters highly amused by the arch weirdness and wild abandon of it.   

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Kamala Harris’ coconut tree video, explained

But it’s a Harris speech at a swearing-in ceremony that’s truly captivated the internet.

Speaking to new commissioners of a White House initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics, Harris left everyone ruminating on the very nature of reality. 

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A clip from the speech—which she gave back in May 2023—often goes viral. 

It first hit the internet when a GOP campaign account shared it, deadpanning about her signature laugh.

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“Everything is in context,” Kamala said. “My mother used to—she would give us a hard time sometimes and she would say to us ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you young people. You think you just fell out of a coconut tree? You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.’”

On Feb. 9, @evil_female reposted the clip and it started going viral again—this time provoking a slew of existential and abstract memes.

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“This video is literally like medicine to me,” @evil_female posted. “i watch it once every week or two and every time i do i get an enduring hit of light euphoria for the next 45 minutes”

The idea conveyed in the speech, that we don’t just spring from anywhere, but are the product of our environments, an abstract, psychedelic take on Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” moment, was ripe for deadpan weird-posting.

Posters used the funny formulation to riff, remixing it with other memes like a Wojack standing in the corner of a party; rage comic UN workers bursting into a wide-eyed troll face’s holdout demanding he come out and exist in context; and an angry soy-faced nerd insisting to a beatific Kamala that he fell out of a coconut tree, with her calmly rejoindering that he exists in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.

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While plenty of people have laughed at the remark, the chill vibe and airy philosophy of the phrase had some of her critics imagining a new role for her.

“I think the most societally beneficial thing for kamala to do is to exit politics (no one wants the Top Cop of california!) and become an ativan-fueled daytime talk show host on a streaming service no one watches,” proposed @evil_female. “Her parents rule though.”

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*First Published: Feb 25, 2024, 8:00 am CST
 

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