Once upon a time, at the onset of the covid pandemic, Americans looking for leadership and comfort amid a terrifying global event believed they had found it in former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his daily televised briefings. Many of his thirstier supporters also found a sex symbol in the now-disgraced governor—who would later be accused of sexual misconduct by a handful of women and forced to resign—and began referring to themselves as “Cuomosexuals.”
Americans unfortunately did not learn from that disaster and are now, amid the ongoing, devastating war that Russia has inflicted on Ukraine, expressing their support for the country under attack by openly lusting after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky on social media. One now-viral tweet from Sunday announced, “BREAKING: every woman in your life now has at least a small crush on Volodymyr Zelenskyy and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.” Since last week, TikTok has become overrun with “fan-cams,” or video compilations thirsting for Zelensky.
I can understand the mass, digital appeal of the Ukrainian president on some level: A video he posted of himself and other Ukrainian government officials outside in the streets of Kyiv declaring, “We are here. We are in Kyiv. We are defending Ukraine,” in response to rumors that he had fled the city, emitted undeniable, viral star power. But at some point, Americans have to move past our shallow, childish politics of expressing support for causes or political figures exclusively through sexualizing and lionizing individuals like Zelensky. Specific to the case at hand, we should also probably steer away from making light of an actual war, in which scores of people have already died and been injured, via thirsty memes about a president whose country is being overrun with bombs and Russian soldiers.
Believe it or not, there are ways to support a political cause like the global anti-war movement and to support people being subjected to actual war crimes beyond publicly declaring that you’re DTF their state leader. There are certainly reasons to oppose war, anywhere and everywhere, and support the most vulnerable people being impacted and displaced by wars, beyond self-proclaimed sexual attraction to Mr. Zelensky. Alas, instead of sharing a remixed fan-cam of the president’s video from the streets of Kyiv, have you considered instead donating to crisis relief funds helping Ukrainian civilians and refugees?
As of early Monday, the estimated death toll of Ukrainian civilians stands at 102, but experts believe it’s likely much higher. I wish I didn’t have to explicitly say this, but declaring the Ukrainian president an international sex symbol does not help the Ukrainian people, even remotely.
There are obvious pros and cons to the social media age, but the cons have been particularly glaring since Russia invaded Ukraine—one such con is the average, nihilistic Gen-Z meme-maker’s inability to read the room. Beyond Zelensky TikToks, there’s been no shortage of posts with strong sexual overtones imploring Russia’s “Vladdy Daddy” to call off the war, please and thank you, and I daresay all of it is pretty inappropriate right now.
That the war in Ukraine is drawing massive, global attention to the extent that thirst memes have arisen is quite notable in itself, considering the scale of atrocities in nonwhite and particularly Black and brown countries—often at the hands of the US and other western superpowers—that rarely inspire outraged Instagram infographics. But here we are, with our social media feeds overrun with tweets about how hard Zelensky slays in uniform!
Americans—and especially liberal Americans—need to stop pinning all of their hope, and certainly all of their lust, to one specific person, and instead support a robust anti-war movement to help anyone who’s displaced and harmed.