Why Is Everyone Talking About Bodegas Again?

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.
Andrew Yang’s mayoral campaign, which just began this week, is already off to an interesting start. Moments after announcing that he hopes to become New York’s next mayor, he explained that he doesn’t live in the city full-time, because “can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment and then trying to do work yourself?” That was strike one: many New York City parents immediately pointed out on Twitter that they can and do manage this. Now, the internet is once again imploring Yang to drop out of the race for sharing another egregious New York take online. This one is debatably even more personal: it’s about bodegas.
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On Friday, Yang shared an odd video that is, ostensibly, a tribute of sorts to the staple New York institution. “New York City loves its bodegas!” he wrote. “The 14,000 bodegas are vital to our city — let’s support them and keep them open.” Somehow making the situation even worse, he punctuated the tweet with a Statue of Liberty emoji. 
In the video, Yang, who appears to be in a very upscale boutique grocery store, picks up two bottles of iced tea and elbows someone hidden from the camera. “How you doing, bro?” he asks. He proceeds to muse over some bananas, decide to purchase four, and pay for his items while discussing his love for bodegas. “Can you imagine a New York City without bodegas?” he says, turning towards the camera. “I can’t imagine. Let’s not have to.”
There is a lot to unpack here, from Yang’s odd meal choice to the cringey dialogue. But the biggest source of discussion is the location, which appears to be… a midtown deli? A small supermarket? A New York equivalent to LA's infamous Erewhon? Many people have cited its high-quality lighting, wide aisles, and stocked shelves as evidence that Yang is not at a real bodega. Obviously, there is also no cat in sight. Obviously products are lined on shelves in a sensible, easy-to-find way. This is not a bodega.
The video immediately spawned memes, jokes, and annoyance. Several users on Twitter shared images of their own “favorite bodegas,” including Target, Costco, and 7-Eleven.
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But this isn't the first time "bodega" has been a trending subject. In fact, the discourse around bodegas seems to bubble up every few months. Just last month, writer Alison Leiby went viral when she asked non-New Yorkers where they purchase supposed bodega staples like paper towels, Diet Cokes, and M&Ms. Although the tweet was intended to be a joke about impulse purchases, people outside of the city criticized Leiby for sounding pretentious and clueless. People in the city questioned whether she really understands what makes bodegas special. And people everywhere noted that you can find all three of those items at any grocery store or Walgreens.
In response to the backlash, Yang simply wrote, “Haha I love New York.” (I guess in an attempt to appear in on the joke?) Depending on who you ask, the internet might have helped Yang’s presidential campaign, but this is New York. He’s going to have to switch tactics.

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