People in real life and on the internet are going nuts over the nutless statue of Donald Trump, which appeared in a handful of cities all across the U.S. The plaque at the statue's feet reads, "The Emperor has No Balls"
I got excited. I took a photo of the statue, conveniently installed by anarchist art collective INDECLINE a block away from The Stranger's offices on 11th and Pike. I laughed at it. I couldn't Instagram that photo fast enough. I've seen dozens more just like mine.
But what were we laughing at, exactly?
It's clear the artist, Joshua Monroe, is referencing Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes" in the title. He frames Trump as the foolhardy emperor in that story, a man so deluded as to think he's wearing clothes woven from a fabric so fine it's invisible to the unworthy, when in reality, as the song goes, he's altogether as naked as the day that he was born.
Some of the story's elements correspond to Trump's character: He's vain, and he's deluded about the degree to which his attempts to appear strong ultimately reveal his weakness. He SAYS he's powerful, and that he's a builder, and that he's assertive, and even that he has a big dick. In reality, though, he's an insecure, opportunistic bully who has tapped a vein of racial and economic unrest in a segment of white America that feels so left behind in the Obama era that even Trump's lies sound like salvation. He also appears to be losing, which makes it ironic that he's always calling other people losers.
The statue represents these ironies by positing Trump as a fat eunuch with a micropenis.
The statue is cathartic. It shows me what I already assume about Trump from listening to him. It affirms my understanding of reality.
I'm laughing because his body looks ridiculous. He has no balls and a tiny penis. He has old and veiny skin. His fat belly hangs down over his barren pelvis. Also, he's wearing a stupid hat (added to the statue, it's rumored, by a local street artist). Make America Cum Again? HA! I won't be coming anytime soon while looking at that!
But "that" is a fat man, naked, in public. And a fat man out in public is funny and/or vulnerable, not virile, not sexy. And being fat is funny and/or vulnerable because it's less than the ideal. The ideal is a gym-sculpted body. Or a skinny body. A normal body.
And having a micro-penis is funny because it's less than the ideal. The ideal is having a giant penis. Real men don't have small penises. Especially not tiny little embarrassing ones that explain why they're racist demagogues.
And being veiny and pasty is funny because it's less than the ideal. The ideal is a youthful, tan body fresh from the beach. He shouldn't be outside showing off that old, saggy skin!
Brilliant. Hilarious. As Tacocat reminds us, this is anarchy.
Now that the joke is good and dead, it's easy to see that the joke rests on assumptions about what men should look like. But we know better than this joke. We know a person's gender is unrelated to their genitals. We know that no one should shame anyone just for looking the way they do.
And we also know that Trump is not an emperor. He's not even, metaphorically, the emperor from Hans Christian Anderson's "The Emperor's New Clothes." In that story, con men made the "clothes" for the emperor. He was tricked by outsiders who were counting on the emperor's royal vanity, but also his small mindedness. For the analogy to work, Trump wouldn't be the emperor. He'd be the swindlers.
I'm not personally offended by any of these things—the body-shaming, the backhanded insult to the trans community and to women, the gender restrictive expectations for men—but it's easy to see that nearly every element of the statue rests on harmful stereotypes. All stereotypes are cliches, and cliches make bad art. The piece fails on its own terms. It's made using Trump's sense of humor, Trump's aesthetic texture, Trump's sensibility. It makes us all into Trump supporters.
(Side note: If that's the point of the work, then I take everything back—it's WAY more sophisticated than it appears.)
We dislike Trump because he's stupid and venal, because he's insensitive to the needs and feelings of others, because he's erratic, and because he appears to have no principles or scruples of any kind. If we laugh at him because he's fat, and because his penis could be small, and because he's got old veiny skin, then we're simply doing what he does when he mocks people.
If we ridicule him in effigy on these terms, we lose a bit of our moral right to shun him for ridiculing others on similar terms.
In a speech he gave last night, his putative "pivot speech," Trump said, "I've never been politically correct, it takes far too much time."
Guess what: That time is important. It's worth taking. Though we may not always succeed at first, we take it. That's the difference between us and him. It should be, anyway.
According to The Daily Beast, Monroe, plans to start work on a similar statue of Hillary Clinton. How many selfies am I going to take next to the mutilated genitals of our likely first woman president? How loud will I laugh at the naked, aged, woman's body sculpted by a man?
There's only one thing to do if that Trump statue returns from its hidey hole in the No Parking store. We need to own it. The only responsible way to pose for a selfie with that thing from now on is stark naked, with a supportive arm around its shoulder.
Failing that, and in honor of the Seattle I know and love, we should plaster the statue in show flyers, band stickers, and bodily secretions.
It would still be shitty art, but at least it would be better than it is.