That Trump Statue (And Varying Reactions)

CW: Discussion of current events in the context of certain forms of sexual violence.

I know most people who read this blog already know the statue to which I refer. Skip past the next pgph if you already know. But for those not in the know, and for those who might find this post a year or so from now and have forgotten (bless!), here’s a recap:

An artist/activist group called INDECLINE commissioned a statue of Donald Trump and put copies of the statue up in several large cities in America. The statue was a representation of the subject in a stance of power, while also making guesstimates as to what his naked body looks like. The statue was titled ‘The Emperor Has No Balls’ and expressed a vision of Trump’s nudity that included pink manicured nails (and, oddly enough, a Masonic ring) on the hands folded over his large belly, dark blue veins visible under his skin, curly gold pubic hair and a penis about thumb-size. No scrotum. It has been the source of public comment and mockery for a week now.

I’m having a pretty tough time with this one. There is so much that is drastically wrong with the sculpture that has been covered better than I can formulate. Encouraging people to body-shame, encouraging toxic POVs about human worth in relation to their physical existence, encouraging the imaginative plunder of someone’s privacy. At the same time, I am a fierce believer in free speech in art, and this sculpture is, despite my revulsion, art. (Sorry, The Guardian. You’re wrong about your categorization.) It’s also art that might have changed the artist from a Trump supporter to a Johnson supporter, per an article by Nicole Levy.  I don’t know how true it is – seems kind of convenient but there are plenty of times I hadn’t heard something dreadful about a public figure.  So two fundamental rights are at opposition – the right to privacy (including the right of publicity) and the right to free speech.

If I look at it only from the POV of the rights, I cannot choose between them. The cognitive dissonance just grows. However, I have a ton of comparisons I can make that angles me in various directions. I’ve thought through a lot of the ones that are out there on the think pieces I’ve seen (particular thanks to The Stranger and Slate) but they’re still not quite enough to make the dissonance go away.

The one that sticks in my craw? The one that pushes me fully to “this is too fucked up?” The one I haven’t seen so far, which is why I’m writing this now?

This reminds me a LOT of revenge porn. A lot a lot a lot.

Someone doesn’t like what an ex did/said/whatever so boom, nude pics go up on a site/usenet channel/etc with mocking commentary and sometimes their personal info. When this became a thing online, there were no specific laws about it, so it was super-tough to get the content taken down. Since then, 34 states and DC have created laws against it, along with Canada, the UK, and a few other countries … which kind of shows you how much is out there. The impulse to humiliate those with whom we’re angry by displaying their nudity is a sickening one, and right now, unlike people who are victims of revenge porn in the US, Trump has little recourse to get these images off the ‘net because they’re NEWS.  That’s a violation of privacy I can’t stomach.

Pardon me while I go puke at the thought.

(For those who like the statue and don’t understand how I feel – imagine that’s your dad on that pedestal, there. And there’s no way he can get those images off the news websites we all read.)

What’s more sickening is that I felt such deep sympathy for Trump for having this representation out there – not that there’s anything wrong with the naked body, regardless of configuration, but that he was stripped* of the choice to reveal it or not, and to whom. This is a guy who I think of as one of the most awful humans of my generation, so to feel that level of sympathy and compassion for him was grosser than I ever thought it would be.

‘Scuse me again. *retch*

So, yeah, THANKS INDECLINE. You’ve made me feel sympathy for someone you call a monster. I don’t think that’s the result you wanted.

Now I’m off to watch the Tragically Hip’s last concert… *sob*

 

(* I swear to all gods I didn’t mean this as a pun when I first wrote it.)

3 thoughts on “That Trump Statue (And Varying Reactions)

  1. If a work of art evokes any kind of emotional reaction, I would think it has succeeded. There’s no such thing as a right or wrong reaction, except boredom on the part of a viewer. You can have sympathy for the monster (or horror movies wouldn’t exist), also for his victims, and even be impressed by the creative courage and sense of irony it takes to body shame one of the biggest body shamers alive.

    I do have sympathy for the fact that this upset you, but that’s treatable, not a permanent impairment. It’s not a realistic depiction of anyone, even if we know who it is supposed to represent. It’s a 3D political cartoon. We should have satirical naked statues of ALL candidates, every election year. They aren’t gods, and mere representations of nudity shouldn’t be regarded as important. They aren’t in other countries, or historically. In Rome I saw ancient explicit cartoons on walls belittling the sex habits of Julius Caesar.

    • Oh, I’m not saying it didn’t succeed as art. Thus my comment re: The Guardian. What I’m saying is that there IS no creative courage in what they did. There’s also no irony. It’s the basest instinct they succumbed to. And no, it IS a realistic depiction of some bodies. There are bodies like this. So it’s like photoshopping his head onto someone else’s body. Think of it this way: Imagine someone taking an upskirt of your mom and then making art out of it. That’s the equivalent of what they’ve done here.

      I’m not saying it’s bad because I’m upset. I am big on free speech. What I’m pointing out is that it’s against the right of privacy and publicity. And while I’m a bit of a nut about free speech (I have issues with Hillary due to her attacks on free speech) I am ALSO a nut about privacy, and this crosses that line.

      If there were already satirical naked depictions of all candidates, that would be one thing. There would be a pre-determined model by which the electorate would have integrated this into their thought process. I think that would be pretty cool. But we don’t have that culture. We have a Puritanical repressive instinct instead. (I mean, really – people in this country protest BREASTFEEDING.) So now is NOT the time to start that tradition. Give us a decade or so.

      • My Mom is performing in a hula troupe at age 87. My family has problems, but discomfort with nudity isn’t one of them. I’m going to respect your feelings and not link to my copies of Zap Comix etc. from my own college era 45 years ago. Trust me, comfort with nude images of public figures comes and goes in cycles culturally. Things here alternated between libertine and repressed in the 1880s, then 1900s, then the 20s, then 40s, then mid 60s to mid 70s, then mid 80s to mid 90s. It’s about due for another large swing to the left. In any case it’s interesting to think about the changes over time.

        There was a big controversy over a government-funded statue of George Washington back in the 1840s. There was a neoclassical revival at the time, so the sculptor based the pose on Phidias’ statue of Zeus, one of the ancient Seven Wonders. George is seated, apparently naked, with a sheet across his lap but in any case topless, and they installed it in the Capitol rotunda. There had been a shift in public attitudes and style preferences in the years it took to complete, and now people freak out. So they move it out to the lawn from 1843-1908. The statue ended up being shuffled around less-accessible parts of The Smithsonian for a few decades, and since 1964 it’s been in the National Museum of American History.

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