Donald Trump is a very, very, very bad man. That much is certain. He is a fascist (I can make the argument if you really need me to). He is a slumlord. He is someone who inherited enough money to last several lifetimes and squandered much of it on narcissism and self-promotion. He’s viciously racist, at least one of his ex-wives has testified under oath that he raped her, he reportedly doesn’t understand why the President shouldn’t use nuclear weapons, and he reportedly has many strong ties to the Mafia.
That, to me, would give most satirists who want to wield the mighty sword of satire to defeat him (I would, here, insert the Peter Cook quote, but I already used it this month. It’s been one of those months.) more than enough to go on. However, that’s not enough for the great satirists at “anarchist art collective” InDecline, who have probed further than anyone else before ever has, and have noticed that he is a fat man with unusual-coloured skin, that he is balding and not conventionally attractive, and that it is possible he may have a small penis, as some men do.
These observations, which only the geniuses of InDecline could possibly have made, have led to the creation of a widely-publicised set of statues turning up in public places, depicting Trump as a fat, orange, nude man with a micropenis and no testicles or scrotum.
Now, before we go any further with this, I want to point out that while in many cases it is possible for something to be a subtle, multi-layered artwork whose nuances are completely beyond my tiny philistinic mind, in this particular case it isn’t. InDecline, who created the “art” in question, also created “Bumfights”, the popular video series in which homeless people fight each other for tiny amounts of money. Their most recent “art project” prior to this was a video called “Rape Trump” showing them graffitiing a mural of Trump with a ball gag in his mouth, the phrase “¡Rape Trump!” and directions to Trump Tower written in bad Spanish. Their website has as an FAQ “How do you know if a Police Officer is gay? The smell of his mustache.”
In short, these are not subtle people, but rather they are the kind of “anarchist” “provocateurs” who make South Park seem like the epitome of sophisticated wit. When asked for an explanation of the statues, they said ““We decided to depict Trump without his balls because we refuse to acknowledge that he is a man. He is a small arrogant child and thus, has nothing in the way of testicles.”
In other words, this really is all on the surface. It’s pointing at someone and saying “ha ha, he’s fat and has a small dick, and also no balls”. That is, in fact, the entire substance of the art, both in its intention and in its reception by the bulk of its audience.
This is important to say, not because it would *excuse* the problems with this were it a more complex piece of art, but it would *explain* them. I know as well as anyone that it is necessary for art to push at various societal boundaries, and that art which is not completely successful can often communicate horrible ideas. When we talk about works being “problematic”, this is often what we mean, and I am more willing than most to give leeway to problematic works (some of the art that speaks most profoundly to me includes Cerebus, the music of Frank Zappa, some of Kubrick’s work… if I cut everything that had problematic social messages out of my cultural life, I would have a drab life indeed). But in this case there’s nothing left other than a simple message, which is that fat people, those with small penises, and those with no testes, are inherently mockable.
(There’s also the way that statement ties human worth, masculinity, and genital configuration together in a way which manages to be both misogynist and transphobic simultaneously, but let’s leave that aside for now).
So, is mocking fat people, people with small penises, and people with no testes, a good idea?
Surprisingly, of these, the one which is now *least* acceptable is mocking fat people. Of course, this is still far more socially acceptable than many other bigotries, but there is at least *some* recognition in some quarters that this is wrong. “Fatphobia” is at least frowned upon, if not by the general population, at least among say the leading-edge 25%, the same people who dislike transphobia, biphobia, and other socially-sanctioned bigotries.
Penis-size shaming isn’t. When I wrote this last year, it was literally the second time ever I had seen or heard the argument made in public that mocking the size of a penis is a bad thing to do (the first time was in Richard Herring’s Talking Cock). It might be something that is becoming slightly less acceptable now (I’ve seen two other people, both friends of mine who would be described as “SJWs” say similar things since), but still it’s considered absolutely acceptable to mock people for presumed small penises. Even though it can cause men to be suicidal. See here. And here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and…
And then there’s the no testes, no scrotum thing. There are three reasons I know of for men having no testes. One of those is men who have had orchiectomies, usually after having testicular cancer. Obviously people who’ve had to have body parts removed because of cancer clearly haven’t suffered enough, and need to be ridiculed, right?
The other two reasons are even more appropriate, because some intersex people and trans men also have micropenises but no scrotum. In other words, their genitalia look exactly like those on the statue. Trans men have, understandably, been a little upset by this. But obviously trans men and intersex people are so privileged by our society that they’re acceptable collateral damage, right?
I keep seeing these statues being defended on the grounds that “he started it” (because obviously Donald Trump doing something is a good reason to do the same) or that Trump deserves mockery. He does — and worse. But he deserves it for being an evil man who does evil things, who makes his money from human misery and revels in the fact.
What he doesn’t deserve is mockery for unrelated physical characteristics, some of which he may not even have (I have no evidence that InDecline have any special knowledge of Donald Trump’s genitalia), but which *are* shared by millions of other people who are already made to feel bad, sometimes to the point of suicide, by societal attitudes towards them.
I don’t expect better from edgelord anarcho-bros like InDecline. I do, though, hope for better from self-described liberals and progressives, than for them to share this kind of filth approvingly. Principles of human decency apply even to one’s opponents, but even ignoring that, the fact is that Trump isn’t the victim here. The real victims are trans and intersex people, fat people, and people suffering from the expectations placed on them by toxic masculinity.
Those are the people we’re supposed to help, not hurt.
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What makes me curious, as someone with a semi-professional interest in prop replicas, is — who funded it? There’s a video of the making that started autoplaying on some site before I realized what it was, and by that point it was too late to undo the eye damage, so I kept on because what they were using was such astonishingly expensive stuff, not some cheap school project materials, I had no idea given the look of it was so shoddy!
But they started with a life cast of one of them, then cast and over-sculpted it in clay, then made a silicone mold of that — which, considering that mold making silicone runs approximately $100 US per gallon and enough gallons were needed to surround a life-size figure, it really is mindblowing! — then multiple layers of fiberglass reinforced resin, the stuff they make boats out of, not cheap either, for multiple castings, and then painting it — someone had quite a few thousands to burn on this project, and thought it was the best possible investment, rather than, say, an image of him with his vile words surrounding him like a cloud of brimstone and smoke. Following the money would be a very interesting thing, in this case.
I’m pretty sure that the “art collective” make quite a bit of money from merchandising, and from their Bumfights videos. If you think of it as advertising for their merchandise, it probably made its money back…
And he is absolutely fascist — the extent to which he embodies, and his following with him, the traits set out by Eco in his famous essay (which also, incidentally, positions superhero comics as a gateway for the mind out of ur-fascistic uncritical acceptance of authority) is so complete, you could illustrate every one of the 14 points over and over with Trump words and deeds.
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