March 20, 2017

11 Takeaways on Donald Trump Jr. in Flannel

Donald Trump Jr., shown at his father’s estate in Bedford, N.Y., last month, has become a defender of the family name. GEORGE ETHEREDGE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

If you missed it, this is the lead photo in Saturday’s NYT style featureDonald Trump Jr. Is His Own Kind of Trump. Here are my take aways from skinny to larger size:

• His own kind of Trump … on his Dad’s estate.

• With apologies to George Washington.

• And apologies to Bedford, N.Y., where the photo was taken, because the hint of the bayou also conjures: “drain the swamp.”

• Trumps love uniforms.

• Always on the stump.

• The article dwells on the outdoor Donald Jr. as a hunter. But the adventurist MO doesn’t square with an uncomfortable pose and an affected look emphasizing vision, depth and introspection. Everybody knew that George Bush was milking the rancher role. All Dubya had to do to meet the minimum criteria for believability, however, was clear some brush. That’s why the photo-op is so famous. This composition, on the other hand, registers more as a clothing ad, the esoteric setting and obvious pose serving as visual contrast to showcase the brand.

• The reason Kruse’s reference to “The Giving Tree” is so hilarious is because of the blurring of the difference between hunting and nature, at least to the more urban, liberal folks who read the NY Times. The latter cues birds, sunshine, verdant forests, conservation. In that register, this photo might not reek of death, exactly, but it doesn’t equate a seedling administration and a supposedly young, rising figure to anything vibrant or growing.

• Even if we’re keeping the categories completely straight though, there is also this: Trump’s Budget Would Be A Disaster For Anglers And Hunters.

• If there is something here that is organic to the Trumps, it’s one more treatment of land as a setting or a background. It doesn’t matter how much Donnie actually loves hunting and fishing, nature to the Trumps is commodification.

• There’s always a tell with the Trumps. Like the spankin’ new boots. Because the Trumps are nothing if not publicity hounds, the common outfit that demonstrates Don Jr. is an outdoorsman (intended, also, to resonate with the base) had to be dressed up somehow.

• It’s so much easier for the media to do its pandering, or throw a bone, in the style section. Style or fashion, especially with such an emphasis on photos, should not serve as the vehicle to shower attention free of context.

Photo: George Etheridge for The New York Times Caption: Donald Trump Jr., shown at his father’s estate in Bedford, N.Y., last month, has become a defender of the family name.
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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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