Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 26, 2017

On the Failed Rubio – Ivanka Bot Hug

Ivanka Trump greeted by Marco Rubio as she arrives at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers about parental leave in Washington.AP

Yes it was trivial. Viral photos like the Rubio-Ivanka Trump failed hug, however, usually embrace something deeper. I think the photo took off because it caught the extraordinarily self-conscious Ivanka so off guard. Given her meticulously-constructed public image and the way she is constantly composed, Ivanka just doesn’t have awkward moments.

Sure, anybody surprised by a gesture like that, especially a woman, might just freeze for an instant. But we’re not talking about anybody, we’re talking about the ever self-conscious Ivanka. So the instant-in-time is also a physical tell. When the moment calls for something more natural or intimate, what you get instead from an Ivanka or a Melania or a Donald is the veneer of warmth, the salesperson’s kind. That’s in between the face that is scanning the situation, or harder, critical looks or, in more emotional situations, a disconnected stare. The Trumps simple don’t embrace people or press the flesh. It’s what makes her father’s handshakes so painful to witness. This photo is simply a variation.

Of course, some saw it as sexist, a man hugging a woman instead of shaking her hand. At least, that’s where sites like The Root went with it. I’m not saying that interpretation and mine are mutually exclusive, by the way. Even if the gesture by the goofy Rubio was misplaced, however, the photo is still indicative of a larger understanding.

That’s because the Trumps are not friendly and they don’t generate warmth. Every moment is a calculation. Everything is a transaction. That art of the deal.  Like the marketers they are, it’s all a display. Simply, they don’t relate. Even if Rubio’s attempt at a hug was presumptuous and untoward, the sense of rigidity in that instant framed how inordinately controlled and controlling the First Daughter is. As someone, like her father, who can never stand to even have one hair out of place, here the mechanistic quality and the lack of response to spontaneity is spot on.

(Photo: AP. caption: Ivanka Trump greeted by Marco Rubio as she arrives at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers about parental leave in Washington. photo 2: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call. caption 2: Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, left, waits for the arrival of his father-in-law Donald J. Trump, on the West Front of the Capitol before Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, January 20, 2017.)

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