Categories
Uncategorized

Try-Hard With a Vengeance: The deep insecurities underlying “Macho Trump” memes

My what a huge …. gun you have

By David Futrelle

Donald Trump is never more ridiculous than when he’s trying his hardest to look tough. He can never quite pull it off; his insecurities give him away. Instead of inhabiting his masculinity with quiet confidence, he’s awkward, unconvincing, a little boy trying too hard to be a big boy.

Here he is in an appearance with Bikers For Trump just outside the White House, offering up what he evidently sees as an extremely macho duckface:

Who told him THIS was a good look?

Here he is pretending to be a big tough truck driver on the White House lawn.

Here he is demonstrating his weird handshake-pull maneuver, designed to throw the person whose hands he’s shaking off-balance, literally and figuratively.

Stung by press coverage of this weird little maneuver, Trump does seem to have given it up — at least when he knows cameras are present.

Here he is shoving his way to the front of a group of fellow world leaders like some sort of preening baboon.

And last but certainly not least, here he is trying — and failing — to drink from a bottle of water in a macho way, as if there is such a thing.

For those without the requisite confidence, “effortless masculinity” takes a lot of work. And this work is often painfully obvious to anyone watching. It’s all about overcompensation.

The most toxic kind of masculinity, as Amanda Marcotte reminds us in a Salon essay, is the kind rooted in insecurity; and that’s what we see virtually every time we look at Trump. “Toxic masculinity aspires to toughness but is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear,” she notes.

The fear of ever seeming soft, tender, weak, or somehow less than manly. This insecurity is perhaps the most stalwart defining feature of toxic masculinity.

Her first example of this kind of masculinity?

Donald Trump flipping out when someone teases him about his small fingers. (Or about anything, really.) 

And did we mention the hair?

But if the effortless masculinity Trump hungers for so deeply tends to elude him in real life, he comes much closer in the world of memes. Clearly sensing his masculine insecurities (and perhaps sharing many of them), Trump’s fans delight in making memes that portray him as some sort of idealized macho man.

Cartoonist Ben Garrison, a Trump-worshipping alt-right enabler, invariably portrays  the pudgy 72-year-old Trump as a buff, ageless, hunk of man meat:

And he’s hardly the only one:

Overcompensating a bit themselves, his fans love to portray him as an absurdly over-the-top hero:

Sometimes they turn him into an actual superhero:

Even those who balk at giving Trump the full Charles Atlas treatment still like to portray him as a something of a man’s man, comfortable in his masculinity if not positively glowing.

This one comes with bonus (ungrammatical) transphobia:

QAnon/”The Storm” conspiracy theorists — who have convinced themselves that Trump is secretly fighting (and winning) a war against the Illuminati pedophile cannibals who secretly run the US government and the world — also have a vested interest in portraying Trump as a tough, smart, confident hero. Basically. everything he isn’t.

And while they shy away from the Beefcake Trump, they love to repurpose photos of Trump at his smuggest.

This last one, seems to me, suggests that some portion of the QAnon faithful don’t actually believe that their opponents are really pedophiles, but see unsupported charges of pedophilia as a cheap and easy way to smear their foes. If you really thought that millions or even tens of millions of Americans were part of a vast pedophile conspiracy, why on earth would you laugh? 

But that’s a whole other topic.

The question remains: why are so many Trump fans so invested in shoring up the anxious masculinity of an aging narcissist who can’t even pull off a convincing impersonation of a macho man in real life? It’s easy enough to understand why Trump overcompensates for his own insecurities; that’s basic psychology. But why do his fans engage in a similar kindof overcompensation, trying to convince themselves and others that Trump really is the macho man he only pretends — so badly — to be?

Part of it, certainly, is a yearning for a patriarchal father figure who will make the country and the world safe and secure again. Indeed, the entire QAnon conspiracy is about reassurance — it’s built around the idea that Trump, however badly he might appear to be struggling on the surface, is actually totally in control of the situation, and all that decent Americans need to do is to “Trust the Plan” and wait for him to win. So it makes sense that QAnonners’ Trump memes are all about a quietly confident man bringing vengeance to the unrighteous.

But what about all of those Beefcake Trumps? Do they reflect some more secret desire not for a father figure, exactly, but rather for some Tom-of-Finland-style Leather Daddy Figure? For a few, probably yes. But I suspect far more of Trump’s male fans — and I suspect the meme makers are mostly guys — would rather be Beefcake Trump than get topped by him.

Ultimately. I think the only way to really understand the strange ubiquity of Macho Trump memes is by coming back to the issue of insecurity. Trump and his fans aren’t just insecure about masculinity — in particular, his masculinity. They are also insecure about his basic competence — as is Trump himself.

As much as they loathe to admit it in public, Trump fans wince a bit at some of his Tweets. They worry that despite his bluster he doesn’t actually know what he’s doing. They can see the way he’s screwing them over with tariffs and a trade war that he conjured up out of nothing. They suspect, or more than suspect, that he’s corrupt as hell if not actually conspiring with Russia. They fear the “blue wave” coming.

And so they are as invested as Trump in the notion that Trump is always and forever “winning” even when he obviously is not. They desperately want him to be the confident, hyper-confident macho man he pretends to be. And so they are compelled to do their part in shoring up his masculinity, at least symbolically  — for his sake and for their own.

In the short run, this is probably one of the reasons Trump’s popularity rate has rebounded from its lows and has been bumping around in the 42% range since May (according to the FiveThirtyEight weighted poll average), despite one policy disaster after another and endless scandal.

But in the long run, it can’t hold. This fragile man can’t be saved. And despite the fervent wishes of his most enthusiastic fans, this fragile man can’t save them either.

90 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
misophistry
misophistry
3 years ago

Terfs give me the red mist. They are just so blindly bigoted, lashing out at allies like they do. It makes no sense, it is pure hate.

Its been 17 years since I transitioned. Wild horses couldn’t drag me back.

misophistry
misophistry
3 years ago

Sorry to go on but I cannot believe what I read in the comments of that femministcurrent piece. I did not transition to displace women or rape lesbians. WTF. Seriously go read the comments, they read like a rightwing conspiracy theory. Terfs are literally terrified of genderfluidity. I am depressed now and need to go find a spoon to hold.

Schnookums Von Ghostface Fancypants Killer
Schnookums Von Ghostface Fancypants Killer
3 years ago

Huh, my initial take on the “President with Balls and First Lady without” was that it was a swipe at the Clintons, Since Bill would be the First…well, First Gentleman, but these are the sorts of people who would happily insult a man by calling him a woman. I suspect the “Michelle Obama is secretly a man!” take is probably the “correct” one. I mean, it’s all stupid and hateful all the way down, no matter how you slice it.

Catalpa
Catalpa
3 years ago

just like the TERF arguments bring up the question of why people are trans if there’s not a physical basis there. At least the religious antigay people have a rationalisation: It’s Satan’s doing!

TERFs do have rationalizations. They’re just as much bullshit as the religious homophobia ones. The TERF rationalization for why trans women exist is because they’re actually evil cishet men who want to have sex with lesbians/peep on women in bathrooms/infiltrate feminism and make “real” feminists care about men by tricking them into thinking that they are women. So a bunch of stupid bullshit that boils down to “EVIL DEGENERACY”, same as the religious homophobia.

By the same token, TERF rationale for trans men existing is that the patriarchy has brainwashed these poor women into thinking that being male is superior to being female, and has made them traitors to the cause. More stupid bullshit meant to invalidate trans folk.

I can only assume that nonbinary folks are either not considered at all or fit into one of the two above categories depending on whether they were AMAB or AFAB.

Sheila Crosby
3 years ago

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
A few years back there was some talk of the “cotton ceiling” where transwomen were complaining about lesbians who wouldn’t never, ever, ever consider sex with a transwoman. Somehow in their minds this seems to have warped into a demand that every lesbian ever drop their knickers for every transwoman. Sort-of, kind-of like the people who hear, “Maybe bump stocks are a bad idea” as “Ban all guns for everybody usher in a police state.”

And sure there are more people transitioning these days because it’s not as hellish as it used to be, so more people go for it rather than live in misery. You know, something of the sort happened when society stopped trying to force all kids to be left handed. The number of left-handed people rose sharply and then leveled off at around 10%. Because it was safe to be yourself, but there was no incentive to pretend.

I get that lesbians, especially butch lesbians, are justifiably scared of cis-male violence. I just wish they’d see that transwomen are not male and not violent and have even more reason to be wary around cis-men.

Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary
3 years ago

I reached a conclusion a long time ago, on another forum I was on that the real threat to so called “masculinity” is Femmephobia.
This is what equally effects gay and non gender conforming males, trans mtf (but not ftm) and basically all women.
They need to attack what they perceive as weak and feminine, and go absolutly crazy when they perceive ‘feminine’ characteristics in a man. They hate on mtf people because they believe they have given up their power and status to be lesser animals.
See how men over react when they have to use pink shower gel.

BD1
BD1
3 years ago

Trumpists are a bunch of nutless neckbeard incels with a huge dollop of latent homoeroticism on top. The misogyny and “he man wimmens haters club” posturing are just excuses they can give them mothers as to why they hang out with only men and their basement bedrooms and computers are festooned with beefcake. I mean, if you heard about any other group calling themselves “proud boys” after a showtune where women weren’t allowed and masturbation was verboten you’d be sure it was lake a gay men’s choral group. Hell, not even Leather organizations I am around amp it up to that level.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
3 years ago

neckbeard

Didn’t we just have this discussion, like, last week or something?

snip rest of problematic they’re-all-self-hating-closeted-gays stuff

kupo
kupo
3 years ago

@BD1
Your whole post is just
comment image

Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
3 years ago

comment image

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
3 years ago

Since we’re sort of on the topic of insults: Is it weird of me that I find Trump calling Omarosa a “dog” more appalling and dehumanizing than if he called her a “bitch”?

I think it’s just that the second has come to have an independent meaning of “obstreperous woman,” so that people use it without necessarily thinking of dogs when they do so, while with “dog” there’s just no denying what he’s doing.

But no doubt some Trumpkins will use it as evidence that he’s not misogynistic.

anonymous
anonymous
3 years ago

This is slightly OT, but here goes

Roosh’s garbage site has dedicated years to build Trump up as this super duper alphamale

……..only for them to realize the sad, sad truth about their god emperor

returnofkings[dot]com/187844/why-is-donald-trump-allowing-melania-to-cuck-him-in-public

This is what happens when your whole world revolves around cucking and alphas and betas and thots and everything else that the red pill ‘understands’

Frederic R Christie
3 years ago

The Purge one is especially hilarious because as the series has evolved we’ve started to see that the whole Purge as an idea isn’t actually kept around for any valid criminology but because it helps to distract from the atrocities and incompetence of a fascist society.

Of course, that becomes scary when one realizes that some Trumpkins, on some level, do get it, and they really are absolutely okay with a society that would let them vent rage and anger, no matter how stupid it is. If they’ll throw a temper tantrum in our democracy, why wouldn’t they do it on a night where they could actually get away with murder?

The small muffin
The small muffin
2 years ago

Dude the trump-on-a-tank is by the guy who did bush riding a shark and Lincoln riding a bear. Dude just does over the top pics of presidents. Maybe remove it cos it doesn’t support your point since it’s not from an actual trump supporter

%d bloggers like this: