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By David Futrelle
Earlier today, browsing my way around Twitter, I ran across something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: A Sarah Huckabee Sanders meme … made by an actual fan of the bullying, truth-challenged press secretary.
But there it was, in all of its absurd glory, portraying Sanders as a right-wing reincarnation of Xena, the ass-kicking Warrior Princess that captured the hearts of so many feminists and lesbians two decades ago. (And me too, though I might have had a slightly bigger crush on her sidekick Gabrielle.)
Pondering this weird juxtaposition of a fictional character I love and a real person I hate, I wondered if there were more out there like this — a vast collection of pro-Sarah-Sanders memes that, in my various excursions into Trumpworld online, I had somehow inexplicably missed?
Oh sure, I’ve seen a lot of memes directed against Sanders — too many of them, unfortunately, mocking her weight, or her oddly asymmetrical eyes, or some other unfortunate physical asset instead of the hateful venality that is the centerpiece of her actual villainy. But I hadn’t seen any pro-Sanders memes I could remember.
After more than a few mostly fruitless searches, I discovered that this was because there really aren’t that many pro-Sanders memes out there. Indeed, earlier this year when one MAGAhead asked the regulars on Reddit’s rabidly pro-Trump forum The_Donald to “post best Sarah memes” he got more than 300 upvotes, but not a single person besides him actually posted a meme.
Oh, sure, the MAGAs love the asshole press secretary. But she’s not really the kind of woman that MAGA men lust over or that MAGA women want to be. Republicans and right-wingers generally like their women to be blond, thin Aryan goddesses or, failing that, just blonde, thin and reasonably Aryan — think Tomi Lahren, or Ann Coulter, or the woman of Fox News. Some brunettes are allowed into the club as well, but only if they’re considered sufficiently glamorous — and that’s a term few would apply to Sanders.
And so, while right-wing memesters are happy to celebrate Melania Trump as “the most beautiful and classy 1st lady in history,” and get straight-up horny-on-main for Ivanka, they have a rougher time glamorizing Sanders:
MAGA memesters are much more comfortable working her into memes that celebrate what they clearly see as the quasi-masculine toughness she shows in shutting down journalists, with many of them constructing Sanders-specific versions of the Thug Life meme.
Those who try to portray her in more traditionally feminine ways often do so by awkwardly grafting her head onto the bodies of women notably thinner than she really is — though, to be fair, as I noted in a previous post, Trump fans often portray Trump himself as thinner and more muscular (often ludicrously so) than the real Trump, who after all is a bit of a pudge.
But these memes don’t really work; even aside from their physical incongruity with the Sarah Sanders we see on TV every day, they don’t capture her aggressive energy. (The Thug Life memes, for all of their ridiculousness, do that much better, though at the cost of downplaying her femininity.)
And so it makes a certain sense that so many MAGA memesters eager to celebrate Sanders should have turned to Xena — a character, as played by Lucy Lawless, who managed to be big and tough and feminine all at once. And a long-haired brunette to boot.
This is hardly the first times that conservatives have tried to claim Xena as their own. In the first George W. Bush administration, White House staffers referred to then-national-security-advisor Condoleezza Rice as their “warrior princess.” And conservative writer Cathy Young — you may remember her as a Gamergate booster who infamously appeared on a triple-bill with Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Hoff Sommers — once wrote a lengthy appreciation of Xena for Salon, portraying the warrior princess as an Amazonian version of a so-called “equity feminist,” a woman whose feminism consisted of standing up for herself but never actually offering any real critique of sexism or patriarchy.
But Sanders — like Rice before her — makes a pretty lousy Xena. The original warrior princess, you may recall, started her career as a villainous warlord squaring off against Kevin Sorbo as Hercules on his TV series before renouncing her evil ways and teaming up with him.
On her own series, the repentant warrior princess, forever tormented by her past evil deeds, tried her best to redeem herself by fighting for what she called “the greater good.” But because of her past she never thought of herself as a paragon of goodness.
Sanders, by contrast, is a villain who doesn’t seem to know she’s a villain — and if she knows, she certainly doesn’t care. She energetically and aggressively defends Trump’s lies on a daily basis, piling her own lies atop his. She excuses and justifies Trump’s violations of human rights and presidential norms and basic human decency.
And she’s no feminist, not even one of the watered-down “equity” variety: she doesn’t just ignore the patriarchy; she actively supports it — going so far as to aggressively defend Trump’s lie-filled mockery of Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. If she has a conscience of any sort, she doesn’t seem to have ever displayed it in public.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I used to watch Xena: Warrior Princess. I was a fan of Xena: Warrior Princess. And you’re no Xena: Warrior Princess.
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