Thursday, February 9, 2017

Iconography of Donald Trump as the Woman Slayer

I noted in an earlier post how images are pervasive in human history. Just as we can still recognize, today, the image of an ancient Chimera - we can see other ancient iconographic themes resurfacing over and over. So, above, you see Donald Trump portrayed in the "Der Spiegel" as beheading the Liberty statue. Obviously, the image is inspired by an ancient classic theme; that of Perseus beheading Medusa.

It is a very ancient theme that, in this form and composition, goes back to Roman times. Look at this image from the excavations of a Roman villa in Stabia, in Italy, a nearly identical posture.

Then, we may ask ourselves why this composition was so popular and it remains so. What's so fascinating in a bloody scene of murder? That would require a long exploration of the human mind (and of the male mind in particular). As a first attempt, I think we can say that the Roman society had a strong element that, in modern terms, we would call a "macho attitude" that involved quite a sadistic streak.  Taken to the extreme, it implies killing women as a demonstration of male virility. And hence these images: the art of femicide. Most Romans, it seems, would see nothing objectionable in paintings and statuary that showed a man beheading a woman.

In our times, well, things may have changed but not so much. Look at this image, allegedly representing the beheading of a female Kurdish fighter on the part of an Isis fighter somewhere in Northern Iraq.

Crude? Sure, but don't worry; it is almost certainly a photoshop work. Nothing special in this age of fake news. Besides, it is not cruder, and not more real, than the piece of statuary of Perseus and Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini in Florence, that tourists seem to be happy to photograph. 

In the end, it seems that the streak of sadism that affected ancient Romans affects us as well. Will be ever able to tame the killer that's in us? Hard to say; of course, today, killing women and being proud of having done that seems to have gone a bit out of fashion, to say the least. But the idea of killing defenseless creatures still pervades our society.

And so, let me conclude this little post with a modern image of wanton slaughter of a creature who couldn't defend itself. This one is crude, too, but real. It is Cecil the Lion killed by the American dentist Warren Palmer.

Note the faces; the same expression of idiotic happiness that you can see in the face of the Perseus of Stabia. But there is nothing to do, humans are like this and will remain like this for quite a while.

But how about Donald Trump? Does he deserve to be cast in the role of woman slayer? Maybe not.  True, he has been rather abusive to women in verbal terms, but it is also true that it is not reported that he ever killed anyone, not even lions. But he fully deserves the Der Spiegel front cover because of this:

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