The New York Times is facing backlash after a cartoon video they posted was slammed as “homophobic,” for portraying President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as lovers.
The NYT Opinion section has been publishing a three-part series of “satirical video cartoons” by Bill Plympton, who they identify as “a two-time Oscar-nominated animator.” This series, titled “Trump Bites,” takes sound clips of real comments made by Trump and pairs them with animated crayon sketches mocking him.
Get it, y’all? The videos are called “Trump Bites,” because they’re made from soundbites, but it’s also a play on words — “Trump Bites,” like “Trump Sucks” — isn’t that just so clever? I’m no Trump fan, but that had me rolling my eyes.
“Mr. Trump’s not-so-secret admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia plays out in a teenager’s bedroom, where the fantasies of this forbidden romance come to life,” reads the description for the second episode of Trump Bites.
The video itself shows the Trump character in his room getting ready for a date with the Putin character, who picks him up in a convertible car, which then magically transforms into a flying unicorn soaring through a sky filled with butterflies, hearts, and rainbows. The two share a loving glance and kiss, which the cartoon shows in extremely close detail. Their tongues literally tie in a knot. Trump is then shown back in his room, lying on his bed in his underwear, daydreaming about Putin.
In this episode of Trump Bites, Donald Trump’s not-so-secret admiration for Vladimir Putin plays out in a teenager’s bedroom, where the fantasies of this forbidden romance come to life. https://t.co/cWeQMuzWUz pic.twitter.com/4shBRkloot
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) July 16, 2018
The whole thing is absurd. Pulitzer-worthy journalism this is not.
Many felt there was a deliberate effort to be creepy and disturbing, and that sparked the backlash, with critics across the political spectrum calling the video homophobic and unnecessary.
This is homophobic. It is implying that being gay is an insult for both of these men. It implies that being gay would emasculate them. It implies that calling them gay together would anger them and incite reaction. This is beneath us. https://t.co/Zk95DgQOpN
— Phillip Picardi (@pfpicardi) July 16, 2018
insinuating Trump is in a sexual relationship with Putin makes homosexuality a punchline & is uncalled for. there’s SO MUCH to take Trump to task for, it’s embarrassing to see NYT stoop to “ha ha men kissing is yucky” https://t.co/PsUmLJWCks
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) July 16, 2018
Congrats to everyone doing gay jokes about Trump and Putin for throwing your own beliefs under the bus for a political cartoon they'll never see
— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) July 16, 2018
You can condemn Trump’s relationship with Putin without making a gay joke. pic.twitter.com/mUMG2u4NdL
— Khalid El Khatib (@kmelkhat) July 15, 2018
Stop this shit. Gay men are not a punchline. https://t.co/oeMlXQjpkw
— Elizabeth M. (@_ElizabethMay) July 16, 2018
Homophobia is terrible and should never ever be tolerated, unless the New York Times thinks it can be used to smear a Republican. https://t.co/pkIx9oAy30
— Razor (@hale_razor) July 16, 2018
These critics have a point: it’s difficult to imagine any context where a video that mocks two men for having a romantic relationship would be acceptable under current “wokeness” standards.
Cultivate an audience of social justice warriors, and don’t be surprised if they declare war against you when you violate their rules. We’re living in a time when people have been called bigots because they objected to men having access to girl’s bathrooms; there is no way that an “ewww, two dudes are kissing” video is going to fly.
Beyond the political correctness catastrophe the NYT created for themselves, the video completely misses the mark in its clumsy attempt to criticize Trump.
Trump and Putin’s relationship isn’t problematic because they are lovers. To quote the famous Seinfeld episode, “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but seriously, they aren’t actually lovers and that wouldn’t be the problem even if they were.
Their relationship is problematic because of concerns about Trump’s family and business financial connections to Russia, and how they could have compromised him. It’s problematic because Putin is a ruthless dictator who has reportedly had political rivals, journalists, and critics jailed, tortured, or even murdered. It’s problematic because the American intelligence community has reached a consensus that Russia sought to interfere in our election process, but Trump has publicly declared he believes Putin’s denial.
There are many, many reasons to be critical — or, at minimum, skeptical — of Trump and Putin’s meeting yesterday and Trump’s history of strange affection for Russia. Not one of them have anything to do with the rainbows and unicorns and the rest of the parade of over-the-top stereotypes crammed into that two minute video.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.