Friday, December 09, 2016

Time's Man of the Year

For the last couple of days I've been engaged in an online, group analysis of the subtle, and not-so-subtle meanings of Time Magazine's cover naming Donald Trump as "Person of the Year." One of my Facebook friends linked to an article on the web site by Jake Romm which makes some observations worth commenting on.

Ever since ancient times images have been used to magnify or malign rulers. Napoleon's official portrait artist Jacques David depicted the Emperor seated on a throne and looking, not just regal but downright divine.

The article points out that the cover image image has a nostalgic "kodachrome" feel to it. That makes sense. If you boil Trumps campaign message down to its essence, it was about the past. And who doesn't love the idea of going back in time? Almost everyone has some romantic, nostalgic longing for some lost period of their person past, or for a bygone era of history. Trumps campaign slogan was brilliant; instead of evoking an ethereal notion of "hope" or "belief" in an unknown future, it rouses our longings for our lost past. Every day we saw it on the news; "Make America Great Again." And everyday we were reminded of the notion that things used to be better than they are now. Of course, it's not true. Things weren't really better, except in each voter's subjective imagination.

The article goes on to discuss the iconography of being seated in such a way that the chair becomes a symbolic throne. Important personages, from Hitler to Lincoln have been represented in this way.

In Romm's analysis he sees Trump as look back at the viewer with a conspiratorial wink. I see it a little differently. We, the viewers have come up on him from behind and he is not pleased. The ones to whom he intends to present himself are out in front of him. We are have approached him from his back side where he is unguarded and vulnerable. He casts an irritated, disapproving, and threatening glance in our direction. We're not supposed to see him from this angle. The chair, which would seem appropriately ostentatious from the front, looks worn and fragile on the back side. This is an uncomfortable position that can't be held for long. He will soon have to turn back towards his intended audience.

The back of the chair is emblazoned with three palm branches. The iconography of palm branches relates to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Of course the triumphal entry of Jesus was short lived. Within a few days he was crucified. It is not hard to imagine Trump believing himself to be a messianic figure and perhaps even one who is headed for martyrdom. But the symbolism connected with the palm branches goes back to ancient Rome and Greece where palm branches were used to celebrate conquests. Palm branches grow from the top of a high, towering trunk. Trump's Towers can be found all over the world. 

I acknowledge that much of this could be coincidence. I could be reading things into this image that are not there. But are the two devilish horns projecting from Trumps head coincidental? No way. Time's editors claim that this has been an ongoing issue with the "M" in "TIME" Creating the appearance of horns on the various personages who've been featured on their covers over the years. But their protestation is really an admission that they knew what they were doing. No coincidence.