For most Americans, yesterday’s summit between POTUS Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland was an embarrassing and terrifying affair. In front of the entire world, Trump sided with Putin and Russia over his own intelligence agencies and the people of the United States by not pushing back on Putin’s denials about hacking the 2016 election and blaming “both countries” for the icy state of Russia-U.S. relations. No, Mr. President, Russia is to blame for your current relations because they hacked your democratic election.
Anyway, lots of disappointment in the American leader.
The meeting and subsequent press conference — during which Trump perfectly demonstrated how to stand upright while lacking a backbone — had people wondering what Putin has on the president to get him to do his bidding (i.e. blow up relations with Western allies and let Russia off the hook for multiple attacks on American democracy). There was more speculation about Putin having a “pee tape” among other theories about potential money laundering or shady loans Russia might be holding over the president’s head. The general consensus among critics (and even some members of the Republican party) is that Putin has dirt on Trump and that is why POTUS refuses to stand up to the corrupt leader.
While that theory and its various offshoots are very plausible, there were some publications that took speculation a bridge too far by implying — and sometimes outright saying — that the Trump/Putin relationship has a sexual component. Most notably, the New York Times opinion section released a fully animated video of the two “lovers.”
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
That video is just one of many jokes that people are calling out as homophobic and reductive. The message these jokes send is that it is an insult to these leaders to be called gay and that homosexuality is a hilarious punchline. What’s more, Russia is a dangerous place for members of the LGBTQ community; there is no same-sex marriage or even civil union in the country and Putin himself actively works to suppress LGBTQ rights, freedoms and circulation of information. What’s being framed as a joke here in North America is an actual dangerous reality to many Russians.
Not to mention, gay jokes are just super lazy, guys.
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
I think of the resources that went into animating this tired and offensive joke — it took 11 people to make this video. That would have been so much better spent on highlighting unsung queer heroes or even some kind of satire about how dangerous Russia is for LGBTQ folks.
— Alex Berg (@itsalexberg) July 16, 2018
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
What if I told you that you could mock how under Putin’s thumb and weak Trump is without being homophobic?
— Amanda Deibert 🏳️🌈 (@amandadeibert) July 17, 2018
In the past day there have been several opinion pieces penned on the subject, also addressing what these jokes say about how society views masculinity and who is really hurt when a homophobic joke is made (hint: it’s not the subjects, it’s the community represented).
In conclusion: there are many, many, many other jokes to be made. Don’t make the homophobic ones.