Mural painting of Trump and Putin, by artist Mindaugas Bonanu, May 14, 2016.
Following the close relationship between America and Russia, the media have paid close attention to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s public appraisals of one another: words like “strong leader” and “a talented person” were exchanged. I think it’s well understood that the ties between the two countries are, quite frankly, unconstitutional, and both leaders are denounced due to their large egos and illicit approach to politics. So in retaliation, seemingly humorous street art have emerged, mockingly depicting both Trump and Putin locked in a kiss.
In Lithuania, artist Mindaugas Bonanu rendered Trump and Putin’s close relationship into a mural showing both men kissing each other. At first glance, this could be seen as a funny thing right; two right-wing, homophobic, white, cis-male, tyrants are portrayed as the very thing they oppose. That’ll show ‘em. But amidst the satire, implying that Trump and Putin are gay to demonstrate how both men are weak, bad rulers is first of all, massively homophobic, and second, shows how fragile white masculinity is – to use homosexuality as a form of ridicule – as they are weak, bad rulers as an epitome of societal masculinity.
Apparently, the mural was inspired by the 1979 painting on the Berlin wall of the then Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev and East German President, Erich Honecker embracing in the fraternal kiss. Which doesn’t really make any sense to base the Trump-Putin kiss on that image, as the fraternal kiss was a normal greeting between the statesmen of Communist countries – so the correlation is suppositional. In addition, without the background knowledge, one might read the artwork as hinting at homosexuality, which in turn, apparently makes it justifiable to laugh at.
There is a continuing theme of portraying unfavourable male leaders and political figures as gay. The magazine newspaper, The Economist (who are known for supporting legal recognition for same-sex marriage) used the Trump-Putin love affair “joke” on the front cover of one of their February 2017 issues. Also, after Boris Johnson and Trump both shared views on Britain to leave the EU earlier in May last year, a mural appeared in Bristol of both men engaged in a kiss.
The Economist front cover – February 22nd – 27th issue.
Trump and Johnson mural, by campaign group: We Are Europe, 2016.
Alas, let’s make clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality or art that focuses on that, but there comes a difference when it is used, in backlash – especially in this sense – as a mockery. Why is it not enough to ridicule leaders such as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin because of their wrongful and improper management? These public art displays are subliminally endorsing more homophobia; an issue we’re constantly trying to move beyond.
Words by Sahar Amer