So, everyone’s talking about the photo that was released earlier this week of Kathy Griffin holding up the bloodied head of our President and the response has been overwhelmingly negative. The backlash has been rather one-sided, all directed toward the comedian, leaving photographer Tyler Shields out of the headlines.
The public response has already resulted in her being cut from CNN’s New Year’s Eve countdown program and she has lost her endorsement deal with Squatty Potty, forcing her to not only shit like the rest of us but to also make a public apology when likely the only thing she regrets is the money she’ll lose from posing for the controversial photographer.
Many people are saying that the photo encourages violence, and even view it as a threat to Trump. The secret service has even spoken out on the subject and has been allegedly looking into taking Griffin into custody. Shields, who admitted to collaborating with Griffin in an interview with Entertainment Weekly on the concept behind the photo, seems to have gotten away scot-free, with the media focusing all of their hate on Griffin.
So is it art or is it treason?
Just because Kathy isn’t stomping around with some cheap ass sign made with crayons and some poster board doesn’t mean that this image isn’t clearly an artistic form of protest. People have been using art to protest politics since art came into existence, including dozens of anti-Trump pieces, and suddenly it’s a problem?
Art often holds a different meaning for each viewer, something that Shields describes as the reason he didn’t want to give his photo an explanation in his interview with Entertainment Weekly. When an artist provides their interpretation of the piece, it takes away the viewer’s ability to see it in their own way.
Let’s take a trip back to Art History 101 and break down the elements of this photo a bit.
Why a beheading?
While younger generations often associate beheading with terrorists and the Islamic State, they certainly didn’t invent this form of execution. Now beheading is considered a brutal and even barbaric way to kill someone, but it wasn’t always considered as such.
As something that was practiced for hundreds of years all around the world, most cultures felt it was a less painful form of execution and would reserve these killing methods for nobles and those who were highly regarded in the community. Beheading was considered to be less dishonorable than other forms of punishment, as it was quicker than burning at the stake or crucifixion.
There is nothing in the photo to indicate that either Griffin or Shields intended this to be an image representing a terrorist act. Griffin is dressed like she’s heading to the office, not in all black like most terrorists wear in the horrific beheading videos they take. Nothing is covering Griffin’s face and no weapon is in sight. That form of analysis simply doesn’t make sense.
So, why act out the beheading of the President of the United States? Even before Trump was President, he was a prominent figure in our country, mostly known for his abundant money and reputation with women. So, in my opinion, depicting Trump having been executed by beheading is a sign of respect and recognition of his position as President of the United States.
But what does his death symbolize?
The choice that was made to depict a deceased Trump in the photo can be perceived in several ways. Trump not only represents himself as our President but he also represents white male privilege, democracy, leadership, and wealth. The beheaded Trump could symbolize dozens of things such as protesting the end of the extreme left/right, the end of the one percent, all general political bullshit, Twitter rants, etc. The list could go on forever.
Having Kathy Griffin in this photo, one of the most outspoken and controversial female comedians, in my opinion, brings the meaning behind this image full circle.
In my opinion, this photo symbolizes the death of all of the hate and sexism Trump has encouraged toward women. The death of Trump attempting to take away the rights of the media, and our freedom of speech.
Ultimately, I feel it was a test of our first amendment rights.
A test that our country failed miserably.