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Crying, Control, and Masculinity in the Language of Donald Trump

Norma Mendoza-Dention lecture flyer
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Monday, October 19, 2020
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5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
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Professor Norma Mendoza-Denton (UCLA)
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Mellon Sawyer Seminar Series

Donald Trump's speeches as president provide many examples of narratives of masculinity where he elevates himself as the pinnacle of virility, strength, toughness-and whiteness. Much as been written about the ways in which repeated tellings of the same story open a window not only into patterns of language, but also into the workings of the self. In the case of Trump, a revealing example of a narrative of masculinity is found in a series of retellings that Trevor Noah of The Daily Show compiled into the satirical Christmas video, "Trump's Mythical Crying Man Yule Log". In this video, a stone fireplace frames the center of a cathode-ray TV where clips of Trump are gently licked by flames. The clips are taken from Trump's campaign stops, speeches, and conversations with reporters, documenting fifteen distinct instances of Trump retelling the same story with minimal variations. The structure is formulaic, with each instantiation filling in variable details, and recycled on many public occasions. This man-crying-before-Trump sequence is a great example of not only a narrative of masculinity, but also a "comedic gesture," where Trump dramatically drags his hands across his face to show copious crying. While politicians often recycle narratives and inflect them to suit their audiences, Trump goes one step further, situating him as both the pinnacle and arbiter of toughness.

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Contact: Cathy Lewis