Political theater: swapping gender roles in recreations of the Trump/Clinton debates

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/08/hummable-lyrics.html


This is a very fascinating performance, and if I’m being honest, it upended what I expected to find, too.

For liberals who want to understand Trump, I think this is very enlightening.


This didn’t work for me the way it seems to with some, but I think it looks like a scene from a sitcom. It’s like the episode is about the “non-nonsense mom” character like Lois from Macolm in the Middle somehow ends up in a debate against a local authority figure that is well educated and spoken but because he’s young and looks kind of smug she “wins” by talking over him constantly and the “real people” in the crowd cheers and the guy does one of those confused reactions and somehow a bowl of spaghetti falls on his head.


I would have chosen a club-footed hermaphrodite for the Trump role, but what do I know.

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What I noticed is that the Female Trump was able to actually complete her sentences, and therefore her message was more effective. Because the Male Hillary is fighting for air time, he comes off as weak and ineffective. He is struggling to get a word in edgewise.

Imagine if women were able to speak as boldly as men.


What’s most interesting and telling here isn’t that the female Trump comes off as strong and dominant, but that the ever-smiling male Hillary comes off as so fake and awful. Like Martin Shkrelli and Milo Y., his constant smile makes him look smug and punchable.


Finding lady-Trump strong and credible and man-Clinton fake and weak is evidence of your own gendered biases. You want to support a forceful woman on the basis of supporting the notion of strong women, so you are going to align with a prima facie strong woman by default. It happens here with lady-Trump, who’s as much a domineering, lying, rude asshole as real Trump, and it happened in the actual election, where left-leaning people rallied behind Clinton as a “strong woman” regardless of her actual record of effectiveness, credibility, or ethics. In this video, when the man-bullying-woman context is stripped away, you see a person get bullied effectively with an opportunistic attack, and then try to spin it limply into a book plug.

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Hillary always comes off as fake and awful. People are just blinded to it because they want women to succeed.

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For someone lecturing people on biases, it sounds like you’ve brought your own unfounded strong bias to this video.


Was Hillary really hawking her book like that during the debates?

Just her standing up there with children from three different marriages would have been a campaign killer.


Same here. I still disliked and distrusted the Trump analogue (and didn’t much care for the Clinton analogue). So no significant change.


Knowing the way gender biases work or are supposed to work, I expected to see a weak ineffectual male Clinton and a “bitchy” (for the lack of a better word) female Trump. I didn’t really see that here. The male Clinton came across to me as a slimy, glib career politician, and I was actively rooting for him to lose the debate. He came across as effeminate, but mainly because of his tone of voice and inflection, which I think was mostly the actor and not an affectation. That wasn’t a big deal for me, but the bigger deal was how smug and officious he seemed up there. Meanwhile, the female Trump was slumped over the podium like she was drunk or high or physically ill, and wasn’t bitchy, but… oddly forceful. Her words weren’t the words of a powerful person, but someone who thinks they have power but are actually outclassed by their opponent in every possible way. She was making a lot of noise but not bringing anything to back it up.

Meanwhile, real female Clinton also came across like a typically oleaginous career politician, but didn’t have the same type of needling smug condescension that her fictional male counterpart had. Likewise, real Trump also looked lie he was under the influence of something and was also massively outclassed by the real Clinton, but coming from a woman it looked even more jarring.

Basically, Trump’s mannerisms would be almost shocking coming from a woman, but are arguably acceptable coming from a man. I can’t deny that. However, both Clintons are glib, slimy politicians and that is also a major factor in why she lost.


I cared less for the Clinton analogue than the actual Clinton, and thought the Trump analogue’s behavior was even more out-of-place than the real Trump’s.

If you read the article, they said that they worked really hard to mirror the actual actions in the debates and even had the actors playing opposite the actual debate video in rehearsals to make sure they nailed it.

What I think is another interpretation is that watching a man contort himself to be pleasing and small the way a woman does makes you uncomfortable.


Understood, but I’m still not sure if the male Clinton’s effeminacy was an affectation or not. I was pretty sure it wasn’t, because I didn’t notice this from the actual female Clinton. I may be wrong. It wouldn’t surprise me either way, but I’m slightly more on the side of affectation than not.

It doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all. It’s just something I noticed, and assumed had nothing to do with the experiment.

The bigger issue is that both Clintons seem like stereotypical dishonest and slimy Beltway insiders. There is no way to dress that up. The Democrats have to learn that they cannot keep running these milquetoast centrist* politicians over and over again and expect a different result.

*not actually centrists, just not extremely far right


Yeah. But then, it’s not really what the post and this thread are about.


I think that was part of the point of the exercise; what would you notice a man doing that would be odd on a woman and vice versa. You didn’t notice it on the actual female Clinton because it’s expected for a woman to shrink down and smile. It looks strange on a man and makes him appear effeminate. It’s part of how Clinton makes herself look feminine.

One of the things I started really noticing after Clinton lost is that she had fought so hard to just be where she is. I had to explain to my daughter the whole cookie baking incident. She could not believe it. I think Hillary has really had to toe the line.

It’s easy to say a woman should act as free as a man - the way the female Trump in the debate did - but if you are conditioned for a lifetime not to interject, to keep smiling, to stay pleasing, it is going to be really hard to break out of that. And for Hillary, I think she got her wrist slapped a whole lot of times on not being feminine enough.


I think that’s very much something people’s prejudgement of Clinton bring to the table when they watch her. My mother-in-law never forgave Hillary for “letting Bill off the hook”, so she saw Hillary as a harridan. If you’re watching the debates with a loathing of Hillary as a “slimy beltway centrist milquetoast insider” going in, then you’re absolutely going to have that impression of her. Given the massive turnout for her election, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of the country didn’t see her as hateful or slimy, whereas from the article, people were surprised by how immediate their negative reaction to Hillary’s words and mannerisms coming from a man was.

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I also thought it was kind of interesting just to see the debate stripped of all the baggage of the people who did it, but just as a performance. Like, Trump, I really dislike him. But seeing a person who obviously wasn’t him saying his lines, I could see how theatrical he is, how fun his performance is. If you only look at performance, he wins. Hillary does look, but comparison, kind of boring, staying still, reciting facts. He’s more fun. But then, again, as I said, a man can dominate a discussion in a way a woman cannot. It’s just hard to imagine a woman talking over a man the way he did over her.