The holidays are the season for high-caloric treats—and so far there’s been nothing so high-caloric as the Christmas pudding of fruity overblown rhetoric from the media mavens horrified over First Lady Melania Trump’s White House Yule decorations.
No sooner did Melania unveil her winter wonderland with a videotaped walk-through than press people began scrounging every last metaphor, personification, and Homeric simile out of their notes for that “creative nonfiction” course they took in journalism school and mixing it into a mighty batter of hyperbolic bombast that outdoes anything your Aunt Sophie stirs up every December for her signature fruitcakes. Here are some sample ingredients:
The raisins: “In photos, Melania stood motionless on a red staircase as ballerinas twirled on a checkered floor before her; she walked through a darkened hallway lined with bristling white branches, which arched toward one another like the bones of a thousand hands that longed to clasp once more….[I]t is easy to imagine the White House as a site of menacing enchantment—a place that transforms to suit the rulers who pass through it, a place where hearts grow colder and stonier, where snow appears on the gleaming floors overnight at the behest of the silent woman in her white dress.” (Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker)
The chopped nuts: “[I]t might be that America is settling into accepting that we have a first lady who is terribly sad, or that Melania’s resolute blankness is something onto which Americans can project their angst about the state of things. We are Melania. Melania is us. At the very least, Melania’s corridor of holiday sadness has given us a nice preview of what the world will look like post-nuclear holocaust.” (Erin Gloria Ryan, The Daily Beast)
The candied lemon peel: “The East Colonnade has become the most terrifying domestic space in America…. The only thing missing is a dragon breathing fire, intent on stopping you getting your hands on a magic amulet…. The decorations feel part of an effort to force the White House alive, given the demands of what visitors want to see when they visit at Christmas. In reality, the spooky darkness of the East Colonnade speaks of the present White House a little too literally.” (Tim Teeman, the Daily Beast)
The maraschino cherries: “First, there was this somewhat disturbing video of First Lady Melania Trump watching a ballet performance, stone-faced and distant as she stared past the dancers and, perhaps, into the abyss that is her cloistered existence…. The celebration continued with Kubrickian images of the first lady walking down a dark Christmas hallway ominously lined with white, lifeless trees. Supposedly designed by the first lady herself, the icy display may or may not be yet another cry for help from her. Who can say, really?” (Jennie Neufeld, Salon)
The dash of bourbon: “…Melania’s White House Christmas could be interpreted as a snowy and desolate manifestation of her own isolation, which begs the question: Is she trying to tell us something? Indeed, some of the decorations brought to life an apocalyptic, barren landscape similar to what some of us imagine lies in America’s future, or the calming white walls of a mental institution.” (Bridget Read, Vogue)
All that’s missing from this bake-athon of overwriting is: “The star on top of Melania’s Christmas tree glistened as ominously as the nuclear warhead her husband is said to be aiming at North Korea, in the end blowing our planet to smithereens—if the climate change her husband denies doesn’t kill all living things first.” Now, I’m all for Christmas cheer at Christmastime, but shouldn’t journalists wait to dip into the wassail bowl until after they’ve written their stories, instead of sitting in it while they’re writing? It takes an ocean of eggnog to describe a row of light-festooned evergreens in a public building as “a site of menacing enchantment.”
Here’s a thought experiment for the holiday season: Replace “Melania Trump” with “Michelle Obama” in each of these stories; then sit back and imagine what the reaction would have been.
Image: YouTube/The White House