In the latter days of May 2017, Kathy Griffin made a twelve second video of her holding a fake severed head of U.S. President Donald Trump, which was posted on her Instagram and Twitter accounts. She captioned: “I caption this ‘there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his…wherever,” this a reference to some comment Trump had made about Megyn Kelly. -(CNN)
“It was a parody of Trump’s own sexist remarks taken to an extreme absurdist visual,” Griffin’s attorney Lisa Bloom said. “Kathy teamed up with a photographer to mock Trump, our mocker-in-chief, [to show] what would it look like if his own insults were turned on him.” – (TIME Magazine)
The video was from a shoot with photographer Tyler Shields, who is known for producing visually intense imagery often dwelling in the realms of taboo and politically charged. (of Hitler blowing his brains out, burnt a “priceless” Louis Vuitton trunk, and Lindsey Lohan covered in blood while holding a gun.)
When asked to comment, Shields stood by his piece, called a work of art, beautiful and strong in a politically charged statement. When approached by TMZ reporters, shields responded to the controversy over the post: “Honestly, I’ve got no comment. The only thing is, you make art, you gotta stand by it,” Shields continued, “I can’t censor myself,”. Shields also said he had spoken to Griffin after the post made headlines, but didn’t indicate what exactly they spoke about. “I’m just gonna go home and eat my ice cream and hide out,” he told the TMZ cameraman as he pulled away from the grocery store. -(TMZ)
Various members of the Trump family & administration responded to the photo as a threat to the personal safety of the president and his family, calling this picture both “disturbing” and “disgusting”. But anyone who’s seen the news in the past few days knows how appalled the Trump family, administration, and general public is about this, liberal and conservative alike, so I will skip the extraneous quotes and details on the public outcry this post has incited. From a liberal standpoint though, this definitely sticks a thick wedge in what seems to be a barrel roll towards Trump’s impending impeachment.
Kathy Griffin would later take down the post and issue an apology at a press conference held as a response to both the Trump family as well as the general public for the insensitive nature of the piece. She insisted that any trace of this post be taken down, and that she no intention of meaning any harm to the president and his family, stating she “went too far” and adding, “I beg for your forgiveness.” (CNN)
CNN said in a statement prior to announcing her termination, “We found what she did disgusting and offensive. We are pleased to see she has apologized and asked that the photos be taken down.” (CNN)
CNN responded immediately to the video, terminating her contract for hosting New Year’s Eve Special, which she has been doing alongside Anderson Cooper since 2007. She was also let go of numerous marketing agreements and upcoming events for showcasing her new book.
When asked for comment, Anderson Cooper said, “For the record, I am appalled by the photo shoot Kathy Griffin took part in. It is clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate.”
When asked for comment on the video, Lisa Bloom (lead attorney for Kathy Griffin) stated, “Like many edgy works of artistic expression, the photo could be interpreted different ways. But Griffin never imagined that it could be misinterpreted as a threat of violence against Trump. That was never what she intended. She has never threatened or committed an act of violence against anyone. “Griffin also said she received multiple very specific death threats over the photo. Griffin also criticized the Trump family for “trying to ruin my life forever” (CNN)
So where does this leave us? What are we to take from this?
This isn’t the first time something of this nature has ever been done before, look at the Obama administration, someone who had it exponentially worse and who was actually a decent president. Ted Nugent, among countless others, took it upon himself shooting an Obama doll as mere target practice, even making ambiguous threats in light of the presidents possible winning in the election, even calling Obama a “subhuman mongrel” (though both Nugent and Griffin have been under investigation for their incidents). Now he’s seen hanging out in the White House with Trump and crew ensemble. This hypocritical bullshit swells in the veins of nearly every politician and celebrity, products of the public, it’s inevitable.
But focusing solely on that as justification or reasoning won’t get us anywhere, this repetitive Red Herring style of argumentation that has been tearing this country apart for years. Let’s, first once, focus not on comparing the Obama administration years or Ted Nugent, (as much of an asshole as he is) to Trump and Kathy Griffin, because I refuse to follow down the contradictory rhetoric that has stained the halls of US democracy for too long. Let’s focus on the now, and what to take from all of this.
We understand what Griffin and Shields (personally did not get nearly enough blame) did was wrong, it was simply wrong. There is little denying that. Joe Rogan couldn’t have put it better in his web-based podcast series, The Joe Rogan Experience, “That’s not a solution, even if it’s the worst person in the world, holding their head up like that, it’s fucking barbaric,”
No matter who it is done by, moral reasoning agrees that this shouldn’t be alright, as no human deserves this. And Griffin understands this, the general public (hopefully) understands this. Art comes in many forms, even distasteful.
By definition, a piece illicit a response, and while even Griffin refuses to stand by this video, we must accept the true nature of this work, without holding onto our own moral compass. If we take away how this piece may make others feel, or how it makes us feel: we have the acknowledgement of a response generated from the work. This is the first step in seeing beauty in objectivity, beauty without morality.
Now I understand what I ask of you can be seen as inconsiderate and naïve, after all, what if it were my head held by her hand. Asking to see the beauty in this piece is like the lawyer searching for reasoning in a serial killer; playing devil’s advocate in the most sensitive nature, asking to carry idle hands in the devil’s workshop.
What I am asking is a separation of the artist from the art, in order to better understand objectivity. Think for yourself, create for yourself, learn for yourself, not out of self-interest but for the betterment of relations to others. Leaders can be both followers and leaders, under the right leadership, and with the right understanding of when and how to follow. If one can grasp these steps of self-actualizing, maybe then stunts like this won’t happen, and if they do, the actions that follow have the rippling effects that strengthen a nation, solidify a community.
What one should gather from this video’s outcry is a small victory, slightly unifying in its mutually-shared hatred for it. Though for the most part it’s the continuation of this never-ending battle of fallacious argumentation, fleeting rhetoric, and emotional-appealing “pop psych” antics that muddle pure thought and hinder any form of progress. We should examine the reaction that both the media and the public have to instances like this, and focus on not falling prey to fallacious reasoning and ignorant generalizations that further divide our common man. This might seem like a stretch to say all of this, almost unrelated. But this is where this country is hurt the most, not by initial impact, but in the reaction by each and every one of us that follows.
If you were to see the original post made by Kathy Griffin, and nothing else, never mentioned or conversed over the video to anyone, never saw a news article or reaction online, what would you think of it? Be honest, because if you continue to hide behind the mask society has built for you, you continue to waste time. In a world where vulnerability such as this is unable to breathe, to exist, that is when art is truly dead.
And who knows, maybe the piece was meant to be hated by all, how else to illicit sympathy for the quite possibly one of the most hated individuals in the world. Just a thought.
– Dependable Skeleton