Jared Kushner, the amateur detectives of the internet have recently decided, is the little girl with the buzz cut from Stranger Things. He’s also Tony’s mom from The Sopranos. He’s the creepy doll from a horror movie you didn’t see, too. And he’s the Babadook.
Absolutely amazing how versatile this young actress is. pic.twitter.com/qUm5zMU9T4— chaps (@UncleChaps) July 24, 2017
These comparisons have notched thousands of likes and retweets on Twitter, suggesting a universal bewilderment over whom, exactly, Jared Kushner looks like. (For further evidence, searching the phrase “Jared Kushner looks like” on Twitter yields an ever-growing treasure trove of results.) Finding his doppelgänger, and indeed, those of other members of the Trump administration—did you know Anthony Scaramucci is a dead ringer for Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel?—has become one of those topics, like how best to describe Ted Cruz’s face, that we can’t help returning to. And by “we” I mean the slice of Twitter dominated by left-leaning journalists and other knowing worthies who you’d think would be sick of thinking of Kushner and his ilk after doing it during the other 23 hours of the day.
With his boyish looks, rarely heard voice, and reputation for acts of petty vengeance, Kushner, in particular, has always been one of the more unknowable figures in an administration full of compelling (if repellent!) personalities, and he’s been facing extra scrutiny in recent weeks over what role he may have played in the Trump campaign’s reported contacts with Russia. The meeting he attended in Trump Tower with a handful of Russian nationals provided, if not a smoking gun, then at least a gun that could be examined for evidence of smoke—finally, a clear-cut example of wrongdoing that might be pinned on this unprincipled, inexperienced product of nepotism. But where criticizing Kushner’s words and deeds feels democratic and morally upstanding, in the jokier corners of the internet, it’s also standard practice to pepper in some commentary about the looks of the people we hate.
this has been bothering me for so long and I finally figured it out pic.twitter.com/onZip2g80C— Brendan O'Connor (@_grendan) July 25, 2017
Why do we do this? Deciding that things look like other things is a simple human pleasure, and we sometimes do it with things we don’t hate at all. Remember how good life was back when talking about how Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel are basically twins passed for topical conversation? Those were the days. When we point out resemblances between figures we don’t like, though, we do it with a special glee. Some of the comparisons do get at qualities that seem essential to the character of Jared or whoever’s being described: In a piece about the evil doll from a horror movie that bears a resemblance to Kushner, the Awl observed, “Everything about the doll and Kushner, both appearance and background-wise, communicates … fear of privilege going unchecked. If you were to open an illustrated dictionary to ‘spoiled wealthy males’ you’d see an image of either Kushner or the Brahms doll.” In instances like this, we’re coloring in our incomplete understanding of Kushner, trying to know and categorize an evil that we’re stuck with. The Jared/Babadook comparison could be read in the same way: It essentially communicates that, despite the Trump administration’s gestures at populism and real America, Kushner’s about as likely as a ghoul in a top hat to be confused for a man of the people.
Jared Kushner is one top hat away from being a Babadook. pic.twitter.com/w3fo2fghD2— Gabe Delahaye (@gabedelahaye) July 26, 2017
But not every look-alike callout is insightful. The other side of calling Kushner the Babadook is that in some circles the Babadook has become a gay meme, which means it may just be a dressed-up way of calling Kushner effete. Similarly, calling Jared a little girl or an old woman is just emasculating him and insulting little girls and old women (something the Trump administration already does enough of).
Still, one can’t deny the satisfaction of cutting someone like Kushner down to size. What’s behind that feeling of gratification that comes with zeroing in on what exactly was giving you that hazy, uncanny feeling of recognition? It’s like scratching an itch, but there’s also an extra level of accomplishment when it doubles as political commentary. You can imagine a light bulb turning on over the head of the Twitter user who did it, who realized once and for all that the person Kushner looks like—those brown eyes, that resolute mouth—is Stranger Things’ Eleven. Since Trump took office, his critics have been grasping for the thing that will puncture the administration and bring him down, and due to the hold the media and entertainment industries have on Trump’s lizard brain, it seems just as likely to wind up being the “Russia thing” as a joke on Saturday Night Live or a meme that bubbles up into wider pop culture. Trump was reportedly enraged by Melissa McCarthy’s SNL portrayal of former press secretary Sean Spicer, who even faced taunts in the workplace over the parody. Who’s to say that calling Jared a little girl wouldn’t cause someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW to snap? In its own small way, tweeting your Jared look-alike is an act of resistance, a realization of the thought that maybe if we make fun of them enough—if we do to Trump’s people what he does to everyone else—it’ll get to them. It’s not totally implausible. Tweets beget retweets beget roundups beget memes, and all that really has to happen is for one to get big enough that it airs on Fox News and inspires Trump’s ire.
As this year has proved over and over, anything could happen.