Lurid clay-and-silicone statues of Donald Trump popped up in five U.S. cities on Thursday morning, depicting the Republican presidential candidate in a pasty, veiny state of complete undress. Built by guerrilla art collective Indecline, the statues are titled “The Emperor Has No Balls.” Indeed, the likeness features no testicles, and a miniscule penis at that.
It’s easy to see why many met the sight of this righteous humiliation of a notorious bully with glee. Trump has spent his entire career insulting people for their looks, specifically their weight. He mocked Miss Universe contestants for being what he deemed overweight, called one “Miss Piggy,” and made her work out in a room full of photographers and video crews. He called Rosie O’Donnell “my nice, fat little Rosie.” He even poked fun at Chris Christie’s weight at his own rally.
Yet every attempt at holding Trump to account for these insults has rolled off his back; his supporters seem to love him more for his crude, looks-based cruelty. And don’t even try to get to him with a legitimate high-road critique of his leadership, geopolitical knowledge, business acumen, or thousands of lies—he and his allies don’t even register that kind of substantive questioning.
So it feels good—cathartic, even— to see Trump besmirched at his own subterranean level. Even government agencies think so. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation removed the statue from Union Square with a statement that included this elegant dig: “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” Get it? Trump has a tiny penis!
But there’s a reason why we’ve been castigating Trump for his ad hominem attacks throughout this campaign: They’re demeaning, gratuitous, and don’t say anything worth saying. A Facebook friend who published a post criticizing these statues noted that passing around an insulting likeness like this is exactly the kind of thing Trump might do, or encourage his supporters to do. (See: the unflattering image of Heidi Cruz he tweeted to highlight his own wife’s hotness.) Encouraging people to laugh at the statue of Trump because it’s fat, wrinkly, and small-dicked doesn’t tell them Trump is a bad person. It tells them that fat, wrinkly, and small-dicked (or transgender, or intersex) people are funny to look at and should be embarrassed of their naked bodies. The statue’s name, with its focus on Trump’s lack of testicles, relies on the age-old rhetorical link between male genitalia and courage, a sexist connection that’s so hackneyed it’s almost more irksome than offensive at this point.
I emailed Indecline with some of these thoughts, and a spokesman told me this:
I don’t believe Michelangelo’s David had a very large member either, so historically speaking, statue dicks have never that impressive. As far as his weight, it’s accurate. Nothing can be said about the fact that the Emperor is a little rotund. If he was skinny, [the statue’s artist] Ginger would have created a skinny mold. We’re not responsible for Trump’s diet. He was sculpted exactly how he stands before us today.
The collective is also responsible for a mural on the Mexican border that says “Rape Trump,” an allusion to Trump’s claim that Mexico is sending rapists across the border. Another message one might take away from the mural is this: Sexual violence is a deserved punishment for some people.
I asked Indecline’s spokesman if there were any plans in the works for a Hillary Clinton statue, since the collective’s former targets have been mostly nonpartisan. “Hillary doesn’t deserve a statue,” he told me. "But now that we’re talking about it, we’ll probably do one anyway—and give her a huge wiener.”