Thursday, July 21, 2016

Melania's Soup Can

"Campbell's Soup Cans" by Andy Warhol (1962)
Melania Trump, or whoever is responsible for the writing of her speech, has been accused of plagiarism.  But as Chris Christie said, “Ninety-three per cent of the speech is completely different" (“How Melania Trump's Speech Veered Off Course and Caused an Uproar,” NYT, 7/19/16).  Governor Christie was plainly looking at the glass as half full or 93% full, in comparison to the presumptive First Lady’s critics who looked at it as 7% empty. Of course there are many who might have said that with or without Michele Obama’s imprimatur the speech was as full of empty platitudes as that of its predecessor. “Values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; and you do what you say” might be reminiscent of Polonius' "neither a borrower nor a lender be," but are not exactly up there say with Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil,” or better yet the last lines of the second part of Goethe’s Faust, “Das ewig Weibliche zeiht uns hinan,” the eternal feminine lures to perfection.” If Melania had gotten on stage and started off with something like an unattributed form of Hamlet’s soliloquy critics might have taken pause, but doesn’t the regurgitation of trivialities falls merely into the category of that practice that’s big in the artistic community, “appropriation.” For instance Andy Warhol famously appropriated the Campbell’s soup can and made it into a painting that become one of the most emblematic images of the Pop Art movement? Let’s not fault Melania for stealing Michele Obama’s words, nor even Paul Manafort,  who according to The Times “pegged the number of suspicious words at 50.” The Times quoted the Trump campaign chairman as saying “and that includes ‘ands’ and ‘thes’ and things like that.” It’s like habeas corpus. There's no crime if you don't have a corpse.

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