Why Many Are Calling This 'New York Times' Cartoon About Trump And Putin Homophobic

"Casual bigotry is not a shortcut for critique."

The relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has drawn much criticism, both before and after Trump's election as president, and it only escalated after Monday's summit between the two leaders in Helsinki. However, one particularly common and problematic approach has been to portray the men as romantically or sexually involved.  

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In the past, street artists have depicted Trump and Putin kissing, and late-night host Stephen Colbert sparked controversy last year with a sexually explicit comment about the two. Then on Monday, the New York Times tweeted an animated video, originally released in June, titled Trump and Putin: A Love Story. It imagines the men in a "forbidden romance," using real audio of Trump complimenting and defending the Russian president.

The cartoon drew much backlash from members of the LGBTQ community, comedians, and others who argue that implying Trump and Putin are gay is a homophobic and unfunny way of criticizing them. As many Twitter users pointed out, such content suggests that being gay is shameful, and distracts from the issue at hand by turning a marginalized group of people into a punchline.

As Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims wrote in response to the New York Times, "What on Earth makes you think that equating the love that millions of people across the planet feel for one another to the unconscionably criminal relationship between these two is OK?!?"

BuzzFeed's Alex Berg, meanwhile, tweeted that the resources put into the video could have been better spent "highlighting unsung queer heroes" or drawing attention to Russia's policies against LGBTQ people.

Comedian Franchesca Ramsey also tweeted a thread calling out these so-called "jokes," and explaining why they are so problematic, writing that "insinuating Trump is in a sexual relationship with Putin makes homosexuality a punchline."

She admitted that she herself regrets some jokes she has made about other people's sex lives or appearances in an attempt to criticize them. Such language may indirectly insult others who have nothing to do with the situation. As Ramsey writes, "our words don't exist in a vacuum."

"It's like starting a food fight & thinking the ONE person you're aiming at is the one who's gonna get dirty," she wrote.

The conversation is similar to one which surrounded Kanye West earlier this year. Many people questioned West's mental health following his vocal support for Donald Trump. His wife Kim Kardashian warned against using the "mental health card" against those with whom you disagree, or treating mental illness as a joke.

As Ramsey wrote on Twitter, "Casual bigotry is not a short cut [sic] for critique."

(H/T: Vulture)

Cover image: Brendan Smialowski / AFP /Getty Images

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