Donald Trump: is there anything sadder than a chump who thinks he’s a champ? | Barbara Ellen | Opinion
Oh dear. Was President Trump’s tweet of his head digitally added on to the body of Rocky Balboa/Sylvester Stallone rather too psychologically revealing? The image seemed to say everything you needed to know about Trump’s delusional self-image. Well, I say “needed”. How much does anyone need to know about any man – world leader or regular Joe – who mistakes male heft and musculature for true power?
Before we begin, a minor quibble: the tan of Rocky’s body isn’t an exact match for Trump’s face. The former says “Italian-American”; the latter whispers: “Overzealously applied mortuary makeup that does little to dispel the question marks over Trump’s health sparked by his recent unscheduled ‘medical check’.” But I digress – it’s the internal monologue that counts. The Trump/Rocky hybrid is saying: “Behold my might! This is the real Trump – not that old guy, so flaccid and orange he’s starting to resemble a morally corrupted Winnie the Pooh. NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO! This toned boxing-gloved Adonis is the true Trump: buff, invincible and intriguingly homoerotic.”
Of course, this Superman/Superego routine has been done before, and better. Who could forget Vladimir Putin’s winsome topless bareback-riding modelling stints – a worthy Mr January of any fun presidential charity calendar. (And, as Vlad might snipe, no Photoshop – showing only what his momma gave him.) Then of course there’s our own Boris Johnson, who tried – and failed – to get the Hulk power-image going (thankfully, no visuals provided from Tory HQ). What is one to make of such transparent displays of cartoon machismo? Away from world leaders, what is there to make of any man who makes a bulked-up, ultramasculine body image his top priority?
This might come as news to some men, but sometimes those muscles alarm and repulse women. Not always, of course – you get your lovely gentle giants. But then there’s that guy: the obsessive bodybuilder/weightlifter type – the weird staring one at any gym, who never seems to leave and who crouches over equipment as though it’s freshly slain prey. The kind of man who likes to say that he lets his muscles “do the talking”, not realising that those muscles are saying all the wrong things. Instead of saying “Sex!”, “Dominance!”, “Power!” and “Alpha!”, they’re saying “Rage!”, “Revenge!”, “Overcompensation!” and “Probable incel!” Or, in extreme cases: “When I’m not at the gym, I’m hunched over a computer, sending threatening emails to female politicians.”
Now I’m getting overexcited. However, there’s a good reason why so many women prefer “dad bods” – that’s a body that suggests a modicum of male sanity, maturity and priorities. A body that says: “I occasionally go for a run, a cycle or a swim, but I’m not going to make a fuss about it, and I don’t need to be physically threatening to feel validated.” Maybe that’s the tragedy, the terrible revealing sadness, of Trump’s Photoshopped image – he’s no intimidating colossus, no dominant Superman, but by God he wants to be.
Your child’s phone is as much a force for good as bad
Satan, thy name is smartphone. According to a report by King’s College, London, reviewing research from Europe, Asia and the USA, just published in BMC Psychiatry, almost a quarter of children and young people could suffer from problematic smartphone use (PSU), leading to mental health problems.
While new data is needed, PSU mainly seems to affect females in their late teens, with symptoms including anxiety when the phone is taken away, mood swings and poor sleep quality. PSU was also found to be more common among those prone to smoking, drinking, compulsive shopping and social media addictions.
All of which is enough to make you want to wrestle the smartphone from your child, smash it with a hammer and bury it with a clove of garlic in the back garden, perhaps with a priest in attendance. Indeed, amid growing concern about the failures of tech firms, politicians are pledging stricter guidelines. However, previous guidance from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said that screentime isn’t necessarily harmful in itself. Moreover, what exactly does your child’s device represent – not to you, but to them?
Obviously, it’s unhealthy for children to be entranced by smartphones to the point where they practically have foam-flecked convulsions when they’re removed. However, shouldn’t it also be recognised that these aren’t mere phones, but technological gateways to… well, everything. They represent friendship, support, networking, acceptance, status, comfort, culture, play, amusement, self-actualisation and more. They can also represent bullying, anxiety, depression, obsession and isolation, which is where parental rationing comes in.
However, perhaps there needs to be an acknowledgement of what exactly is being taken away. This isn’t just a gadget – kids soon tire of those, however addictive. Smartphones are your child’s complex, precious socio-emotional lives held in their hands. That’s what you’re tearing away – and that’s why it’s so difficult.
Who’d be a teacher with these spiteful Tory tactics?
Why is the Tory party persisting in treating teachers as the enemy? It now proposes to give Ofsted the power to inspect schools without prior notice and to stay longer. Why such a hostile stance, as if to catch schools “on the hop”, and what does this say about the Tory attitude to teachers?
Elsewhere, it’s reported that there’s been a failure to hit teacher recruitment targets for the seventh year in a row, despite incentives such as tax-free training bursaries and golden hellos. Hardly surprising: too many teachers are overworked, underpaid, undervalued and facing constant abuse from several quarters. That’s when they’re not acting as surrogate social workers for needy children who arrive underfed and barely clothed, in inadequately funded schools struggling to function or even stay open every weekday.
Now there’s this proposal to put schools under even more pressure. Why? At present, schools tend to get informed of inspections the day before, which isn’t enough time to spirit away major problems. Staff chiefly need the notice to reschedule departmental or parent meetings.
This is a spiteful and aggressive move by the Tories. What’s the tagline: “Tough on education, tough on the causes of education”? Not only is it nasty, it’s counterproductive, putting people off from choosing teaching as a career.
•Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist