Hands up if you like French history.
No? Well, sorry America but a lot of things happened in the run up to 1776 and just because the phrase ‘pas de France pas d’Amérique,‘ has yet to be truncated into a twitter-friendly emoji doesn’t make it any less true.
Let’s start at the middle.
They called him the Sun King. Or — if you’re the kind of person who likes to alienate people by dropping the odd line of French into dinner party conversation — le Roi-Soleil.
Louis XIV reigned in France between 1643 and 1715 — or if you prefer to be that guy at the dinner table who likes to consolidate his perpetual virginity by correcting people on matters of linear chronology — from 1661. That was the year Cardinal Mazarin stopped telling Louis what to do. On account of him having just died.
Freed from Mazarin’s influence Louis set about leaving an asshole-shaped mark in the (pun intended,) annals of history. Flamboyant, petulant, egregious, and at times brilliant, one thing cannot be denied.
The man had style.
French Baroque style to be exact.
For those of you as unfamiliar with Baroque as President Trump is with multi-syllable words, it can be summed up in just one sentence.
The peasants questioned the majesty of Rome and Rome in response impressed said majesty upon them in the form of unrelenting taxation used to cover everything they owned in layers of shiny-shiny gold.
In short, they gilded the Lilly.
In some cases, literally.
Pimp My Church
The idea was to induce a sense of wonder and awesomeness in the minds of the plebs as they shuffled past ecclesiastical vanity project after ecclesiastical vanity project. The stubby erections of pretend celibate priests were closeted behind gowns that were of themselves an exercise in tremendousness. Windows became as stained as a nun’s gusset, walls were frescoed to high-fucksy.
Oh, it was grand.
It had to be.
You see, as Protestantism fragmented, it created layers of variable austerity ranging from something that resembled pre-reformation papism to something that involved dirty cups and crosses made out of twigs stuck together with spittle.
It was simple stuff, at times, almost puritanical in nature. Those that broke from the establishment balked at the corruption and vested interests that lay at the rotten heart of Christendom. They quaked, they shaked, and in doing so offered a rather pleasant alternative to a swamp very much in need of a good drain.
(Asked the Church of Rome.)
“Well look at my dick. My big-gold-dick.”
Large golden penis metaphors are one of those things its hard not to stare at.
The Counterreformation — of which Baroque architecture was but a small part of — was something of a success.
Success invites imitation.
And so the style broke free of its earlier religious connotations. Noting its use as a theological statement, the scrofulous monarchs of Europe co-opted the style in order to use it as a political tool.
Which made sense.
Divine Comedy of Errors
The Sun King’s power — as with the power of most absolutists of the time — rested on the principle of divine right and as such he had to dress to impress. It wasn’t enough to simply be the king, you kind of had to look like you were the king. That meant wealth, pomp, ceremony, enormous wigs, even more enormous mirkins and above all else the huge alabaster palaces that served as a kind of renaissance Arab-strap for the very rich.
The spectacle. What else could they do really?
Back then that is.
Today, there are multiple ways one can prove their value to society. The birth of egalitarianism allowed people to rise above the fray via educational achievement, political brilliance, business acumen, the occasional bikini photo shoot, a cheeky casting couch tumble and other potential paths to greatness, many of which involved little or no nudity at all.
The gilded titivations of the past — of the Sun King and his ilk — belong in the past for the simple reason that their raison d’etre has less relevance to the modern world than the music of Supertramp has to millennials.
Which is what makes this next paragraph so depressing.
Shock And Awful.
According to Kate Wagner, founder, and editor of McMansion Hell, a website that specializes in exposing the tackiness of pre-bubble interior decorating, Trump’s preference for gilded kitsch has far too much in common with the Sun King’s
In a blistering post for Curbly, she deconstructed Trump’s signature style, comparing it with that of Louis XIV and noting that:
“The difference between 18th century France and 21st century America is that the insane opulence of the French royalty inspired the country to rise up against tyranny and send them all to the guillotine. Yet, in America, it inspired a large number of people to vote for Donald Trump for president.”
National treasure and walking advert for Tigi Bed Head – Frizz Control and Shine Control Freak Serum Fran Lebowitz concurred:
“Donald Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person.” It’s a pretty simple system, really: gold = rich. Columns = rich because banks have columns. Chandeliers = rich because they’re big and shiny. You catch my drift.”
Trump’s entire persona is fixated on the idea that others perceive him as the exact same person he perceives himself as.
But who is that person? Well, not the bloviating man-baby in desperate need of a firm spanking that we see, that’s for sure.
No, Trump sees himself as a rich, dashing, trendsetter, a brilliant businessman with a razor-sharp mind and a dick the size of a Texas motel.
He’s a handsome ageless sovereign, one of the good guys, a man who quickens the pulse of ladies as he glides past roaring crowds propelled only by his own magnificence. A man who expects his orders to be obeyed without question. A man who loves to bask in the adoration of the toothless plebians almost as much as he likes to bathe in 400-watt fluorescent tube lights.