THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2020
Werewolves of the Washington Post: At some point in the 1970s, almost surely when he was still in his 20s, Warren Zevon went, or was sent, on a reporting trip to England.
Phil Everly seems to have been involved. When Zevon published his findings, he included such observations as these:
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain. He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's, gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein.
He also warned about this:
He's the hairy-handed gent who ran amuck in Kent. Lately he's been overheard in Mayfair. You better stay away from him—he'll rip your lungs out, Jim. I'd like to meet his tailor!
Zevon reported seeing a werewolf drinking a piña colada "at Trader Vic's"—presumably, at its London location. "His [the werewolf's] hair was perfect," the crusading reporter claimed.
All through his report, Zevon stressed the impeccable surface appearance of these unnoticed half-human shapeshifters. We thought of Zevon's breakthrough work when "Werewolves of the Washington Post" surfaced in numbers last week.
In this case, the number of werewolves in question was four. The number rises to five if you're willing to count this "editorial cartoon" by Ann Telnaes. Extending a seasonal pardon, we aren't.
As we documented yesterday, it has become a tradition. The wolves began to run through the streets of D.C. after first lady Melania Trump unveiled this year's White House Christmas decorations.
Over the course of the past four years, Secret Service protection denied the wolves physical contact with the first lady's throat.
Frustration builds through the course of the year. On Tuesday morning, December 1, the howling began in earnest.
"Gender columnist" Monica Hesse snapped and growled on the front page of Style. The sheer inanity of this tradition is captured in this passage:
HESSE (12/1/20): The end of Donald Trump’s presidency means the end of a lot of things, but one I’m personally grateful for is that we can all finally stop reading (or writing) stories about Melania. We can stop speculating on whether she actually speaks five languages, or what she meant by “I really don’t care, do u?” We don’t have to read into her slappy hand movements, delivered when her husband reaches for her arm; we don’t have to hear about her alleged pre-nup negotiations or what bed she sleeps in or doesn’t.
Transformed as she was by the seasonal angst, Hesse pretended that someone has been forcing her to read (and write) "stories" about the first lady. Someone had been forcing Hesse to speculate about how many languages the first lady knows, even to hear about what bed she sleeps in. Or doesn't!
Werewolves of Yuletide, ah-oooh! (To hear Zevon deliver his report, you can just click here.)
Hesse began her essay with standard snark about how inhuman the first lady is. (All the children go there.) She proceeded to offer a standard reference to The Handmaid's Tale, but also to this season's newest form of tribal tinsel—the claim that supporters regard the first lady as elegant only because she's so white.
She also worked with "Who gives a f---?" We'll try to get there tomorrow.
On that same day, in that same print edition, "senior critic-at-large" Robin Givhan was howling at the moon also. Her essay appeared atop page A2. Like the rest of her stablemates, she was troubled by the Christmas decorations too.
As the world has known since the time of the 2000 Florida recount, you can't get dumber than Givhan gets when she leaves his chosen field—the pointless field of upper-class fashion—and starts to comment on major political figures.
When Givhan discusses the first lady's Christmas decs, the headlines which sit above her essays pull no rabbit punches:
Post headline, 2019: Melania Trump’s Christmas decorations are lovely, but that coat looks ridiculous
Post headline, 2020: Melania Trump seems quite content on her pedestal
Like Hesse, Givhan complained about how "tall and thin and White" the first lady is. They were employing a theme on which The Werewolves of the Upper-End Press have finally landed this year.
Givhan would join Hesse in play the whiteness card. A bit more simply, she chose to open with full-blown unvarnished snark:
GIVHAN (12/1/20): Look at her. Because despite her protestations, that is what Melania Trump would like you to do. That’s what supporters find solace in doing. Let your gaze linger.
In her final Christmas video, the one produced during a pandemic, Trump emerges into frame on a staircase landing high above a tree-filled hallway, while wearing a shimmering blouse and slim skirt. She strolls through the White House and marvels at the handiwork of others—who remain unseen. She doesn’t hang a bauble and she most certainly doesn’t step into the kitchen for a peek at the secrets behind the 25 pounds of icing on the gingerbread White House.
The decorations, themed to “America the Beautiful,” mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, celebrate first responders and highlight the country’s wildlife. Trump goes it alone in this slow-motion video that eschews behind-the-scenes flashes of the many masked volunteers who climbed atop ladders and wielded glue guns. There are no references to socially distanced team work. She’s not guiding the public in an intimate virtual tour.
The video is a high-glamour narrative in which she is the star.
Givhan complained that the first lady had behaved this way "during a pandemic." It didn't seem to enter her head that she herself was drowning the world in ugly, stupid, trivial snark during this same brutal period.
Givhan complained that the first lady's video doesn't include the many volunteers who helped create the decs. It doesn't show us the workers in the kitchen, the people up on the ladders.
The video in question was one minute long. Werewolves of Yuletide again!
Hesse and Givhan occupied high-visibility spots in that day's print edition. On that same day, Molly Roberts' takedown of the decs appeared in the Post online.
Roberts is four years out of college. To her credit, she compensates for her tender years by basically knowing it all.
Not failing to cite The Handmaid's Tale, she reviewed four years of the first lady's "downright spooky" Yuletide "horror shows." Astoundingly, she closed by journeying back four years to cite a Melania tweet:
ROBERTS (12/1/20): “What is she thinking?” Trump tweeted in the distant days of 2012 to accompany a snapshot of a beluga whale. The creature’s head is thrust through the sea’s surface, and its jaw yawns wide open in what it is tempting to call a smile. The post resurfaced as she took on the title of first lady, and ad infinitum those watching her, hating her and loving her have pondered the query. This unusually usual holiday display may finally give us an answer: not much at all.
What has the first lady been thinking? "Not much at all," the Harvard kid saucily said as she wrapped up her werewolf performance. ("Ad infinitum" is Latin.)
As noted, it was December 1. By now, the Post had published three—count em, three!—sneer-alike essays by three of its stable of wolves.
We might have thought the assault was done—but Saturday, on the op-ed page, Alexandra Petri shared her own thoughts on the current decs. Petri amused Post readers with this, humorous headline included:
PETRI (12/5/20): The nine circles of Melania Trump's Christmas decorations
Midway upon the journey of my life, I found myself in the midst of a dark and festive wood. I sought to escape the wood and climb away, toward 2021 and the new administration I could see gleaming just on the horizon, but there appeared a figure before me whose voice seemed rusty from long silence.
“Virgil?” I said.
“Melania Trump,” the figure said. “Follow me, and I will guide you among these ominous trees, through a place where you will hear desperate lamentations and see ancient, disconsolate spirits in torment. Would you like a tour of the White House Christmas decorations?”
Petri, another Harvard kid, was playing the Virgil card—and we don't mean Virgil Tibbs! She was comparing Melania's decs to Dante's nine circles of Hell!
(According to Dante's detailed report, he had been guided by Virgil.)
According to Zevon's breakthrough reporting, well-groomed werewolves were roaming freely through London highest circles. "I saw Lon Chaney dancing with the queen," Zevon reported, "doing The Werewolves of London."
Today, high-end shapeshifters of this very type are employed all over D.C. And when we think about Our Town, it's amazing to understand this:
Many of us, right here in Our Town, can't see, or begin to understand, how this utterly stupid shit will look to so many others. Anthropologically, we're too prehuman to think about this and too prehuman to care.
The Werewolves of the Washington Post all have excellent tailors. Along with the pair of Harvard kids, Givhan graduated from Princeton. Hesse settled for Bryn Mawr.
Werewolves are quite well received in Our Town. They often went to the finest schools. Is it possible that this explains why we aren't better liked?
Tomorrow: The soul of our floundering town. Also, Hillary's decs!