Shiv Roy Ivanka Trump, official presidential advisor and first daughter, paid a visit to Colombia to promote the administration’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. And today, because a good deed un-promoted is useless, the White House released two seemingly inspirational videos featuring Trump touring a strawberry farm in Usme and saying the word “empowered” many times. And I have to hand it to them, say what you want about the Trumps but this video is definitely… about 57 seconds. Giving the least possible information about the initiative and featuring no voices from the community affected, it is your standard promotional video, the kind of elevator music-soundtracked propaganda you watch on your first day at work during HR Orientation.
One video is titled “Ivanka Trump Tours a Women-Owned Strawberry Farm in Columbia [sic]” like she’s stopping by a community garden in Morningside Heights. In it, she gives a speech into a microphone while standing in a farm; behind her the tinkling sounds of hold music that has no licensing fees. The other video, with the simpler but more accurate title “Ivanka Trump Visits Colombia,” seems to have been shot later as evidenced by the presence of her new lob. There is no dialogue, just footage of Trump’s trip: Trump taking selfies, Trump receiving the military, Trump hugging people, and definitely not Trump’s sleeves billowing into the air like the Flying Nun x The Hunger Games.
You will come away from these videos knowing very little about WGD, Colombia, or Columbia. But that’s not the point, now, is it? These are Ivanka Trump promotional videos. There’s almost an artfulness to how benign and pedestrian they are. The music means nothing—I’ve watched infomercials for salad spinners with more pep—the images don’t connect to any takeaways the video wants you to have, they don’t even tell you the name of the farm or the women who run it. (The farm is El Salero, which, to her credit, Trump included in a tweet about the trip.) None of those things are the point, though. The point is Ivanka Trump, full stop.
I’ve been trying to figure out what this video reminds me of and then I remembered the absurdly toothless Worldstar Royco video that Roman had to sit through in the “Safe Room” episode of HBO’s Succession, a perfect parody of corporate emptiness featuring his brother Kendall offering vague and meaningly aphorisms and then, hilariously, a shot of Roman just wandering into the frame and looking around, like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.
When you think about the Trumpaganda as part of the Succession world, it starts to make sense. Except Succession is a dark comedy and it’s fiction and this is… well, it’s definitely not reality but it something a little closer. One has to wonder, who is this video for and, to quote the inimitable Maya Rudolph as Dionne Warwick, to what end?
Sure, you could argue it’s just a nice, simple video about a woman with an immense amount of unelected power, wide-ranging ambitions, and moral allegiances that are hazy at best visiting a farm. And, even acknowledging that, the current administration is certainly not the first to release these kinds of promo videos—though none, to my memory, highlight a president’s offspring. But with the Trumps, a family of used car salespeople and carnival barkers, a sell as soft as this is a giveaway. Everything else they try to shove on us is either so forced and unwieldy or as clumsily hidden as James Comey secreting himself in the curtains. In this sense, the banality of Ivanka Trump and her promotional video seems aggressive. You’re going to buy this whether you want to or not, it seems to say. Perhaps this is giving them too much credit. Perhaps there’s no there there and you can receive an Ivanka-spirational video as a simple awkward gesture, nothing more. But probably not.