The XX Factor

Why Is Esquire Giving a Platform to Grizzled Bigot Clint Eastwood?

According to Esquire, Clint Eastwood is a “badass” and an “inspiration.”

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Do not read Clint Eastwood’s recent Esquire interview until you’re sitting down. Do not read it less than 30 minutes after eating a meal. Do not read his latest secretion of racist, anti-woman phlegm if you’re about to attend an important meeting, look after a small child, or operate heavy machinery.

The interview dribbles through all the topics that make insecure right-wingers tingle: PC culture, Hillary Clinton’s voice, overblown claims of racism, money-grubbing wives, literal vaginas. Eastwood’s 30-year-old son, Scott, makes a guest appearance to prove that treating women like poorly made material goods doesn’t skip a generation.

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Here’s what Eastwood says about Donald Trump:

He’s onto something, because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist.

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Within this six-sentence text, Eastwood manages to debase female genitalia, contend that the presidential candidate who openly cribs from avowed white supremacists has been unfairly besmirched, and yearn for the racial climate of the 1930s and 1940s, when Jim Crow laws were the norm and no one in power talked about racism. The thing about political correctness—or not being racist, which is what Eastwood seems to mean—is that it’s primarily about not being horrible to other people. You don’t need to walk on eggshells; you just need to act like a halfway decent and sensitive human being.

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Eastwood also poured one out for the glory days of white supremacy, when famous people could spew ignorant dog feces and didn’t have to feel bad about it. “He’s said a lot of dumb things,” Eastwood said of Trump. But “So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody—the press and everybody’s going, ‘Oh, well, that’s racist,’ and they’re making a big hoodoo out of it. Just fucking get over it. It’s a sad time in history.” If there is a single image that sums up the myth of a post-racial America, it is an easily stirred old white man with millions in the bank telling people of color to “just fucking get over it” in a glossy men’s magazine.

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To save you the trouble of pawing through the entire puddle of regurgitated sludge, I’ve surfaced the other important takeaways from Eastwood’s mouth-squirt.

This is what he thinks of Clinton: “It’s a tough voice to listen to for four years.”

This is his philosophy of parenthood: “A lot of people when they retire, they just expire. It happens to men more than women. Women usually have great interest in the family, because the family’s always growing and they’re always coming to the rescue. … For a man, once you’ve sired your pups, you’re done.”

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This is his description of the first half of his son’s life: “I didn’t get a chance to see him because I had a hot career going.”

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This is his advice on marriage, an “expensive hobby” the Esquire author calls “collecting wives”: “Cut out the middleman. Just find somebody you hate and buy ’em a house.”

And then there’s this bizarre exchange about the difference between female genitals as metaphors for weak people who have feelings and female genitals as literal objects that you want to have sexual intercourse with:

Esquire: Politically, you’re the Anti-Pussy party?

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Scott Eastwood: That’s right. No candy-asses.

Clint Eastwood: Yeah, I’m anti–the pussy generation. Not to be confused with pussy.

Scott Eastwood: All of us are pro-pussy.

In one sense, it’s nice to see Eastwood’s feeble brain flopping around on the table, struggling for air for all to see. His lack of empathy, self-awareness, and humanity is clearer than ever. But Esquire doesn’t do anything to acknowledge that Eastwood’s backwards views are wrong or even the slightest bit troubling. Author Michael Hainey, Esquire’s executive editorial director, calls Eastwood “badass-young” on Twitter and “an inspiration” in the interview’s intro. The article’s teaser text calls Eastwood a “ball-buster”; the cover calls him “the original outlaw.” (Writers don’t always write their own headlines, but since Hainey is one of Esquire’s top editors, it’s safe to assume he at least approved those fawning descriptors.) Opining that “collecting wives is an expensive hobby,” as Hainey does, is one way to get a famed misogynist to dig himself into a hole. But failing to push back against any of his deeply disturbing remarks, then lauding him as an unqualified idol, normalizes his bigotry. Normalized bigotry is how Donald Trump rallies get their start.

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The saddest parts of the Esquire dumpster dive are Scott’s contributions to the conversation. When Eastwood says that women have more interest in their families than men, Scott just laughs and says “Are you talking about my mom?” When Eastwood advises men to buy a hateworthy person a house instead of marrying, Scott says “I gotta write that down.” There’s some measure of solace in remembering that Eastwood is 86 years old and, if this interview is any indication, in rapid decline. But for half the racist male supremacists who pass on to that great Hooters franchise in the sky, there’s a son left on Earth, and he’s got a pad full of studious notes.

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