At the exact moment that Donald Trump began to take the oath of office, my shady-ass cat knocked a stack of books off the shelf. On top of the pile landed Frederick Douglass’ autobiography of his life as a slave in the land of the free. Hard eyes emoji.
It was neither the first nor the last moment of shade that beset the inauguration of a man who is, surely, the least qualified and probably the most dangerous president our nation has had to endure. And endure him we will, if the beautiful explosion of resistance ranging from twerks for peace, to women’s marches, to “you wanted a wall” blockades currently filling our cities’ streets are any indication. Part of that resistance will depend on the essential succor of humor—so in that spirit, we present a collection of the day’s shadiest moments.
Trump made a show of signing a sheaf of “meaningful” papers on Day 1, but he wasn’t alone. The American Civil Liberties Union celebrated the peaceful transfer of power by launching a major legal campaign against the administration focused on the conflicts of interest and outright violations of the Constitution the new president just dropped off at the White House along with his monogramed luggage. From a press release: “The first legal action, filed yesterday, is a Freedom of Information Act request asking several government agencies to turn over all documents relating to President Trump’s actual or potential conflicts of interest to his business and family connections. The request seeks legal opinions, memoranda, advisories, and communications from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Government Ethics, the General Services Administration, and the office of Personnel Management from November 9, 2016, to January 20, 2017.” Get out your magnifying glasses, girls.
Meanwhile, up on the dais, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer offered a lesson in the art of subtle, classy shade. The headline here is that Schumer managed to make a speech at Trump’s inauguration without once mentioning the man’s name. Classic “I don’t know her” maneuver. But what he did say was equally delicious. Schumer rhetorically gathered the groups the Trumpist movement has belittled—immigrants, LGBTQ people, folks with disabilities, religious minorities, and others—around him and he set the values Trump threatens—“the rule of law, equal protection for all under law, the freedom of speech, press, religion”—before the crowd. And then, in a particularly werk-worthy move, he summoned one of the most beautiful expressions of patriotism from the Civil War as an example for how Americans have at times been called on to believe “in something bigger than themselves and [be] willing to sacrifice for it.” On a weekend when it seems likely that more citizens will turn out to protest the new president than to fete him, Schumer’s was the perfect message to send.
I hope I live long enough to see a grade-school history book that covers this inauguration, because revisiting one of the many wide-angle shots of the largely barren National Mall and other “overflow spaces” that networks have favored on Friday will give 2045 me a hearty LOL. Though final numbers are not yet available, it’s clear that attendance did not meet expectations—and when your own people can’t be bothered to show up, you, sir, have been shaded.
Speaking of images, the internet should be congratulated for delivering one of the finest archival research reads I’ve seen in some time, in the form of discovering that Trump’s new @POTUS Twitter header photo—a mass of happy people festooned with waving flags—was actually from Obama’s inauguration. Properly shaken, the account manager has since changed the photo to a stock image of the star-spangled banner.
Ah yes, and speaking of Old Glory, did we all see how Kellyanne Conway inexplicably shaded herself with that patriotic lewk she pulled from Gucci? Turns out the frock was designed to celebrate London, but no matter: Trump’s wild-eyed Mistress of Propaganda succeeded in becoming even more like Effie Trinket of the Capitol than she already was.
Elsewhere in fashion, Clinton aide-de-camp Huma Abedin, channeling a voting majority of Americans’ vibe on Friday, straight-up went into mourning attire. (Hillary, reviving a trope of her campaign, wore suffragette white.) It’s been said that the best shade goes without saying—should you encounter this woman, there’s little doubt from whence her grief arises.
Before we leave this category, a final note (or really, notes): Much shade has already been cast upon young voice artist Jackie Evancho (who has a transgender sister) for singing the national anthem at this thing, so I won’t mention that octave jump she forced like gold-leaf into a Trump property at the end. But claps to the military band percussionist who insisted on playing a totally unnecessary vibraphone—an instrument that is definitely always out of tune in cold weather like Friday’s—in the ensemble: It was a fittingly janky and discordant overture to Trump’s tenure in D.C.
There were lots of sour faces in Washington on Friday, but this shade roundup would be remiss not to highlight the former (sad face) first lady herself. Michelle “on my way to a fucking vacation” Obama was captured throughout the day’s events generally not having it, and just as we thank her for her eight years of excellent work, we thank her for this final service, as well.
Hillary was similarly unamused:
Other fine incidents of shade joined those above Friday to cast a cloud over the proceedings: BuzzFeed’s next election countdown clock and the House of Cards new season teaser both come to mind.
But it’s time to decide on the deepest shade of the day. I’m mightily tempted by the wonderful child from Trump’s signing chicanery who, like America, is exhausted by this foolishness and just wants to go home.
But in the end, I think we have to give it to Mother Nature, who saw fit to open those clouds basically at the moment Trump took the stage. It’s a harsh read, to literally rain on the new president’s parade. But given that climate change seems to have already been disappeared from government websites, I can’t say I blame her.