The XX Factor

A Detailed Forensic Analysis of Melania Trump’s Creepy, Devastating Inauguration Smile/Frown

In a dark and mesmerizing clip that’s been circulating on social media today, Donald Trump turns to face his wife Melania at the inauguration ceremony, and she smiles back at him widely. When Trump faces forward again, we get a split-second glimpse of Melania’s inner turmoil as her face melts into a frown.

Jezebel, which posted the Melania/Melancholia video on Monday, shows the exchange taking place during Franklin Graham’s speech on Inauguration Day, then zooms in further on Melania’s devastating grimace. It’s like one of those GIFs of Kanye West realizing he’s been caught smiling on camera but so much worse, because Melania Trump is married to our actual president.

Although Jezebel has the original video, the GIF still seems so uncanny that it looks like it must have been doctored. We took the liberty of reversing the GIF to see if anything appears amiss. While the Melania frown turning into a smile is hypnotic in its own way, it’s clear from the timing of Trump’s head turn that the original GIF is the real deal.* Grin. Dead eyes. Repeat.

GIF by Slate

If you watch the video of Graham’s speech from another angle, it looks like Trump may have been saying something to his son Barron. Perhaps, then, Melania is frowning as a reaction to her son being scolded. You could interpret that look a lot of ways, to be honest. But there’s something about her complete about-face that seems to reveal a deeper truth.

If the clip of Donald Trump ripping up his notes after one of the presidential debates distilled the essence of a man who knew he’d screwed up big time, this clip is its sad sequel, a vision of what that “perverted version of charisma” does to all the people who have to live with it.

*Correction, Jan. 23, 2017: This piece originally misstated that when reversed, Melania’s smile turns into a frown. When the footage is played backward, her frown turns into a smile.