Behold the feast! The delicacies came from all corners, from the Golden Arches (rescued from the Hamburglar’s clutches), from the Wendy’s of red braids and squared-off corners, from the linoleum-floored apologetic Domino’s, and from the Burger King of ominous advertisements and chicken fries they came. Clad in gleaming cardboard they came, heaped one upon the other; and smelling of hot oil.
And they were glorious and resplendent with many sauces, the sauce that is in the container that is orange and the sauce in the container that is teal, all borne upon a silver platter, to be presented to the victors.
A hecatomb of hamburgers and “many, many french fries.”
Here is your reward, you the sportsmen! If you conduct yourself in such a manner that you obtain a glorious victory, you will go unto the White House, where you will be presented with a feast fit for the president himself: some formerly warm hamburgers suppurating in their cardboard boxes on a table, some french fries under a heat lamp in little White House cups, and at least one Domino’s pizza. Are you delighted by this? You ought to be! The president is!
Am I lovin’ it? I am not sure.
Trump has this remarkable propensity for appearing in Cursed Images. Contemplate the above. This is certainly a cursed image. There is something about it; it is the sort of thing you should look at through a paper plate, or not at all.
The charm and mystery of McDonald’s hamburgers is that they taste the same everywhere you go. You can eat one in the parking lot outside a shuttered Toys ‘R’ Us, or in the White House, and the taste is much the same. This is maybe also the curse of McDonald’s hamburgers.
These hamburgers were not, in themselves, objectionable. And yet. Maybe it was the plating! Maybe it was the candelabra. (Yes, I think it was the candelabra. The candelabra was what made it risible. Put a candelabra next to it, and … Fine Dining!)
There is something in the ostentatious presentation of so much fast food, still in containers, as though the plating could solve the problem. They were liable to get cold, of course, and they might produce waste with so many boxes, of course, but it was not exactly that.
There is something in the thought that opulence is Three Hundred McDonald’s Hamburgers — or 1,000! Piled a mile high, the president said. The idea that infinite riches means … infinite McDonald’s. There is a certain snobbery in this frustration. But there is something beyond that.
If there is no shame in fast food, then what is the embarrassment here? People love to associate shame with fast food. Why are you serving your children fast food, why have you not individually grown a chicken by hand with love and without pain and gently coaxed an egg each morning from beneath its warm feathers into your waiting palm, to whisper a poem into as you prepare it lovingly for your children before sending them off to school?
But, in this case, I think the shame is not in liking the fast food, but in naively presenting it as though it is the best you could hope to deserve, as though this is a Great Reward. Eat Like A President: Try the Filet-O-Fish!
This is the frustration of Trump. He is given access to the best of everything and he wants McDonald’s. He is given access to the best information and he watches Fox News. It is not the thing itself, but the suspicion that he thinks this is as good as it gets, despite all suggestions to the contrary.
Is this really all he thinks is on top of the mountain? It would be one thing if he were doing this as a deliberate insult. But he seems so proud of the 300 — or is it 1,000? — hamburgers.
It is the creeping dread that to the president, better is just the same, but more and bigger. The idea that all that was needed to transform junk into something remarkable was to put the Trump seal on it, to say that it was excellent, to put it on a silver charger under a painting of Abraham Lincoln and say it was a rare honor to eat it. The unnerving question is: Does he really believe this is true?
Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter @petridishes.