Melania Wasn’t “Sad”, She was Slavic

During Donald Trump's inauguration, his Slovene wife Melania looked sober and serious most of the time. This has led Americans to believe she was sad, depressed, horrified, anguished, perhaps even trapped in an abusive relationship.

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What these slightly fatuous Americans don't understand is that the European conception of personal dignity and institutional respect demands that public figures taking part in official ceremonies look serious at all times. In Europe, there is no penalty for looking stiff, even scowling, during official ceremonies; that's expected. There can be a significant penalty for a smile, or for any sign of levity. So everyone plays it safe and refrains from all except fleeting smiles.

Let me make my point with pictures of Supreme Courts. First, the American:

US Supreme Court

By my count, we have a whopping six smiles: the entire back row (Sotomayor, Breyer, Alito, Kagan) and two in the front (Roberts and Kennedy). Justice Scalia, the balding Italian man sitting next to the black guy, is wearing a sort of half-smile. Justice Thomas, the black guy, is wearing an angry scowl, his resting face, which seems out of place in this photograph, but would be perfectly normal in Europe.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on the far right, seems to be cringing in terror. In fact, she seems to be looking at the same thing which has attracted Justice Thomas' attention. Maybe this photo was taken just seconds after the naked knife-wielding maniac broke into the photo studio screaming about CIA mind control: so far, only Thomas and Ginsburg notice him. Fortunately, he was tased by security before he could reach the Legal Minds.

Anyhoo, where was I? Oh right, facial expressions. Since Melania is Slovene, here's the Slovenian Supreme Constitutional Court:

Slovene

The first thing you notice about this official picture from the Court's website is how shitty it is. It's only 71 KB in size, and 60% of that is the surroundings. The picture is so crappy that if you zoom in to try to see whether any of the Justices are smiling, their faces devolve into pixelblurs. You get the definite impression that the Justices probably thought the entire idea of having their picture taken is a ridiculous waste of time, and tried to make it as unrevealing as possible. Nevertheless, I think we can still safely say: no open-mouthed smiles, possibly a mild expression of amusement on the woman in the center's face. That's all.

Bundesverfassungsgericht-senat_2

Here's the Second Senate of the German Federal Constitutional Court. Two open-mouthed smiles, the rest tight-lipped neutral expressions. Here's the First Senate:

Bvg_senat_1_2010

One open-mouthed grin. I can't even find a decent group photo of the French Court de Cassation (which has 85 members divided into a bunch of different groups), but the individual photos of the group leaders here (f) feature no open-mouthed smiles I can find.

And just to round things out, the European Court of Justice:

RTEmagicC_European-Court-of-Justice-Members-2013.jpg

A few smiles, a few scowls, but mostly neutral, purposeful expressions.

And in this particular respect, Slavs seem to be even more serious and scowly than Western Europeans. Here's the Polish Constitutional Tribunal:

Members-of-Polands-Supreme-Court

Being a Slav, as they say, is serious business.

So Melania wasn't "sad", you chirpy, fleering American flibbertygibberts. She was just showing respect by adopting a serious Slavic scowl.

11 thoughts on “Melania Wasn’t “Sad”, She was Slavic

  1. How gleeful, dare I say racist, some media outlets are in featuring this video clip and attempting to turn it into a story. I found it interesting that both Trump and his wife go from very serious facial expressions to happy animated expressions when engaged with each other and then they both look super serious again. It’s just a guess, but I suspect the speed of the serious, relaxed muscle expression of Melania may be a combination of Slavic custom as well as Botox.

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  2. Is that maybe a reason why Dukakis lost in 1988? People say that he appeared to be too emotion-less when an interviewer asked him a hypothetical question about his position on the death penalty in case his wife would be murdered.

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  3. “European conception of personal dignity”

    yeah…. that doesn’t sound like a starter in the US.

    And I don’t know who that group of cut ups in the last picture are supposed to be, but they don’t look nearly serious enough to be Polish judges…. The Polish tradition in portraiture is to affect an expression that says “I’m slowly dying inside….”

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  4. Dukakis lost for lots of reasons, not least being

    – the tank picture, there was a photo op with him in a tank that backfired miserably. a very large portion of the electorate could not imagine him as Commander in Chief after that. I can’t find the exact picture (odd considering how iconic it was at the time). but if you google dukakis tank you’ll get the general idea.

    – the debate question (it wasn’t an interview) where he seemed completely unperturbed at the idea of his wife being raped and murdered and answered like a technocrat almost any response would have been better, the optimum answer would be to demand that the questioner publicly apologize to his wife for insulting her (I know, it doesn’t make logical sense but it makes a kind of emotional sense) it’s on youtube (Dukakis-Bush debate: death penalty )

    – willi horton ad (on youtube)

    – he was short (American voters generally favor taller candidates)

    All totaled, he simply wasn’t a very attractive candidate at the time. He appealed to white coast liberals…. and no one else.

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  5. The liberal American press will do, of course, all it can to wring some misery out of Melania and they are welcome to take their best shot. I hope she ignores them all. And, seriously folks, how many Americans were REALLY interested in all of this fake “American Royalty” garbage? Who really cared about which ball gowns, designers, etc. that Michelle Obama liked. Seems like the press spent more time was spent on this fluffy stuff instead doing its job–whatever it is these days. I hope Melania also stays in New York and just ignores all of this phony “first lady” crap. Let Trump commute. Let’s REALLY break some traditions, here. The past 8 years have been a wash–and Obama and the democrats were more worried about partying with Bruce and Beyonce than looking at this NAFTA deal to see if it was really still in American interests. Democrats. The party party. All they know is idiotic identity politics and choosing toilets for 14-year old transsexuals. Is it any wonder people have voted them out of power? Ineptitude.

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  6. Andrew, your posts are getting more embarrassing each time I check in. Melania, the “Slav”, has lived in America and dealt with Americans for quite a while now. But of course, you can’t get those racial traits out of her. I am curious how far you are willing to go with this, but I have an idea.

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  7. Funny, all my Slavic friends agreed with this post.

    I take it you’re probably German. So here’s a PROTIP: whenever I point out a well-known cultural trait associated with a particular group of humans, I am not secretly saying they are all Untermenschen who must be mercilessly exterminated from the face of the earth for all time. Germans tend to make that bizarre leap, which is one of the well-known cultural traits associated with them.

    What I am doing is simply pointing out a well-known cultural trait associated with a particular group of humans. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

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  8. I’m sure some of your best friends are “Slavs”.
    By the way, that Germans have an aversion to this kind of thinking has a reason.

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  9. “Germans have an aversion to this kind of thinking ”

    Now that seems like a very irresponsible statement, categorizing the way of thinking of an entire people. You do know where that can lead, don’t you?

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  10. It’s not just Germans who have a problem with that obsession with “race”. Let’s just put it the nice way: it’s considered a bit… dated. And I think no serious scientist in the USA does make that much of a deal about it either. Besides, whatever results came out of the Human Genome Project (I remember reading an interview with Craig Venter where he said that nothing of much practical relevance came out of his project), this shouldn’t be mixed with politics. It’s mostly crackpots like Richard Spencer and Kevin McDonald who try to do that.

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  11. “It’s not just Germans who have a problem with that obsession with “race”. ”

    “Slavic” is not a race. Slavic refers to a language group and/or the associated cultures. NO ONE was saying Melania was frowning for genetic reasons but for cultural ones.

    How very tiresome and unilluminating German discourse is….

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