Esquire Magazine found itself under fire this week for putting not a controversial celebrity or model, but a teenaged white male on its cover. Esquire assured readers that this was but the first in a series of profiles that would examine American life, but critics were still baffled at the decision, in this era of intersectionality and representing marginalized voices, to open with the story of life as a white boy in Wisconsin’s Trump Country. (After all, in the words of the philosopher Homer Simpson, “I’m a white male, aged 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are.”)
The profile itself follows a young man named Ryan, who navigates worries about what he can and can’t say, can and can’t do, without getting in trouble in 2019. He plays XBox, likes his girlfriend, and wants to be a water quality engineer. He has started to avoid social media, because the few times he has tried to engage in political commenting, he feels he has been smacked down and been told his views don’t matter because of his race and gender (in a way, foreshadowing the reaction to the article itself).
In the article, the reporter follows Ryan to his government class, where the teacher leads students through a frankly disturbing exercise where students must sing along to songs about being liberal or conservative. The “conservative song,” written by another teacher at the school, is a polka about celebrating the death penalty and nukes while “hating social programs” and gay marriage.