Advertisement

Making American White Men Great Again: Tom Brady, Donald Trump, and the Allure of White Male Omnipotence in Post-Obama America

  • Kyle W. KuszEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

In this chapter, I critically examine cultural representations—advertisements, journalistic accounts, social media, documentaries, and even film and television cameos—of New England Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady to show how they articulate with many similar racial, gender, and class ideas and affects that organize the Trump campaign and presidency. More specifically, I illuminate how Brady’s white masculinity is often coded as unapologetic about his socio-economic privileges, omnipotent in his manliness, and as a master of his body and athletic craft. In short, Brady embodies a living fantasy of white male omnipotence that serves symbolically as an imagined solution to white male anxiety for those who feel that the United States is in the midst of a culture war against white men and traditional American culture and values. In each of these ways, cultural (and self-) representations of Brady’s white masculinity showcase the new preferred representational logics used to render white masculinity visible within this latest wave of backlash politics that extends from the Trump White House through popular culture to the online spaces that brought the alt-right life. At stake in this politics is the renewal of white male prerogative as the taken-for-granted governing logic of American civic life.

Keywords

Whiteness Masculinity Manliness Sport media Culture wars White masculinity Donald Trump Tom Brady 

References

  1. Abouarrage, N. (2018, February 6). Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady’s former personal chef on adopting a plant based or flexitarian diet. Vogue: Australia. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from https://www.vogue.com.au/beauty/wellbeing/gisele-bndchen-and-tom-bradys-former-personal-chef-on-adopting-a-plant-based-or-flexitarian-diet/news-story/3f93b55eb9fea0918626474d4b2467c2
  2. Ahmed, S. (2004). Affective economies. Social Text, 22(2), 117–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, C. (2016). White rage: The unspoken truth of our racial divide. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, E. (2009). Inclusive masculinity: The changing nature of masculinities. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Andrews, D. L. (1996). Deconstructing Michael Jordan: Reconstructing postindustrial America. Sociology of Sport Journal, 13(4), 315–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Andrews, D. L., & Jackson, S. J. (Eds.). (2001). Sport stars: The cultural politics of sporting celebrity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Anglin, A. (2017, August 9). PSA: When the alt-right hits the street, you wanna be ready. Daily Stormer. Retrieved from https://whitelocust.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/psa-when-the-alt-right-hits-the-street-you-wanna-be-ready/
  9. Bederman, G. (1995). Manliness and civilization: A cultural history of gender and race in the United States, 1880–1917. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berlet, C., & Lyons, M. (2000). Right-wing populism in America: Too close for comfort. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brady, T. (2017). The TB12 Method: How to achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  12. Butterworth, M. L. (2013). The passion of the Tebow: Sports media and heroic language in the tragic frame. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 30(1), 17–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carrington, B. (1998). ‘Football’s coming home’ but whose home? And do we want it?: Nation, football and the politics of exclusion. In A. Brown (Ed.), Fanatics: Power, identity, and fandom in football (pp. 121–143). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Carrington, B. (2010). Race, sport and politics: The sporting black diaspora. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Carroll, H. (2011). Affirmative reaction: New formations of white masculinity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cosgrove, A., & Bruce, T. (2005). “The way New Zealanders would like to see themselves”: Reading white masculinity via media coverage of the death of Sir Peter Blake. Sociology of Sport Journal, 22(3), 336–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dickerson, N. (2016). Constructing the digitalized sporting body: Black and white masculinity in NBA/NHL Internet memes. Communication & Sport, 4(3), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Douglas, D. D. (2005). Venus, Serena, and the Women’s Tennis Association: When and where “race” enters. Sociology of Sport Journal, 22(3), 255–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Douglas, D. D. (2012). Venus, Serena, and the inconspicuous consumption of blackness: A commentary on surveillance, race talk, and new racism (s). Journal of Black Studies, 43(2), 127–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Douglas, D. D., & Jamieson, K. M. (2006). A farewell to remember: Interrogating the Nancy Lopez farewell tour. Sociology of Sport Journal, 23(2), 117–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ducat, S. (2005). The wimp factor: Gender gaps, holy wars, and the politics of anxious masculinity. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  22. Dyer, R. (1997). White: Essays on race and culture. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Dyer, R. (1998). Stars. London: British Film Institute.Google Scholar
  24. Evans, G. (2015, November 23). 31 things you didn’t know about Tom Brady. Complex. Retrieved May 17, 2018 from http://www.complex.com/sports/2015/11/31-things-you-didnt-know-about-tom-brady/
  25. Faludi, S. (1999). Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. New York: William Morrow and Company.Google Scholar
  26. Feagin, J., & Ducey, K. (2017). Elite white men ruling: Who, what, where, when, and how. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ferber, A. (1998). White man falling: Race, gender, and white supremacy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  28. Fleras, A., & Dixon, S. M. (2011). Cutting, driving, digging, and harvesting: Re-masculinizing the working-class heroic. Canadian Journal of Communication, 36(4), 579–597.Google Scholar
  29. Gill, R. (2014). Powerful women, vulnerable men and postfeminist masculinity in men’s popular fiction. Gender and Language, 8(2), 185–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Giroux, H. (2015, July 8). Trumping America. Truthout. Retrieved from http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31788-trumping-america
  31. Greven, D. (2002). Dude, where’s my gender? Cineaste, 27(3), 14–21.Google Scholar
  32. Harrington, R. (2016, June 9). I tried to eat like Tom Brady and Gisele, and I was so hungry. The Cut. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from https://www.thecut.com/2016/06/tom-brady-gisele-diet.html
  33. Harris-Perry, M. (2010). Is this the Birth of a Nation?: Tea Party actions are an act of sedition not just racism. Retrieved January 21, 2018 from https://www.thenation.com/article/birth-nation
  34. Hawzen, M. G., & Newman, J. I. (2017). The Gospel according to Tim Tebow: Sporting celebrity, whiteness, and the cultural politics of Christian fundamentalism in America. Sociology of Sport Journal, 34(1), 12–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hochschild, A. R. (2017). Strangers in their own land: Anger and mourning on the American right. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  36. Holling, M. (2011). Patrolling national identity, Masking white supremacy: The Minutemen Project. In K. A. Ono & M. G. Lacy’s (Eds.), Critical rhetorics of race (pp. 98–116). New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hrustic, A. (2017, September 18). This is how Tom Brady eats every day, and it’s actually insane. Men’s Health. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from https://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a19535249/tom-brady-reveals-insane-diet-in-new-book/
  38. Hughey, M., & Parks, G. (2014). The wrongs of the right: Language, race, and the Republican party in the age of Obama. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Hunter, L. (2003). The celluloid cubicle: Regressive constructions of masculinity in 1990s office movies. The Journal of American Culture, 26(1), 71–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jeffords, S. (1994). Hard bodies: Hollywood masculinity in the Reagan era. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Jhally, S. (Director & Producer). (1997). Bell Hooks: On cultural criticism & transformation. [DVD]. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.Google Scholar
  42. Jones, S. (2017, February 15). Trump has turned the GOP into the Party of Eugenics. The New Republic. Retrieved February 17, 2018 from https://newrepublic.com/article/140641/trump-turned-gop-party-eugenics
  43. Kalaf, S. (2015, September 16). Tom Brady says it “would be great” if Donald Trump becomes president. Deadspin. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from https://deadspin.com/tom-brady-says-it-would-be-great-if-donald-trump-beco-1731177907
  44. Kantrowitz, S. (2000). Ben Tillman and the reconstruction of white supremacy. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  45. Kasson, J. (2001). Houdini, Tarzan, and the perfect man: The white male body and the challenge of modernity in America. New York: Hill & Wang.Google Scholar
  46. Kentucky Derby. (2018). History & tradition. Retrieved May 16, 2018 from https://www.kentuckyderby.com/history/traditions/celebrities
  47. Kimmel, M. (2002). The birth of the self-made man. The Masculinity Studies Reader, 4, 135.Google Scholar
  48. King, C. R., & Leonard, D. (2014). Beyond hate: White power and popular culture. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. King, C. R., & Springwood, C. F. (2001). Beyond the cheers: Race as spectacle in college sport. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  50. King, S. (2008). Offensive lines: Sport-state synergy in an era of perpetual war. Cultural Studies? Critical Methodologies, 8(4), 527–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kirby, J. (2018, January 12). “What he said was basically a form of eugenics”: A professor on Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks. Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2018/1/12/16882498/trump-shithole-countries-immigration-quotas-eugenics
  52. Kusz, K. W. (2007). Lance America: Interrogating the politics of the national fantasy of Lance Armstrong. In K. Kusz (Ed.), Revolt of the white athlete: Race, media and the emergence of extreme athletes in America. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.Google Scholar
  53. Kusz, K. W. (2015). For the love of…national manhood: The cultural politics of remembering Pat Tillman. In T. Oates & Z. Furness (Eds.), Critical cultural perspectives on the national football league. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Kusz, K. W. (2016a, June 23). Trump’s dog whistle: The white, screwed-over sports icon. The Conversation. Retrieved June 24, 2016 from https://theconversation.com/trumps-dog-whistle-the-white-screwed-over-sports-icon-61070.
  55. Kusz, K. W. (2016b, September 15). Notes on Donald Trump’s America and Tom Brady as dog-whistle. Sport in American History. Retrieved September 17, 2016 from https://ussporthistory.com/2016/09/15/notes-on-donald-trumps-america-tom-brady-as-dog-whistle/
  56. Kusz, K. W. (2017a). Trumpism, Tom Brady, and the reassertion of white supremacy in militarized post-9/11 America. In M. Butterworth (Ed.), Global sport & militarism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Kusz, K. W. (2017b). The road to Charlottesville: The role of popular culture in priming young men for the white right. The Activist History Review. Retrieved May 22, 2018 from https://activisthistory.com/2017/10/20/the-road-to-charlottesville-the-role-of-popular-culture-in-priming-young-white-men-for-the-white-right/
  58. Kusz, K. W. (2018). ‘Winning bigly’: Sporting fantasies of white male omnipotence in the rise of Trump and alt right white supremacy. Journal of Hate Studies, 14(1), 113–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lee, B. Y. (2017, February 4). This is what 39-year-old super bowl QB Tom Brady eats. Forbes.com. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/02/04/this-is-what-39-year-old-super-bowl-qb-tom-brady-eats/#76d3f9004797
  60. Leibovich, M. (2015, January 26). Tom Brady cannot stop. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/magazine/tom-brady-cannot-stop.html
  61. Leonard, D. (2016, September 2). The NFL is 67% black. Diversity hasn’t helped white players and coaches understand racism. Vox. Retrieved June 14, 2017 from https://www.vox.com/2016/9/2/12751694/colin-kaepernick-nfl-protest-racism-national-anthem
  62. Leonard, D. (2017). Playing while white: Privilege and power on and off the field. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  63. Leonard, D. J. (2012). Joe Paterno, white patriarchy and privilege: Nostalgia and the football-media complex. Cultural Studies? Critical Methodologies, 12(4), 373–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lipsitz, G. (2011). How racism takes place. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Lyons, M. (2017). Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The origins and ideology of the alternative right. Political Research Associates. Retrieved from http://www.politicalresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Lyons_CtrlAltDelete_PRINT.pdf
  66. Magary, D. (2015, December 18). Tom Brady is a Hilarious Moron. Deadspin. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from http://deadspin.com/tom-brady-is-a-hilarious-moron-1748725169
  67. Maskovsky, J. (2017). Toward the anthropology of white nationalist postracialism: Comments inspired by Hall, Goldstein, and Ingram’s “The hands of Donald Trump”. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7(1), 433–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. McDonald, M. G. (1996). Michael Jordan’s family values: Marketing, meaning, and post-Reagan America. Sociology of Sport Journal, 13(4), 344–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. McDonald, M. G., & King, S. (2012). A different contender? Barack Obama, the 2008 presidential campaign and the racial politics of sport. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35(6), 1023–1039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Messner, M. A. (2007). The masculinity of the governator: Muscle and compassion in American politics. Gender & Society, 21(4), 461–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Messner, M. A., & Montez de Oca, J. (2005). The male consumer as loser: Beer and liquor ads in mega sports media events. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(3), 1879–1909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Meyer, A. R. (2010). Contemporary American sport, muscular Christianity, Lance Armstrong, and religious experience. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Google Scholar
  73. Myerson, J. A. (2017). Trumpism: Its coming from the suburbs. The Nation. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/trumpism-its-coming-from-the-suburbs/
  74. Newman, J. I. (2007). Army of whiteness? Colonel Reb and the sporting South’s cultural and corporate symbolic. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 31(4), 315–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Newman, J. I., & Giardina, M. D. (2010). Neoliberalism’s last lap? NASCAR nation and the cultural politics of sport. American Behavioral Scientist, 53(10), 1511–1529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Oates, T. P. (2007). The erotic gaze in the NFL draft. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 4(1), 74–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Oates, T. P. (2017). Football and manliness: An unauthorized feminist account of the NFL. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Oates, T., & Kusz, K. (forthcoming). My whole life is about winning: The Trump Brand and the political/commercial uses of sport. In D. Grano & M. Butterworth (Eds.), Sport, rhetoric, and political struggle. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  79. Osgerby, B. (2001). Playboys in paradise: Masculinity, youth and leisure-style in modern America. Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  80. Pallotta, F. (2017, May 21). Billy Bush talks Trump ‘Access Hollywood’ tape: ‘I wish I had changed the topic.’ CNN Media. Retrieved June 14, 2017 from http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/21/media/billy-bush-trump-tape-interview/index.html
  81. Pascoe, C. J. (2017). Who is a real man? The gender of Trumpism. Masculinities and Social Change, 6(2), 119–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Petchesky, B. (2015, December 8). We will pay the reporter who asks Tom Brady about his friend Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims. Deadspin. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from https://deadspin.com/we-will-pay-the-reporter-who-asks-tom-brady-about-his-f-1746846771
  83. Pfeil, F. (1995). White guys: Studies in postmodern domination and difference. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  84. Pompei, D. (2017, January 12). In better shape than ever at age 39: Here’s how Tom Brady does it. The Bleacher Report. Retrieved May 17, 2018 from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2686534-in-better-shape-than-ever-at-age-39-heres-how-tom-brady-does-it
  85. Pringle, R. (2001). Competing discourses: Narratives of a fragmented self, manliness and rugby union. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 36(4), 425–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Robinson, S. (2005). Marked men: White masculinity in crisis. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Sargent, H. (2016, January 4). Meet the chef who decides what Tom Brady eats—And what he definitely doesn’t. Boston.com. Retrieved May 15, 2018 from https://www.boston.com/sports/new-england-patriots/2016/01/04/meet-the-chef-who-decides-what-tom-brady-eatsand-what-he-definitely-doesnt
  88. Savran, D. (1998). Taking it like a man: White masculinity, masochism, and contemporary American culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Silk, M. (2013). The cultural politics of post-9/11 American sport: Power, pedagogy and the popular (Vol. 10). New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Spencer, N. E. (2004). Sister act VI: Venus and Serena Williams at Indian Wells: “Sincere fictions” and white racism. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 28(2), 115–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Stern, M. (2016, October 8). Inside Tom Brady and Donald Trump’s 14-Year Bromance. The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 14, 2017 from https://www.thedailybeast.com/inside-tom-brady-and-donald-trumps-14-year-bromance
  92. Sullivan, A. (2016, May 1). Democracies end when they are too democratic. New York Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2017 from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html
  93. Swain, C. (2003). The new white nationalism in America: Its challenge to integration. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  94. Walton, T. A., & Butryn, T. M. (2006). Policing the race: US men’s distance running and the crisis of whiteness. Sociology of Sport Journal, 23(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Waxman, S. (2016, October 7). How ‘Access Hollywood’ found the Trump Tape—And why NBC news probably leaked it (Exclusive). The Wrap. Retrieved June 14, 2017 from https://www.thewrap.com/how-access-hollywood-found-the-trump-tape-and-why-nbc-news-probably-leaked-it-exclusive/
  96. Weedon, G. (2012). “I will. Protect this house”: Under Armour, corporate nationalism and post-9/11 cultural politics. Sociology of Sport Journal, 29(3), 265–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Whannel, G. (2002). Media sport stars: Masculinities and moralities. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  98. Williams, J. (2017). White working class: Overcoming cluelessness in America. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.Google Scholar
  99. Yochim, E. C. (2010). Skate life: Re-imagining white masculinity. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and Gender and Women’s StudiesUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

Personalised recommendations