Kathy Griffin Holds Decapitated Donald Trump in Photoshoot: Too Far for Publicity Stunt?

Kathy Griffin Holds Decapitated Donald Trump in Photoshoot: Too Far for Publicity Stunt?

At what point do we say something is too far? My opinion is that using photography as a medium to gain fame, be it good or bad, isn’t a new thing. But as time goes on, seemingly, these things are lacking in taste more and more.

Kathy Griffin recently faced a large backlash for a photoshoot that showed her holding Donald Trump's decapitated head. The old saying "there’s no such thing as bad publicity" seems to be a potential reason for doing something like this. The photographer, Tyler Shields, likely knew it’d go viral, which would spread his name everywhere; even if it’s in bad taste, people are still hearing his name. Personally, I’d stay away from something that goes quite this far with it. In the past, depicting something such as murdering a president even in “acting” was considered a threat and would garner a visit from the FBI, potentially with criminal charges. Now, with the Internet being what it is, people seem to get more brazen.

If someone didn’t like the current president and made a “clown nose” on an image in poking fun, ok sure, whatever. But heinous violence? Especially for a man with children, this is, in my opinion, super tacky. How would you like to have to explain that to your children when they asked what the deal was?

And for Kathy Griffin, is doing what she did, then apologizing somehow going to make it go away? Would she have apologized on her own based on her own morality if the Internet hadn’t flamed her for it? If so, why do it in the first place? If knowing doing something like that causes a firestorm, then apologizing (knowing it doesn't do any good) seems like that was the plan all along, a tacky publicity stunt to try to not become irrelevant in her own industry. Regardless of one’s political opinion, I don’t feel things should ever go this far.

What do you think? Is it worth it to participate in something like this for the publicity, or should morality come into play? And should her apology mean something?

Image source: Tyler Shields (uncensored image is displayed here)

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Bill is an automotive and fashion inspired photographer in Reno, NV. Bill specializes in photography workflow and website optimization, with an extensive background in design and programming.

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This is not politics; it's just common sense and decency. For most, guiding human instincts know this is too far... It almost doesn't matter whose head she was holding. Isn't our culture sick enough? Let's not celebrate death but celebrate life and the debate of ideas.

You have heard of Joel Peter Witkin right? This shot barely scrapes the surface of what he did...

Thanks for sharing, Frank. I had not heard of him. You are correct - barely scrapes the surface. Definitely quite twisted and apparently outside the bounds of U.S. law. Also very sad in that he seems to have needed to exercise what appears to be therapeutic "art" in Mexico; I say therapeutic in that the idea of his "work" apparently came to him based on a childhood experience of seeing a child's decapitated head roll out of a car following a horrific car crash. So, on the surface, it looks like the shock and horror of his childhood carried through his life as he continues working things out.

Mr. Wilkins images were not threatening to specific individuals who were still alive.

Agreed this is beyond common sense and decency and really has no place in a civilized society.

I am not at all offended by this when you compare it to say, the televising of ISIS executions

The mental incentives behind this shot I believe is nothing less than what ISIS was trying to achieve. This try hard publicity is very sickening.

Very sick and sad what this country is coming to

She's a comedian. Comedians say and do ridiculous things. And their "line" is a LOT harder to cross. I listen to a LOT of stand up comedy and when you hear comedians talk about their circle of friends and what it takes to get them to laugh, much less be offended, it's surprising.
On to the image itself, it's pretty boring, honestly. There's no context, IMO. We don't know why she'd want to decapitate our ever-capable commander in chief (when viewing the image in isolation). It doesn't stand on its own merits, as art.
So, my thoughts? Not offended. And don't care. And I don't feel like she deserved to lose her job over it (I believe I read she did). But then, I think our society is WAAAAAY over reactive regarding most things. Everyone makes bad decisions. Everyone has skeletons. Everyone, if their life was subjected to scrutiny all day (a la The Truman Show), could be crucified by the public and media on almost any day - especially if our private thoughts were no longer private.
Final words: get over it. No one will care next week therefore it's not worth our attention today.

Jonathan - I respectfully disagree. The context is quite obvious - it's a backdrop of hate and/or opposition. No one can turn their TV on without rants against the sitting president. I loved Colbert in the first year or two (pre CBS); thought his seeming conservative mockery was classic humour as irony. Loved Kimmel because I could watch without political rants - it was "good, clean fun" against politicians at large. Good natured and all.
Kimmel now gets about 12 seconds into his monologue and keeps going and going and it's about Trump, night after night... Colbert showed his stripes years back and now every show seems damn near a dedication to opposition. The line seems harder to cross because it keeps getting stretched and stretched. Also, just consider the history of television - a volcanic shift in the last 15 years, particularly with the advent of the internet. Yes, we all have skeletons but we don't all act on our very worst private thoughts. She's been gunning for Trump from day one - she just had to try harder. People would simply not have acccepted such an image of Clinton or Bush or Obama, even in those modern times. And yes, I do think you care, actually; you posted at length. Peace.

I care about the discussion, not the image.
Re: context, what specifically is she objecting to? To object to Trump as a whole is pretty ignorant. I guarantee there's not a person alive who disagrees with 100% of his positions. So, we need to know what she objects to, and that's not obvious in this image.

Thanks, Jonathan. I really don't mean to be argumentative! Just a point... I agree with your comment that no one disagrees with 100% of his positions... but I do think Kathy Griffin does 100% disagree with him as a human being and 1000% as president, so I do well understand your point - I just think that she, indeed, objects to him in his entirety. On that note, I well remember screaming at the TV during a debate that "I'll never vote for that S.O.B..." and yet...

Griffin's stunt was wrong. However, it illustrates the anger that builds in bubbles. The Right is in a similar situation with their history of equally disgraceful stunts aimed at Obama.
More recently, the GOP's muted response to the violence done to a reporter by the candidate Gianforte in Montana illustrated their support of this sort of behavior.

The current outrage on the right is a hyper-ventilated response from a position of faux respectability and decorum.

Political speech has been in a race to the bottom theses past years but was put into high gear by the current resident of the WH so I am not at all surprised by her stunt or by the GOP's position on the commentary from their side.

If she's a comedian, why isn't she funny?

She's a filthy pig and it has nothing to do with comedy.

I wonder if you would have been so accepting if it were the head of Obama or Hillary.

I wasn't accepting. I was dismissive. Given a head swap, I would have been equally dismissive of anyone else.

I think comedy has bounds..and this,one crosses them. It's a matter of decency. If ISIS decitations are unacceptable, then even in jest so must this. It's not politics to me

Tasteless, she can disagree with Trump but there are other ways to do that.

she crossed the line. had obama been in office people would lose their minds. the current president is an easy target so that's why it's done to him. if she broke the federal laws with this then she should be held accountable. she should not get a free pass just because she is "famous" or she apologized. she knew before she posted this that she was wrong, she was looking for shock value, and she got it.

What federal law do you think she violated? No one should go to jail for this, that is just crazy talk...

Agreed, Will. It's free speech, opinion expression. Not a threat.

It is against the law to threaten the President. The Secret Service has opened an investigation.

No real sources have confirmed that is happening.

several sources have. Secret Service twitter strongly hinted at it.

What about all those people threatening to lynch Obama?

What about them? If they were considered a threat the SS investigated them as well.

Satire can be brutal, but in the end it *is* just satire.

I'm surprised to see almost everyone saying that she went too far. It seems like so many people hate Trump so much that they can justify stuff like this. I'm not sure I believe it's possible to go "too far" with a joke but if this were Obama's head, you better believe there would be some backlash.

Lee, I almost wrote in the original, that if someone had done this with Obama, can you imagine how bad people would have been losing their minds, much more than they currently are, which is sad, because it's equally as heinous.

I have noticed on Twitter (where I found this news breaking last night) that lots of people are saying this did indeed happen to Obama. However, when you look at the racist-esque images posted about Obama, it's clear that they were not done by celebrities or people with a large following AND, if it matters, the Obama noose photos were poorly designed dummies that looked pretty silly actually. This one is very graphic and very "well executed" and posted by a celebrity with a ton of reach.

I think you have to look at the response too. Kathy Griffin felt the heat immediately and sent out an apology hours after the image hit the internet which to me shows that she herself knew she was over the line. The last comedian backlash I can recall where it was way over the line was when Michael Richards went off on the black guy in the club.

For me personally, this is less about comedy and more about freedom of speech and maybe some sort of weird art. I don't see how this photo was funny at all (who laughs at this sort of thing) but I don't think it should be illegal to do it either just like it shouldn't be illegal for Richards to say what he said. In both cases the comic has to be ready to take the consequences and clearly it hurt Michael's career and it appears to have already hurt Kathy's a lot.

Everyone I know who thinks Trump is the worst president we have ever had all believe this went over the line so I am not sure who you talked to Lee. If someone on the left cannot see how this went over the line then they cannot complain when someone of the right does the same thing.

I thought it was hilarious when I first saw it, but I thought it was pretty badly conceived and shot. Less blood on the face but more viscera could have been more striking (wrong word usage I know, but I'm not sure what the equivalent of viscera would be for the neck region).

Tell us.. How is he the worst president? Specifically.. You and your leftist friends are just butt hurt that Hillary lost and you hate the man but he has done nothing to be the worst president. How on earth could he ever compare to the train wreck that was Obama...A man that violated the constitution more than a few times, raped morality and divided a nation with his racism and open hatred for anything that was good and decent.

I would note that many prominent Republicans called for hanging Obama. Ted Nugent advocated "chopping off Obama's head" yet there was scant comment. Trump called Nugent's comments unfortunate.

This is a lot of false outrage for their base.
I will extend them credulity when they start calling out their own in the same terms.

Don't hold your breath waiting.

I think a lot of the outrage is just due to party politics. Does anyone remember Erwin Olaf's "Royal Blood" series with Princess Diana?

Lee: Griffin is a satirist and comedian. She has never advocated or incited actual violence. Neither has Tyler Shields. However Alex Jones, Breitbart, Ted Nugent, Ann Coulter and company actually do incite and advocate hate and violence. The loudest critics of Griffin and Shields were silent when people with actual white supremacist leanings were creating multiple images of Obama being lynched which represented an actual desire and not a satirical statement.

People did do this with Obama when he won both elections.

The backlash she's receiving is the mass reaction intended but not the specific emotion. Sometimes people just need to filter themselves in self-preservation because perception is everything.

I can't stand this administration but I'd never put myself on a pedestal thinking my voice is worth any weight or one that I could easily be shot from ESPECIALLY WITH MY PHOTOGRAPHY. This guy is an idiot.

Totally agree that if this had been Obama there would be such a social outcry Kathy Griffin would be sent to donkey island, or worse.

But there were these types of images made of Obama, just not by celebrities. Probably because he didn't do as many things to make people so angry they felt they needed to lash out (at least not in the USA, I'm sure there are a number of Iraqi wedding guests who would disagree).

So..."He did it first"? As to the relative anger each president elicited, that's subjective. I could easily name the things Obama did that I liked. The things I didn't like, you don't have that much time.

Is it any wonder that the NEA funding is under attack. Art is supposed to do many things but disgusting people is not one of them. Tyler Shields, shame on you.

You may be the only person on the planet to make this ridiculous, innapropriate connection.

Since when is art not supposed to be disgusting? One of the strengths of art is it's ability to create controversy, and through that, discussion.

Congratulations! That was the stupidest comment I've read on this, or any, blog in a long time. Where should I send your prize? It's a mock decapitated head that looks just like one of your children.

If you have to hesitate before posting something like she claims she did, you know it's probably not a good idea.
Or for another yardstick, if it were done to someone you love instead of hate, would you be offended? I suspect if someone did this to Obama, Kathy would be screaming for blood while screaming "racist!" (Assuming she's pro-obama). That is hypocrisy.

She was wrong.
However the hypocrisy is strong with the right.
I note that there are any number of vile memes and images on the internet about the Obamas. In addition, vile comments were made about their daughters and Ted Nugent advocating chopping off the President's head.
Meanwhile several prominent Republicans called for hanging Obama from the WH balcony.
So give up on the hypocrisy gambit as it cuts deeper on the right.

Perhaps as deep, though I doubt it. Definitely not deeper.

I would note the faux outrage on the right was weaponized as far back as the Clinton Administration with the first shaky efforts appearing when he was Governor of Arkansas.
Remember when "Character counts!" was the chant of the day?

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