As the president shimmies to the Village People, he crystalizes the way that even sincerity and irony have become politically polarized.
If Donald Trump loses this election, maybe he’ll join The Village People. The 1970s band famous for leather chaps and questionable headdresses has become a wacky touchstone of this dour campaign season, and it’s thanks to the president. At his rallies, crowds have been warming up to “Macho Man,” The Village People’s 1976 single about having pride in a “big, thick mustache.” Trump himself, at the end of his speeches, has been dancing to “YMCA” with hand gestures that make it look like he’s mushing in an underwater Iditarod. The emergence of Disco Donald has led to a pro-Trump “MAGA” song, a Trump-mocking TikTok meme, and a clip of Anderson Cooper trying not to cackle as a crowd of Republicans grooves to music that grew out of San Francisco bathhouses and New York drag clubs.
As if it needs to be said: The Village People are, canonically, very queer. Around 1977, the openly gay producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo canvassed bars for singer-actors and placed ads that read, “Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance and Have a Moustache.” The crew they hired costumed themselves as sexualized, masculine archetypes: the sailor, the fireman, the biker, the Native American chief, the construction worker, the cop. They sang songs that celebrated the guy-on-guy camaraderie of gyms, military regiments, and Fire Island. The band’s pert rhythms and hammy slogans soon boomed in sports arenas and grocery-store aisles—but only after they first found an audience in gay venues.