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Trumpy Bear has filled me with despair

It’s depressing political memorabilia at its worst.

A still from the Trumpy Bear commercial.
Rebecca Jennings is a senior correspondent covering social platforms and the creator economy. Since joining Vox in 2018, her work has explored the rise of TikTok, internet aesthetics, and the pursuit of money and fame online. You can sign up for her biweekly Vox Culture newsletter here.

A teddy bear with an orange wig and a red tie clawed its way into the national consciousness this morning. My Vox colleague Aaron Rupar tweeted about a commercial that occupies the realm between C-level SNL parody and homemade iMovie for an object called “Trumpy Bear,” a teddy bear that rather poetically has an American flag stuffed up its backside. And yes, it’s real.

The ad starts with the bleak warning that “A storm is coming,” and that “you cannot defeat the storm.” The announcer then reveals “I am the storm.” As a reminder, this is an ad for a literal stuffed animal.

We then hear about the American flag blanket that’s located within a “secret zipper” behind Trumpy Bear, and how Trumpy Bear likes to ride on motorcycles and golf carts. Trumpy Bear also costs $40 — sorry, two payments of $19.95.

Despite all evidence to the contrary (the juvenile graphic design, the absurdity of the product, the canned lines from customers), Trumpy Bear is, in fact, real. Snopes confirmed its authenticity and reports that the stuffed animal is produced by Exceptional Products, a Texas-based company that makes products advertised on television such as the Hairdini “magic styling wand.”

The ad ran this morning on Fox News, which often airs ads for items like, say, gold coins, but people on Twitter claimed that ads for Trumpy Bear have been airing on the History Channel for about a year.

The designer of the bear is a person named V.L. Lange, who released a statement through Exceptional Products to Snopes in which they insist that Trumpy Bear is “not a joke” and that it “should be viewed as the symbol that anyone can run for president of this great country of ours.”

It may have been created in earnest, but Trumpy Bear still feels undoubtedly sinister. It’s the kind of cheap novelty toy for adults that insufferable relatives nationwide will find hilarious and charming. Trumpy Bear is the George W. Bush bobblehead of the 2010s: the kind of thing people will present to their most liberal friends as a troll, or bring to an office gift swap just to see how everybody reacts.

But it is also another example of garbage political memorabilia that you can buy at the White House gift shop, for example. Lange, like many makers of so-called patriotic products, takes their creation very seriously, but in reality, Trumpy Bear is a toy that preys on those susceptible to being patriot-shamed into forking over $40 for a stuffed animal.

And yet Trumpy Bear is also a perfect object through which to understand Trump’s base, which has long accepted the president’s knack for shilling shoddy products at enormous profit, rather than viewing him as a grifter. Which is why Trumpy Bear will probably sell gangbusters — but this time it won’t be Trump who’s making money off it.

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