Let’s start with the good news, or what passes for it these days: Unlike last year’s White House Halloween party, it does not look as though there was any “Build the Wall” decor. So, the bare minimum level of decency was met—no small feat in this administration.
This year’s event, hosted by the first lady, appears to have a theme somewhere along the lines of pumpkin-spiced abyss. Donald and Melania Trump stood in front of dozens of hay bales adorned with gourds. Yellowing leaves covered up the White House facade. A massive banner above the couple read out “Halloween 2020” in a Pinterest-y cursive script.
All normal stuff... except for one thing. This lighting designer, who I can only believe is Satan himself, cast a fiery orange glow across the whole scene. It turned metaphor into reality: a garbage fire presidency lit up to look the part.
On the same night that 60 Minutes aired an interview that Trump walked out on, our very mature president took delight in posing with a child dressed up as himself. The photo opp might have been less warped than last year, when Trump placed a chocolate bar on top of a kid’s head (instead of in, you know, his Halloween basket), but it was no less embarrassing for everyone involved.
What’s spookier than Halloween? Our country nose-diving into authoritarian rule! In that respect, the Trumps pulled off a successful fright night. As the couple loomed outside of the White House, two White House social aides standing at attendance behind them, they projected the smiley, “everything-is-fine” look Trump has perfected during four years of doing nothing except insisting things are great.
Though this could be the last time Melania Trump hosts a party, it is certainly not the first time her decorations have been off. As her former friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff revealed in recently released secret recordings from the summer of 2018, Melania complained about having to deck the halls of the White House.
“I’m working like—my ass off—on Christmas stuff, you know?” Melania whined. “Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?”
We didn’t talk nearly enough about the First Lady-as-Scrooge because just hours later, the president announced he tested positive for coronavirus. But Melania has a long, fraught relationship with getting in the seasonal spirit. Her decor exists less to celebrate holidays and more to haunt our nightmares.
In 2017, she dressed in all white and stood, stiff and apparitional, while a few ballerinas danced around Christmas trees. It looked like they were performing just for her, except she appeared to be miserable the entire time. To be fair, most of us would also feel no joy hanging out in that year’s East Colonnade Christmas “wonderland,” where stark, barren white branches left absolutely evil shadows dance around the room.
A year later, Melania ditched the snow-themed decorations for something much more sinister: blood red trees. Was it a nod to The Shining? Melania defended the gory display, saying, “I think they look fantastic. I hope everybody will come over and visit it. In real life, they look even more beautiful.” And everyone just took her word for it, because no one in their right mind would feel cheery after a second inside that gory forest.
Melania went a more traditional route Christmas of last year, decking the halls to the tune of “The Spirit of America,” a “beautiful exhibit of patriotism for all to see.” Because that’s the real meaning of the holiday season—taking the time to gather with family, exchange gifts, and blindly accept nationalism.
So: FLOTUS is bad at throwing parties, and terrifying everyone with her esthetics. It is a job she admittedly hates. Luckily for her, as Americans begin casting their early votes a week before the election, maybe next year we’ll have a new Halloween and Christmas decorator.