Trumpy Bear’s two-minute commercial begins with a prophecy. A baritone voice intones it: “The wind whispered through the forest, ‘A storm is coming. You cannot defeat the storm … I fear nothing.” When the wind’s monologue concludes, the ad offers up campy endorsements of Trumpy Bear from salt-of-the-Earth archetypes: Firefighters, law enforcement officers, pizza shop employees, and a tough-looking former Marine who gives Trumpy a ride on his motorcycle.
When an ad for the “fearless, super-plush American grizzly” ran during Fox & Friends Monday morning, and Twitterati left, right, and center promptly lost their minds. They are meant to: If you’re a Trump supporter, Trumpy Bear—who sports the President’s signature blond coiffure and red tie, and is stuffed with an American flag you can pull out the back of his fuzzy neck—is a hilarious gift that is, as the commercial says, “great for all American holidays.” If you’re not, it’s the sort of stupendously baffling object that makes you wonder what aliens would think if they visited Earth today. And all that can be yours for just two payments of $19.95.
Trumpy Bear, for all his ludicrousness, is just a viral marketing stunt, another entrant into the meme-to-merch-and-back-again cycle. What makes him different from a Yanny vs Laurel T-shirt is that the product isn’t designed to capitalize on a movement, or a trendy culture moment, or even a silly joke. What Trumpy Bear is selling is the existential crisis of the Trump era.
The company that holds Trumpy Bear’s copyright is Exceptional Products Inc., a Texas marketing company also responsible for as-seen-on-TV products like Plaque Attack, HairDini, and Save A Blade. However, Trumpy Bear was created by VL Lange of Reel Vision, but so far, nobody has been able to ferret out any real information about Lange or her company. (Lange has not responded to request for comment.) In a “vision statement” Exception Products passed along to Snopes , Lange says that the creature comes from a desire to update the teddy bear (which was named after President Theodore Roosevelt) and affirms that the product is “not a joke.”
Trumpy Bear isn’t a joke to Exceptional Products, either. “Our target audience is anyone who is willing to pick up the phone or click,” says Elliott Brackett, Vice President of Exceptional Products. “Some of our customers want to buy it to keep it, and others want to buy it to burn it.” Their future plans for Trumpy Bear are simple: To keep selling it for as long as possible, though Brackett doubts that it will ever hit the shelves of your local retailer. “Some products, like the Obama Chia Pet are seen as too political,” he says. “But to us, it truly is just a product we market and want to succeed.”
“Some of our customers want to buy it to keep it, and others want to buy it to burn it.” -Elliott Brackett, Vice President of Exceptional Products
Though Trumpy Bear may have only exploded onto your Twitter feed today, he’s actually been building steam for over a year. Trumpy Bear’s life as meme fodder began when the commercial first hit YouTube in July 2017. By October 13 of last year, the commercial was airing on four television channels, including Animal Planet and Discovery. Two weeks later, it was running on ten channels during shows targeted at conservative audiences like Cops and Walker, Texas Ranger. Tinfoil hat alert: October 2017 is also when the QAnon conspiracy—sometimes referred to as “the Storm”—took off online, and many have interpreted the commercial’s opening lines as conspiracy theorist dog whistling. The bear slightly predates the conspiracy, so that can’t be entirely true, but Trumpy Bear has certainly been embraced by QAnon devotees.
Since then, Trumpy Bear has made a modest social media splash every time a new pool of people discover him and feel the need to vent their awe or horror. By January, Snopes felt the need to assure people that the product was, in fact, real. By March, YouTubers were posting reactions to the commercial for laughs. And now, as the the holiday season creeps closer, Trumpy Bear has stormed the internet again.
Exceptional Products won’t disclose how many Trumpy Bear’s have sold, and claims to have no target demographic in mind: It may be that some grandmother somewhere thinks that Trumpy Bear is just patriotically sweet and cuddly—a woman in the infomercial does spend time fussing over his flaxen hair and cozying up under the flag she pulled from his innards. But the sales plan is beside the point. For those who do not support the President, the bear is a testament Trump’s brainwashed base and it might be worth buying as a voodoo doll . For Trump supporters, it’s a new way to “ trigger ” histrionic snowflakes. Trumpy Bear isn’t your average meme-bred merch gone viral: It appeals to everyone and no one, it stands for everything and nothing, and that is exactly the point. Trumpy Bear is the nastiness of the Trumpian internet made plushie.
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