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How Did This Donald Trump Jr. Photograph Ever Even Happen?

Sarah Aswell is a freelance humor writer who lives in Missoula, Montana, with her husband and two kids. Her words have appeared in places like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Hairpin, and more.

A few theories regarding the baffling picture of Donald Trump Jr. in The New York Times

Sometimes you see things that you can't ever unsee. A terrible car accident. A snake eating its own tale. And now this: Donald Trump Jr. sitting on a stump in the woods.

On March 18, The New York Times style section ran a profile of the president's oldest son titled "Donald Trump Jr. Is His Own Kind of Trump." The article is about the 39-year-old businessman and family man who is now, along with his brother Eric, in charge of his father's expansive business interests around the world. It's also trying very hard to be about how "Don" Trump is way, way different than his dad.

Let's meditate on this for a moment: 

There were a lot of questions — a lot of questions — asked after the publication of this photograph. Such as: 

  • Wait, why is he in the woods?
  • What's with the boots? Is Trump Jr. so rich he buys boots from the future?
  • While we're asking about his boots, what's with the flannel?
  • While we're asking about the flannel, what's with those jeans?
  • Stump?
  • Hair?
  • The crotch hand thing?
  • Did we ask about the stump already?
  • Why?
And my favorite question of them all: 

More: Donald Trump Jr. Has Got 'Herds of Mothers' Pretty Darn PO'd Right Now

But I have one question that I need to know the answer to above all other questions — and also a question that I believe may answer all of those other questions: How did this picture ever, ever, ever even get taken, edited and published in a newspaper?

I have four theories. Ready?

Theory 1: OK, the photographer is evil (or at least liberal) 

I think this is the likely explanation: A New York Times photographer who, like many Americans, is a bit fed up with the whole Trump presidency decides to see how crazy a direction he can take this photo shoot. He starts by subtly suggesting that Trump could maybe wear something comfy, like a warm, cozy flannel. And could he do his hair like 1980s Michael Douglas? That would be great. And since the photo shoot might take a while, maybe he could slip on these comfortable brand-new, weird-looking hiking boots (from the future?). Also, it's a lovely day! Let's go for a walk in the woods. Deep in the woods.

Once flanneled and in the woods, all the photographer needed was a delightful string of suggested poses and expressions — and the amazing image was born: 

Photographer: Hey! Look at this cool stump!

Trump Jr.: Is it a cool stump?

Photographer: Yes, trust me. I'm a professional, with a professional eye. Best stump I've ever seen.

Trump Jr.: OK.

Photographer: Great. Yeah, just settle in. Let the stump become part of you. No, don't smile. Instead, look into the distance and think about how sad you feel when poor people have access to health care. Yes! Perfect.

Trump Jr.: God, that thought makes me feel so melancholy. Wait, do you think that my hand is too near my crotch?

Photographer: If anything, it's too far away. And not limp enough. Can you pretend your hand is exhausted from your father's continuous escapades? That. Is. Great.

Trump Jr.: I feel like this might be a little weird.

Photographer: You look fantastic. Everyone will be talking about this. Now, can you sit more rigidly, as if you are wearing a back brace to make up for your spinelessness? You are a natural!

More: No Shame in Donald Trump Jr.'s Elephant Killing Game

Theory 2: Donald Trump Jr. wanted to look like the exact opposite of his father in every way possible

There's definitely at least a little truth to this. The profile discusses how the eldest Trump has always wanted to take his own path (through the woods?) and isn't looking to follow in his father's footsteps. Specifically, he took some time off to bartend after school, he's partied in the past, he had a deep relationship with his rural Czechoslovakian grandfather and he loves hunting to the point that most people are totally disgusted by his actions. Maybe, for this photo shoot, he just wanted to resist his father's mold in every way possible. I can imagine this train of thought: 

What is the exact opposite of a business suit? A flannel and jeans and hiking boots!

What is the opposite of a gold-plated chair in a tower? A big, gnarly stump!

What is the opposite of looking slightly constipated? Looking like you have to go, but you are in the middle of a photo shoot!

What is the opposite of really weird hair? Different really weird hair?

More: Donald Trump Jr. & Vanessa's Full House: Baby Five is a Girl

Theory 3: Donald Trump Jr. has been possessed by an alien only partially versed in human culture

This is obviously the perfect explanation — and the only one that really, truly makes sense. In an effort to take over the United States, an alien attempted to invade the body and mind of Donald Trump. But he got kind of confused and invaded Donald Trump Jr. instead. Also, he learned everything possible about the American way of life from a single tattered L. L. Bean catalogue from 1993. The result was a very odd photo shoot: 

Photographer: Where would you like to shoot?

Trump Jr. alien: Human bodies sit on stumps.

Photographer: OK... we could do that. It might be a little weird, but we could do that.

Trump Jr. alien: Where is your flannel covering, Earthling?

Photographer: Um, well I just wore a T-shirt.

Trump Jr. alien: What are the nuclear codes?

Photographer: OK, well, I got a single picture. I think that's plenty to work with. Thanks for your time.

A few theories regarding the baffling picture of Donald Trump Jr. in The New York Times
Image: Giphy

Theory 4: He used the same photographer as Paul Ryan

Obviously, Trump Jr. saw these pictures of Paul Ryan and demanded the same artist capture his image.

Also, the Paul Ryan photographer must be evil or liberal. Which brings us back to Theory No. 1. Or Paul Ryan is also possessed by a confused alien.

Here are a few other theories I enjoy: 

Seriously. Seriously. How do you think that that picture of Donald Trump Jr. even came to exist?

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

A few theories regarding the baffling picture of Donald Trump Jr. in The New York Times
Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images
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