Carson Jones’ Precision Shade is the 2018 We Need
[Given the darkest timeline nature of events over the last year, we’ve decided to institute a new weekly section called #FunFridays. Because we all need a laugh…desperately.]
By now you’ve probably already seen the picture, but it bears another view: the hilariously shade-filled photo of junior Senator Doug Jones’ swearing in ceremony where his openly gay son Carson appears to be delivering the side-eye to end all side-eye at notoriously anti-LGBTQ Mike Pence.
But do you know much more than what you’ve seen in the photo?
For starters, Carson is a zookeeper who lives in Denver, Colorado. He actually wanted to be a zookeeper since at least high school (when he would spend part of his days at a local zoo volunteering).
In a profile on Jones published in mid-December of last year, INTO noted:
But his high school experience, Carson notes, wasn’t a typical one. Between the ages of 13 and 17, he volunteered 6,000 hours with the Birmingham Zoo. During his senior year, Carson left school almost every day to work with primates. He calls zookeeping the “love of [his] life,” as well as a “borderline obsession.”
In attempting to divine the thought process behind the look in his photo – simply captioned, “#nocaptionneeded” – this section from the interview might offer some insight:
When I asked what made him wait three years before opening up to his family about his sexuality, Carson claims that he just wasn’t ready to come out in high school. Mountain Brook, Ala. was a town as affluent as it was conservative, the kind of place where students got $60,000 BMWs on their birthdays.
“[Mountain Brook] was not a place that I would have felt comfortable coming out in,” he says. “I only know of one person who was out in my year.”
He went to college at the University of Georgia in Athens. The small town is known for a thriving indie music scene, which gave birth to bands like R.E.M. and The-B52s, but one of the things it doesn’t have is a full-time gay bar. When Birmingham’s Pride festival came around in 2016, the first full summer Carson was a proudly out gay man, he had other commitments.
But the timing of Carson’s first Pride couldn’t have been more momentous.
Following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, many cities around the country—like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.—eschewed their yearly parades in favor of a protest of the current administration. Since taking office in January, the White House has persistently attempted to roll back LGBTQ rights, whether it’s data collection on queer and trans elders or transgender people serving openly in the military.
Carson cried on election night as Trump’s win was announced, terrified of what it would mean for LGBTQ people like him. “I really scared and really afraid,” he says.
But at this year’s Pride in Denver, he didn’t feel fear. He experienced an outpouring of love and solidarity. “Before then, I had never felt that I needed a community around me,” he claims. “I had friends, I was great, and I was happy. But I moved to Denver and met more gay people and have more gay friends. I yearn for that community now.”
How many LGBTQ people can identify with a story about growing up in an area without a LGBTQ community? With the struggle for acceptance only to face a deluge of hatred and negativity?
This is Carson Jones’ young experience as the 22-year-old son of a newly-elected Democratic Senator.
Pair that experience with an opportunity to offer a wordless commentary to one of the leading anti-LGBTQ figures in the nation and a photo is born.
Analyzing the stare, Alexandra Schwartz of The New Yorker said:
What is it about that stare? It’s the apotheosis of side-eye, a gesture that bestows upon its target the perfect mix of recognition and indifference. I see you, and I know you see me, the look says. And I just don’t care. There’s humor in it, too—a hint of a smile around Carson’s mouth, an acknowledgment of the absurdity of the situation, and the improbable, shot-in-the-dark victory that it represents. And there’s dignity, a quality that has been sorely lacking from American politics of late. The stare is elevated by the photo as a whole, which, with its Ionic columns in the background and intense, interlocking sight lines, is as Classical and clear as a painting by Jacques-Louis David. Doug Jones looks at Pence. Carson Jones looks at Pence. Louise Jones looks at Doug Jones, with an expression of touching gravitas. Pence looks—where, exactly, is Pence looking? From the angle of the photo, his eyes are hooded. His expressionless face seems made of putty. He might be a sculpture at a wax museum.
Perhaps more amusingly – and missed by most outlets (with a few notable exceptions) – is the look on Louise Jones’ face.
So Carson’s side-eye is extra-juicy. That, coupled with the fact that he’s is easy on the eyes, distracted us from what else was going on in the photo: Carson’s mom, Louise, is also up on the podium, giving Pence her backside.
It’s some some Mariah Carey level-“I don’t know her”-shade.
Actually now that we look at it again, it appears like Carson and his mom are having an entire conversation with their eyeballs. Which is basically the kind of relationship every gay man wants with his mother.
You can see some of Carson Jones’ other photos over at his Instagram account but be warned: as his own profile says, he’s more than just a thirst trap.