When Trumpy Bear first emerged from the ether — his arrival trumpeted via an infomercial — the public had its doubts. The combination of his crisply cuffed paws, roller coaster of a comb-over and alleged heroism were unbelievable. His mythos eclipsed him.
Now, more than a year later, the furry stranger has been ushered back into the limelight by a new round of advertisements just in time for the holidays. But still, Trumpy Bear remains somewhat of an American mystery.
Trumpy Bear's Facebook page simply describes him as a limited-edition, collectible teddy bear that "screams America." And indeed, with his white collar, red power tie and watery blue eyes, he seems as American as any other product available in installments of $19.95.
The commercial has graced American airwaves since last October, including on the Animal Planet, Discovery, the Outdoor Channel and most recently Fox News, according to Ad Age. But the ad offers little in the way of biography. Instead, it spurs further questions about his shadowy origins, the Washington Post reports.
The TV spots say his coming was announced by whispers in the forest, warning of a coming storm. While the commercials specify that Trumpy Bear was born on Flag Day 2017, they do not explain why, although he is allegedly a "great American grizzly," he stands only 22 inches high and sports remnants of business attire. All this seems to send the message that the bear is equally in commanding the boardroom as he is ransacking a campground. The secret compartment in his neck (which stores an American flag blanket) is yet another puzzling anatomical departure from his kin.
As it circulated on YouTube and social media last summer, Trumpy Bear's story was so unbelievable that fact-checking website Snopes had to step in to confirm his existence. Snopes helped reveal Trumpy Bear's impressive lineage, reporting that he traced his roots back to the turn of the century, at the debut of the original plush bear named for President Theodore Roosevelt.
"When President Donald Trump was elected to office as the first non-politician president, I felt it was time to name an American fearless grizzly bear after our new Commander in Chief," the bear's creator, V.L. Lange, from a company called Reel Vision, told Snopes in a "vision statement." Legally, the bear's trademark belongs to the Dallas-based Exceptional Products, that sells several other as-seen-on-TV products such as HairDini and Plaque Attack.
Exceptional Products did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post about Trumpy Bear's backstory and how many of the plush-pawed heroes it has sold. But the bear's website hints at his rarity, urging customers to purchase Trumpy Bear lest they "miss out on owning a piece of American history."
Based on the wide-ranging shots from commercials, showing Trumpy Bear roaring across the asphalt on the back of a motorcycle and standing boldly alongside firefighters and law enforcement, it is evident that he is a bear of action. From footage of Trumpy Bear with a small-business owner and donning a hard hat on a construction site, it's safe to assume he has a vested interest in American industry. But the commercials also hint at a softer side, showing Trumpy Bear resting in a rocking chair, unblinking in the afternoon sun, and tenderly embracing a woman on a beige sofa.
While concerns about the bear's background might be assuaged by the "Certificate of Authenticity" with which he is packaged, Amazon.com reviews suggest a gap between the televised version and the creature that now sits in an unknown number of American houses, calling into question the creature's species and patriotism.
(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
"The flag on the one we received is NOT a U.S. flag," one user wrote in June. "The stars are completely off and not at all like the one pictured on the listing." Another user confirmed that the flag had only 33 stars.
"This was stated that it ships from USA IT DOES NOT .... straight from CHINA," another wrote in June.
We may never know whence he came, or why. A deep gaze into his face suggests that even he might long for answers. Nestled beneath sandy caterpillar brows, his embroidered eyes pool with questions.