July 22, 2020
On July 20, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a detailed, colorful poster entitled New York Tough—depicting the surge of the coronavirus pandemic within the state as a steep mountain that New Yorkers worked hard to flatten by their cooperative actions to shelter in place, shut down all nonessential businesses, test for the virus, social distance and wear masks; and support the healthcare heroes who work at the front.
But in addition to this familiar visual metaphor, Claire Lampen, a writer for New York Magazine’s The Cut, noted that the poster “…also features a bunch of highly specific yet bewildering symbols: ‘Winds of Fear’ bluster around the mountain as the crisis builds; a mask mandate at the mountain’s peak helps usher New York into its first phase of reopening; and the economy, portrayed as a river (?), feeds into the “Sea of Division” (??).
However, “perhaps the most perplexing detail,” Lampen says, “is the “Boyfriend Cliff”—represented by a little crag [midway up the right side of the mountain] with a small man dangling from its tip.”
“Is the ‘Boyfriend Cliff’ where we dispose of … boyfriends once we are through with them? Does the ‘Boyfriend Cliff’ refer to a boyfriend named Cliff?” she asks.
Or does the “Boyfriend Cliff” symbolize your relationship falling off a cliff when you and the significant other you don’t live with, who (again) may not be a boyfriend, realize you won’t be seeing each other for a few months due to social-distancing recommendations.
Some think it’s a personal reference made by the governor. For example, Syracuse.com seems pretty certain the “Boyfriend Cliff” harks back to a comment Cuomo previously made at a press conference, concerning his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, her boyfriend (not named Cliff), and the Cuomo family’s Spaghetti Sundays.
Chrissy Teigen, who weighed in on Twitter, seems to agree with this reading. She reminded Cuomo that he had claimed to “like the boyfriend,” prompting Cuomo to clarify, “We do like the boyfriend. Alll boyfriends face a steep climb.”
The Cut contacted Cuomo’s office for answers. Two days later, Peter Ajemian— Cuomo’s senior deputy communications director—offered an explanation. According to Ajemian, the “Boyfriend Cliff” is simply “an ongoing, playful bit the governor has been doing publicly with his family over the past few months to help lighten spirits during an incredibly difficult time.” And why a cliff? There is so much we still don’t know.
Research contact: @TheCut