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Hillary and Barack’s Refusal to ‘Hug It Out’ in Public Defeats the Purpose of Hugging It Out

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images; HBO

In an Atlantic interview published earlier this week, very likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attempted to put a little distance between herself and her former boss. In addition to criticizing the White House’s foreign policy doctrine (known as ”don’t do stupid shit“), Clinton said that President Obama’s “failure” to intervene in Syria created a “vacuum” that has now been filled by ISIS. After realizing that she had perhaps gone a bit too far, Clinton’s team released a statement saying that she had called Obama to apologize for her remarks, and that she looked forward to “hugging it out” with him at a Wednesday night party on Martha’s Vineyard. After all, that particular move always seemed to work on TV

Though it might feel like the concept of “hugging it out” has existed since the beginning of time, that’s only true for people who were born in 1998, when the 18th episode of the fourth season of Friends aired. In “The One With Rachel’s New Dress,” Phoebe, Joey, and Chandler get into a convoluted debate over what Phoebe should name her new baby. When a decision is reached, Chandler smooths over the lingering tension by asking Phoebe, “You wanna hug it out?” (She does!) However, hugging it out does not seem to have become popular until 2004, when Ari Gold tacked “bitch” onto the phrase. 

For those who have somehow managed to forget: Ari Gold is the guy Jeremy Piven played on HBO’s most bro-centric series, Entourage. The character (loosely based on Rahm Emanuel’s brother) was a neurotic, ambitious agent managing the career of up-and-coming actor Vincent Chase (Adrien Grenier) and dealing with Chase’s crew of childhood friends, who moved with him to Los Angeles so that the show could have a premise. Often, Ari would yell at and fight with people, because his whole thing was being abrasive. And almost just as often, he would resolve those disputes by suggesting that he and the other party “hug it out, bitch.” While he sometimes offered his signature embrace in moments of sadness, Ari usually used hugging it out as a way to end an argument quickly, either because he was over it or — more significantly —  because it was happening in public and it looked bad. 

In a 2008 interview, Piven took credit for the creation of the line, which, he explained, is a bit more complex than it might seem: 

How did you come up with your most famous line, ‘Let’s hug it out, bitch’?
Jeremy: That one came at the end of a scene. I’d just come down pretty hard on E [Kevin Connolly’s character]. Agents have a way of thinking they’re being comforting, but they’re actually being very abrasive, so there’s that duality going on. I also knew that Kevin is not a fan of being touched [laughs]. I thought it would be very unsettling to hug him, and so it just kind of happened.

Ari first demanded that something be hugged out in Entourage’s second-ever episode, after he and Vince’s pal and manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) differed on how to handle a negative write-up of Vince’s movie. Not totally unlike Clinton, Eric draws attention to the potentially career-ruining situation by bringing it up in front of Vince. Once Vince is out of the room, Ari — not unlike Obama, who recently called criticism of his Syria policy “horseshit” — flips out at Eric for having a bad “bedside manner” when there is nothing they can do about the review, or the similar ones that will likely follow. Though Vince (the American public in this imperfect comparison) doesn’t witness Ari and Eric hugging it out, the exchange shows the audience that Eric has reluctantly agreed to do things Ari’s way.

As even people who never watched a single episode of Entourage probably know, variations of “let’s hug it out, bitch” quickly became the show’s most memorable catchphrase. And while Entourage was canceled in 2011, warring billionaires, dogs and cats, and pissed off bros continue to hug it out when they want to demonstrate to the world that they are aggressively getting along. 

And that brings us to last night, when Clinton and Obama “mingled amiably” at the fancy birthday party of Vernon Jordan’s wife, Ann. Unfortunately, according to Politico, “it was unclear” if the two did, in fact, hug it out. “But they certainly made clear that they were moving past a controversy that both sides described as overblown by the media,” the “hug summit” report continued. Of course, it’s a little unfair of Clinton to blame the media for making a big deal out of the spat, given that her own spokespeople promised that it would end with a made-for-TV moment. Meanwhile, without firm evidence that the hug-out occurred, we have no way of knowing for sure that everything turned out all right — and that is the main difference between this episode and one of Entourage

The Meaning of Hillary’s Promise to ‘Hug It Out’