Understanding Hollywood's obsession with Donald Trump

The old-world formats are desperate to get back viewers that have moved to platforms such as online streaming or YouTube.

 |  4-minute read |   03-11-2018
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A speech by a comic book villain called Wilson Fisk in the latest season of Daredevil is the newest addition to an evergrowing list of things on American television that seems to be a tad "Trump-esque."

The fact that pop-culture reflects reality is a long accepted norm. However, there are those who suggest, and in fact are convinced, that since Donald J Trump became the forty-fifth President of the United States, all things ranging from pearls of wisdom dropped by comic book baddies, literature about a dystopian future written in the 1960s, are more relevant now than ever before.

Many may also believe that Trump’s bid for office is the reason for dead shows getting revived, as they must assess present-day cultural milestones in their right light. These assumptions are both stupid and intriguing at the same time.

Trump Reaction

In the two years since Trump shifted into the Oval Office, there has been a highly visible and extremely vocal attempt by the majority of American television, and to some degree films, to link nearly every single thing that could be wrong in their known worlds to Trump. Initially, this seemed like a ‘Post-Trump’ adjustment, but now the whole exercise of interpreting reality for the reel and then reverse-engineering the imagined to make sense of the real is reaching a fever pitch.

One of the first instances where the world "After Trump" was said to become an embodiment of collective nightmares, was when commentators started suggesting that certain similarities between the TV series The Man in the High Castle, and the manner in which Trump arrived should make you think.

man1_110318095752.jpg(Photo: Screengrab)

The series is based on Philip K Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name, where the Nazis and Japanese have won the Second World War and have divided present-day United States amongst each other. It didn’t matter that the show debuted nearly two years before Trump became President. Now in its third season, the show’s “frightening real-world relevance” continues to be used as a talking point.

The people behind the show have gone on to record to say that they don’t think the current [Trump] administration is fascist, but one of the producers, Eric Overmyer, has noted the fair amount of resonance is “just because it’s a story about fascism, in part, and a resistance to fascism.” Similarly, Spike Lee’s new film BlackkKlansman (2018) that features an African-American detective from Colorado Springs successfully infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan branch along with his Jewish colleague, who poses as a white supremacist.

On talk-shows

The film is said to have been based on actual events that took place in the 1970s, but critics have linked the film as the one that is best to channelise the hateful pulse of present-day America.

It’s not like off-camera things are any different. Pick up any late-night show and you’d notice how nearly the entire screen time is dedicated to talking about how bad things are since Trump took over. No one is denying anyone the right to express what they feel, but weren’t some of these so-called problems, and some even bigger ones, present in a world "Before Trump?" It’s one thing to have a meltdown about someone you never expected to win an election emerging triumphant, but does resistance mean torturing your audience? What’s more puzzling is the manner in which anyone who opposes Trump becomes good enough.

trump2_110318095900.jpg(Photo: Reuters)

Across the globe

Take, for instance, Matt Damon. The actor faced great backlash for trying to mitigate the anti-Weinstein anger of the #MeToo movement by suggesting that all men shouldn’t be treated equally, but the moment he appeared on Saturday Night Live as Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court pick of Donald Trump, all his sins were momentarily forgotten. In fact, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune even wrote a column that was titled - ‘When the Brett Kavanaugh circus ends, we won't forget your sins, Matt Damon.’

Television's traditional viewership has undergone a sea of change in the last few years. Many of the old-world formats are desperate to get back viewers that have moved to platforms such as online streaming or YouTube, which is filled with alternative programming belting out material which the mainstream media dare not show.

In that light, is it fine to peddle a narrative replete with presentism or what could be best described as the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts to the viewer? In India, too, one can see presentism seeping into popular programming and a good example from the recent past would be Sacred Games where the book that it’s based on was originally published in 2006 yet it includes much of the reported reality within its imagery and narrative ostensibly to make it more suitable to present times’

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also Read: Donald Trump should not have insulted Modi. It will hurt America 


Gautam Chintamani Gautam Chintamani @gchintamani

Cinephile, observer of society and technology and author of the of Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna.

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