5 Movie Plots That No Longer Make Sense Post-Trump
Donald Trump's presidency has already negatively affected countless people, from would-be immigrants to actual immigrants to people who sorta look like they could be immigrants. There's one group that's seldom discussed, though: poor, downtrodden TV and movie writers. Of all the problems with Trump's presidency, the fact that he's ruining what used to be common TV plotlines ranks, well ... somewhere near the bottom, if we're being honest. Still, it's surreal that stories that used to seem outlandish will now look quaint and chaste in the face of cold, hard, insane reality. We'll never again be able to enjoy stories like ...
"Gaffes Will Kill Your Political Career!"
It's the oldest trope in shows about politicians: Get caught doing something dumb or terrible, and you might as well start applying for a job at Burger King.
House Of Cards, which started as an over-the-top melodrama but now looks like a throwback to a distant era when our politicians were restrained and likable, has a plot in which Frank Underwood's presidential campaign is nearly derailed when a photo of his father shaking hands with a KKK member emerges. Then, right when he manages to smooth that over, another photo is released of him shaking hands with a Confederate Civil War reenactor -- bad news for a Democrat who needs to win the Southern black vote. Cue sad trombone sound! Frank does eventually win his party's primary, but the photos were damaging enough that he loses his home state, an embarrassing defeat that teaches him the valuable lesson that you should never shake hands with anyone, in case it comes back to haunt you.
"Mental note: Only high-five my racist friends from now on."
In The West Wing there's CJ Cregg, the press secretary to President ... Wing, if we remember correctly. In season three, it comes out that the president has multiple sclerosis, but didn't disclose it before he began his presidenting career. At the same time, an emergency pops up in Haiti, and CJ tells the press that the president was "relieved" to be focusing on something that matters. The media is shocked by this flippant remark -- is the president happy there's a crisis? Or does he not consider his own health important, even though his incapacitation could send the country into chaos? As soon as CJ gets out of there, she punches the wall because she's so angry at herself, and she offers her resignation.
"CJ, these hallways are for walking and talking, not screaming and punching."
Even freaking Batman Returns features the Penguin, a political figure, having his public image destroyed after Batman leaks a recording of him mocking the people of Gotham.
Although maybe he was right about them being gullible if they thought this guy had their best interests at heart.
But Now ...
Everything that's damaged or destroyed these fictional careers has already popped up during the current administration, only to bounce off of Trump like an anemic Nerf dart. Trump's father was arrested at a 1927 riot instigated by the KKK -- who incidentally, are still big fans of the Trump name.
The Confederacy endorsed Jill Stein, though.
Both Trump and his press secretary, Sean "I Eat 2.5 Packs Of Gum Every Day Before Noon For Some Mysterious Reason" Spicer, are notorious for handling their press conferences with all the grace of a drunken frat bro on his first spring break. Can you imagine if they punched a wall every time he said something that could be considered a gaffe? It would be a miracle if the White House was still standing.
Not even Aaron Sorkin's crack-fueled brain could come up with this stuff.
And then there was that infamous recording of Trump bragging about committing sexual assault.
At least the Penguin respected Catwoman.
And that's not even getting into Trump's other controversies, like the time he mocked a disabled reporter, the time he exchanged barbs with a Gold Star family, the time a plague of locusts poured out of his mouth and devoured most of Kansas, etc. Together they combined to ... have pretty much no effect on him. He won, and he did it by shrugging off what used to be career-destroying mistakes. Hey, remember when Howard Dean's presidential campaign was ruined because he yelled funny?
We'll never be able to take "gaffes" seriously in fiction again. Batman could release a video of the Joker strangling children, and we'd now expect Gotham's response to be "Yeah, but Commissioner Gordon was using an unsecured email server, so who's the real villain here?" Writers will have to find a new way to throw wrenches into political careers. Expect to see an uptick in "the president is suddenly abducted by aliens" plots in the coming years.
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"An Inexperienced President Brings The Country Together!"
Everyone loves the story of an unprepared outsider stepping the hell up and taking charge. Designated Survivor is an ABC show in which the entire government is wiped out in a terrorist attack except for one guy, leaving Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) as the unwitting new president. He doesn't have a clue what he's doing and he doesn't even want the job, but goddammit, he gets down to work, takes it one day at a time, and eventually gains the confidence of the populace.
"Can we rush this along? You're throwing off my jogging time."
Another new show, APB, is about a billionaire with no public service experience who literally buys a police force and runs it better than those clueless bureaucrats. Darn it, FOX, you've done it again! This will be a ratings sensation!
But Now ...
Uh, yeah, not so much. People aren't so hot on this concept all of the sudden.
Initially, Designated Survivor's most unbelievable element was the idea of a Kiefer Sutherland character being concerned with human rights. But now, the idea of an inexperienced president who carefully learns the job, measures all of his options before responding to a problem, and works to win the trust of people who doubt him sounds positively Utopian.
"He hasn't angrily tweeted in all caps even once? Come on, get real."
As GQ and The Independent point out, President Kirkman is a populist fantasy. He's a middle-class, down-to-earth guy who has little interest in partisan politics and only wants to get stuff done. He's the everyman we wish we could have as president. That's exactly the kind of anti-establishment platform that Trump ran on. He presented himself as the outsider who couldn't care less about political parties because he was too busy making America great again.
So they're basically the same guy, right? Sure, except that Kirkman is restrained, not willing to commit to military action until he knows exactly who to target ...
... and speaking out against a spike in Islamophobia, reassuring American Muslims that they're still a valued part of the country.
Ironically, this sounds more like something President Jack Bauer would do.
It turns out that, fantasies about politicians getting kicked to the curb aside, it is in fact a good idea to have someone who knows what they're doing in charge. Huh.
Even Idiocracy now looks optimistic compared to reality. When the awesome but stupid President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho realizes that the protagonist, Joe, is smarter than him, Camacho names him VP and steps aside so Joe can become president. One of the country's dumbest men puts his ultra-macho ego aside because he could admit that he was wrong when he criticized the other guy. Meanwhile, in real life ...
Feel free to take bets on when Trump will replace lethal injections with deadly monster truck rallies.
"The Goofball Candidate Charms Voters, But Experience And Know-How Still Win The Day!"
In Parks And Recreation, Leslie Knope runs for city council and finds herself up against Bobby Newport, a playboy with rich parents. Newport is ignorant and entitled, has no political experience, is generally quite dumb, and has no interest in actually doing the job. He does nothing but stand on a podium and say whatever wacky bullshit enters his mind. Hilariously, people lap him up, and the infinitely more qualified Leslie has to fight a tough battle that she barely wins. The writers joked that it was like having a third-grader run for office -- he treats valid criticism as bullying, and at one point he tries to get the job by saying "C'mon, just gimme it. I want it."
Do those writers offer ghost-tweeting services for famous people, by any chance?
Something similar happens in Black Mirror, a show that started off as absurdist satire and now feels like an enticing alternate reality. In "The Waldo Moment," a cartoon bear runs in a local election as a stunt to advertise his TV show. Waldo does everything you're not "supposed" to do in politics -- he gets profane and avoids making any real arguments in favor of constantly mocking the political system. However, the stunt backfires when voters love Waldo's "telling it like it is" ways. He finishes a narrow second, and his creator is horrified that his supporters will commit violence in his name.
Come on, did you believe for even a second that someone like that could win?
But Now ...
The media was quick to draw comparisons between Waldo and Trump, who also built up his popularity by dishing out vague criticism of the establishment. But here's the thing: Waldo and Newport lost. They came close, but were judged to be a little too ridiculous. Yes, we live in a world that's stranger than one where a cartoon bear almost wins an election.
When Hillary Clinton put together an ad that literally only replayed terrible things Trump has said, his defense was "It's not nice. It's not a nice thing she's done." Any criticism on him or his inner circle is deemed "unfair," regardless of truth or logic. Trump is exactly as much of a baby as Bobby Newport, but without the redeeming quality of having Paul Rudd's face.
137,000 people "love" that the president has no connection to reality.
We've all dreamed about electing a straight-talking, no-nonsense outsider to office, because regardless of your political beliefs, we've all seen some idiocy that made us roll our eyes and say, "Really? This is how our government works?" The prospect of someone busting down the door and cutting through the morass of bullshit with hard truths and clever jokes is so, so satisfying. But Trump's election has revealed the dark downside to that dream: The straight-talking truth tellers are grossly unsuited to hold office, and they're exactly as full of shit.
It turns out that career politicians have the same advantages as career dentists and divorce lawyers. You may not like certain aspects of their job, but they know what they're doing. So the next time a TV writer dreams up a Waldo-esque brick through the establishment's window, they're going to have to get around the fact that we're immediately going to picture them sending out angry Tweets at three in the morning and then asking how the goddamn economy works, because that quickly kills the appeal.
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"Wow, Look! A Donald Trump Cameo!"
For decades, whenever a Hollywood writer thought of a gag that required showing a real-life millionaire for a few seconds, they'd call Donald Trump. Remember when he showed up in Home Alone 2?
How about his appearance in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, in which he complains that "everyone's always blaming me for everything"?
Trump's also appeared in The Little Rascals, a couple of Pizza Hut ads (including one wherein he compares himself to famous warmongers Napoleon and Alexander the Great), a McDonald's ad in which he met goddamn Grimace, and Sex And The City, where he is portrayed as sexually delectable in a scene that's aged about as well as phrenology.
And that's just scratching the surface. At the time, all these cameos were merely going for an easy laugh or a bit of verisimilitude. Hugh Grant's billionaire character in Two Weeks Notice is so rich and successful that he's buddies with Donald Trump! Wow!
But Now ...
It's difficult to enjoy all these cute real-world nods now that Trump is the source of so much despair and human misery. It's also tough, in general, for someone to land a joke after you've heard them brag about sexual assault. Seeing him in an otherwise-fun movie nowadays is like finding a piece of rat shit in an otherwise-delicious bowl of ice cream.
Good thing Kevin McAllister wasn't brown, or he would have been sent packing back to the airport.
Most of these cameos portray Trump as a sexy, powerful, debonair man of mystery. He's the pinnacle of fame and fortune, an aspirational figure. But today he's an angry bag of wet farts, leaving us to wonder how much all these roles contributed to the inaccurate image of success and genius he projected during the election. They certainly didn't hurt all of his rants against Hollywood, even though he could apparently wander onto a movie set and ask for a cameo at any time. Tell us more about how you're taking a stand against those elitist liberal celebrities who don't respect real hard-working people like you, Guy Who's Done Scenes With Hugh Grant And Will Smith!
"The Nazis Are Back!" (As A Sci-Fi Concept)
It's been the premise of dozens of novels, comics, movies, and time-travel-gone-wrong TV episodes: What if the Nazis had won World War II and were still around today? What a goldmine of an idea!
Amazon's The Man In The High Castle, for example, is about an alternate reality where the Axis conquered the U.S., but the truly scary part is how quickly Americans adapt to their new life. People who in our reality would have been loud patriots instead proudly put on Nazi uniforms, decorate their homes with tastefully placed swastikas, and torture suspected Jews in ominous government buildings before taking their families to a baseball game, because they immediately bought into the idea that fascism was perfect for American society. The show is disturbing because it shows Nazism in America as so ... mundane.
But 9/11 didn't happen, so ... yay?
But Now ...
Sadly, these aren't stills from the show:
Once again, it's impossible to tell if this one was a supporter or a detractor.
America hasn't been conquered, but its neo-Nazis are feeling a hell of a lot more confident to show themselves out in the open these days. Parts of the alt-right are essentially neo-Nazis with Twitter accounts instead of spray cans, and we've responded with, uh, profiles about how "dapper" they are.
"If Jews aren't dapper, how important can they REALLY be?"
So where does this leave us with fictional stories about Nazis? Treating them as goofy villains makes it look like we're not taking the problem seriously, while using them in serious dramas is like recommending someone watch Halloween while their home is being invaded by a psychopath. Entertainment, even serious entertainment, is escapism. Except now, after watching an episode of The Man In The High Castle, you can flip to the news and get bombarded with information about the craven vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats against Jewish community centers. But hey, at least we can rest assured that the White House is taking this kind of evil shit seriously-
And that's not even taking into account the sinister implications of Trump kicking around the phrase "Muslim Ban" like a goddamn hacky-sack, or his boner for publishing lists of crimes committed by immigrants, which has some swastikacular historical parallels. Hell, even the people who work on High Castle are worried that no one's going to want to watch Nazis rule America in an age when you can step outside and watch the gritty reality show The Man In The Duplex Down The Street Who Keeps Telling Me That It's About Time The Jews Were Put In Their Place.
On a similar note, TNT was all set to make Civil, a show about a contentious presidential campaign and the effects of social media sending the country spiraling into a new civil war (with far sexier people this time). Then we went and had a contentious election in which the winning candidate had a habit of spouting virulent dumb shit that blew up on social media. The show was killed because, well, that wacky fantasy scenario's called "every damn day of your life" now.
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