Politicians Whose Pop Culture Ignorance Is Real (And Hilariously) Clear
Many politicians have trouble connecting with the rest of us revolting sewer-dwellers. That's why they love to talk about pop culture, figuring that a brief mention of Iron Man might establish them as a down-to-earth people's champion, just like Tommy Stork himself. But this kind of pandering usually just reveals how out of touch our politicians are, to the point that they don't see any conflict between "Yeah, I love Harry Potter!" and "I'm closing all the schools."
Mike Pompeo Doesn't Get The Simpsons At All
The annual State of the Union address is an extremely important event, often supplying enough reaction GIFs to last the nation several months. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caused significant controversy during this year's SOTU when she was seen tearing up a copy of Donald Trump's speech.
The clip cuts off right before, we assume, Speaker Pelosi went on to cup her ear to the crowd and challenge Trump and Vince McMahon to a tag-match at Wrestlemania. Conservatives were outraged since it's a huge break with precedent for something memorable to happen at the SOTU. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stumbled when his attempt at a catty response revealed he's either a huge Pelosi fan or doesn't understand pop-culture at all.
Pompeo tweeted an image of Lisa Simpson crying and ripping up pieces of paper. It was presumably an attempt to call Pelosi a petulant child, a bold move considering everyone involved in this dispute is approximately 109-years-old. But the attack was especially dumb because the image wasn't just some random kid throwing a tantrum -- it's Lisa Simpson dude. You know, the moral center of the entire show?
But it's even worse than that. The scene Pompeo tweeted is from the season 3 episode "Mr. Lisa Goes To Washington," in which Lisa wins a contest and gets to read her winning essay at the national finals in Washington DC. However her idealism is crushed when she witnesses a corrupt congressman taking a bribe. The image depicts her as she tears up her original essay praising America's political system and writes a new one calling out Washington graft. In other words, Pompeo tweeted a picture of a brilliant, morally upright character tearing up a speech out of disgust with corrupt politics. It might actually be the nicest thing a Republican has ever said about Nancy Pelosi.
Naturally, Pompeo was widely mocked for his GIF gaffe. One person who was less than amused was legendary Simpsons writer Bill Oakley, who demanded that Pompeo "please do not ever ever ever use Simpsons material in your twitter or watch the show or refer to it in any way." Given the whole debacle, he's probably happy to oblige.
Related: Life Lessons From Lisa Simpson
One of Ted Cruz's Favorite Superheroes is, Um, Rorschach?
Depending on your political views, Ted Cruz is either a horrifying slug demon from the nether-dimension or a horrifying slug demon who actually has some pretty good points about the Federal Reserve. But when not working in the senate or draining local cattle dry, Cruz is also a massive pop culture fan who has opened up about his nerdy side in an attempt to broaden his appeal beyond his traditional base (militia compounds, cryptozoologists, Robert Mercer). But that kind of backfired when a Q&A session with the New York Times revealed his favorite superheroes include Wolverine, Spider-Man, and ... uh ... Rorschach from Watchmen.
This came during an interview where Cruz discussed his incorrect belief that Captain Kirk would have been a Republican in our era (IRL Kirk would actually have bounced between various polycules before dying of something called "mega-herpes" at age 23). But his Rorschach comments drew the most attention since that character is less of a traditional superhero and more of a dangerous lunatic. Dude's basically a human face mask from being an actual serial killer. Say what you will about the Punisher, he's very unlikely to burst out of a Colgate executive's fridge, screaming about fluoridated toothpaste.
The choice was particularly unfortunate, because it gradually becomes clear that Rorschach harbors a disturbing hatred of women, gay people, liberals, the poor, and using some goddamn soap from time to time. And a lot of people think those same things about one Ted Cruz. Except for the last one, since Cruz consistently has a shower soaked look in every media appearance to date.
To be fair, Rorschach is definitely the protagonist of Watchmen, but that story was written to deconstruct the very idea of a superhero. As a result, it doesn't contain any, with the various masked vigilantes ranging from far-right nutjobs (Comedian, Rorschach) to well-meaning incompetents (Nite Owl). The only characters with anything approaching superpowers either lose interest in humanity (Dr. Manhattan) or become grandiose narcissists who view the rest of us as something between children and gerbils (Plot-Twist Man). Aside from Squidy, the famous super-squid we all love, there isn't an actual hero in the whole thing. Sure, Rorschach isn't 100% bad and has a pretty sympathetic backstory, but so does Joaquin Phoenix's Joker and it'd still be weird to name him as your favorite superhero.
Marco Rubio Loves Hip-Hop, Doesn't Think It Should Get Political
Marco Rubio is sadly the hippest Republican senator by default. We're talking about a group that contains Lindsey Graham and five completely indistinguishable old white guys named Mike -- every one of whom would squeal in excitement over a riding lawnmower with a Mercedes hood ornament. It's a bar lower than the high jump at the dachshund Olympics. But Marco really wants you to know he's cool, which is why he won't shut the hell up about his love of rap.
Rubio has talked about his love for Tupac in multiple interviews, citing "Killuminati" as one of his favorite songs, alongside N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself." According to Rubio, Tupac was "someone who was trying to inform us about what was going on." Which is true, but does ignore Tupac's repeated attempts to inform us of his contempt for the American government and conservative politics, both of which Rubio is now a key figure in. He really listened to Killuminati's lines about "visions of over-packed prisons" and "pressures and three strikes" and then went on to vote against easing the three-strikes rule?
It's very unclear what Rubio, who is against pretty much all drug legalization and sentencing reform, is getting out of Tupac songs about the federal government encouraging the crack epidemic to keep black people in prison. In fact, he generally doesn't seem to like it when rappers get political, which is why he swooned onto a full-length fainting couch when Snoop Dogg appeared in a music video pretending to shoot Donald Trump with a cartoon-style joke gun. Rubio claimed the video was dangerous and could inspire people to assassinate Trump for real. And to be clear, he's talking about this:
Rubio actually seems to have stopped listening to most rap at some point around 1997. He's claimed Eminem is the only modern rapper, "with any sort of depth" -- which is the standard opinion of middle-aged dudes, that exclusively experience new music only when walking past the caddy shack of their country club.
Trump's Favorite Movie is Citizen Kane, But He Really Doesn't Get It
Donald Trump has referred to Citizen Kane as his favorite movie, which seems suspicious coming from a man known to fast-forward through the boring talking parts of Bloodsport. After all, Citizen Kane is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest movies ever made -- with legions of dedicated fans who fully intend to watch it one of these days, if there's time and nothing new on Netflix. But Trump, astonishingly, really does seem to have watched the movie, or at least read the Cliffnotes. He can name actual characters, which is more than he can do for the senate.
But for all Trump's praise of the movie, he does seem to have missed the point in an extremely weird and personal way. Citizen Kane tells the story of a man who inherits a vast fortune, uses it to become a flamboyant and unethical media figure, cheats on his wife, pushes his business to the brink of bankruptcy, and runs for political office as a populist who calls for his opponent to be jailed. Sound like anyone? The movie shows how Kane's arrogance and inner emptiness are the real cause of all his problems. But for Trump, it's the story of an awesome guy tragically screwed out of his rightful success.
In an interview with Errol Morris, Trump said his advice to Kane would be "get yourself a different woman." Over the course of the movie, Kane is divorced by two different women, with the breakdown in both relationships being entirely his fault. Again, it's clear that Kane's personal demons will never allow him to have a successful relationship, but for Trump that's fine. Kane should just find a wife who's okay with being married to an unfaithful, controlling jackass. All Trump's sympathies go to the rich guy, unfairly criticized just for publicly cheating on the president's niece.
It's actually kind of fascinating, because it would be pretty much physically impossible for the average person to misinterpret the movie this way. But for Trump, who's pretty close to being a Kane tribute act, it makes total sense. It's like watching Lord of the Rings with your close friend Azargoth, Skull-Lord of the Mountain Deathlands. He's probably going to end up rooting for the wrong team.
Chris Christie Loves Bruce Springsteen, But the Boss Totally Hates Him
Chris Christie rose to fame as the vindictive tyrant who kept all New Jersey living in fear of his unstoppable army of skull-masked road traffic engineers. But when not lounging on a bejeweled beach chair, or deciding which drivers get to use the bridge that week, Christie was also known as a huge fan of Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. Now, obviously, every Garden State governor has to pretend to love the Boss the same way that Michael Bloomberg had to nibble gingerly on a pizza once every four years to be mayor of New York. But Christie stands out because his love of Springsteen seems both passionate and genuine.
Politico even uncovered 15-year-old messages on a Bruce Springsteen listserv, where a young Christie discusses taking his six-year-old son to a Springsteen concert and a fairly charming encounter with the Boss himself on a flight to New Jersey. Either this is a political long game worthy of The Manchurian Candidate or Chris Christie really, genuinely loves New Jersey's greatest rock icon. Which is actually a little unfortunate, because the feeling is not mutual.
As a musician, Springsteen has long championed the struggles of working-class New Jerseyzens. Chris Christie, on the other hand, presided over deep spending cuts that brutally hurt those same working-class people. Springsteen refused to perform at his inauguration and later penned an open letter calling Christie out on cutting taxes on the wealthy while also slashing public services. According to Springsteen, Christie's "cuts are eating away at the lower edges of the middle class, not just those already classified as in poverty, and are likely to continue to get worse." Not his catchiest work, but you get the picture.
The pair reconciled a little after Hurricane Sandy, because clinging together on a strip club door floating toward the Jersey Shore will do that to you, but rapidly fell out again after Springsteen appeared on Jimmy Fallon to mock Christie's traffic lane closure scandal. By 2015, Christie was prepared to commit the ultimate betrayal by publicly claiming he now preferred Bon Jovi to Springsteen, which is something not even Bon Jovi would dare to say. His political career has obviously not recovered.
Paul Ryan is A Big Rage Against the Machine Fan, Despite the Fact That He is Clearly the Machine
The most boringly whitebread politician imaginable, former House Speaker, and Republican vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan has a dementor-like ability to drain the energy out of any room with his love of Ayn Rand and dedication to slashing government spending. Naturally, he once claimed to be a big fan of Rage Against The Machine. Please take a moment to have a Psyduck-style explosive headache.
This prompted a ton of think-pieces calling it the worst case of misaimed fandom since John Hinckley. RATM's music is very in-your-face about their left-wing beliefs and sincere loathing of conservative politics. Mitt Romney's running mate claiming to be a fan is kind of like the Queen claiming she always rocks out to the Sex Pistols. Or a soap tycoon claiming they love Post Malone. Back off Dr. Bronner, this just isn't for you!
After some criticism, and questions about exactly what proportion of those who work forces are the same as burn crosses, Ryan started backpedaling so fast he Flash-jumped to 1903 and lost the first Tour de France. According to Ryan, he actually liked RATM's "sound" but not their lyrics. Furthermore, they were never actually his favorite band, which had always been Led Zeppelin. Although it's unclear how he squares that with Zeppelin's 1975 hit "Wisconsin Five-Year-Old Paul Ryan Is A Huge Dipshit Who Should Never Be Elected" (later renamed "Kashmir").
By that point even Tom Morello, RATM's famously shy and retiring guitarist, felt compelled to speak out. In an article for Rolling Stone, Morello wrote "Ryan claims that he likes Rage's sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don't care for Paul Ryan's sound or his lyrics ... Don't mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta "rage" in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he's not raging against is the privileged elite he's groveling in front of for campaign contributions." That one's gotta sting a little.