The Worst Anti-Trump #Resistance Pop Culture of 2018
The president is bad, but these takedowns of him are somehow almost worse.
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Donald Trump is a demonstrably corrupt and narcissistic con man. Two years into his presidency, this is not a novel thing to say. Actually, you would think that pointing out his loutish personal behavior, destructive policies, or chaotic governing technique as if it were a new observation would be regarded with the same sort of derision reserved for people who still say Nickelback sucks. Yes, and your point is? But one of the trademarks of the Trump era is the Trump haters who have formed an almost symbiotic relationship with the president, a cottage industry of celebs, hucksters, and attention-seeking opportunists who have been feeding this fed horse all the way to fame and fortune—or at least attempted fame and fortune.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to anti-Trump #Resistance art. Maybe you like hearing that other people think Trump is actually bad, maybe it helps you cope with the fact that he's in the White House. But some of the pop culture takedowns of Trump have been so misguided or cringeworthy or even offensive that they almost make you embarrassed enough of the clapback left to give the guy a second term out of spite. Not that you’d actually ever really do that, obviously. No matter how bad this stuff got, it wasn't as bad as Trump. Still, these Resistance works were pretty awful:
The Baby Trump Balloon
In preparation for Trump’s July trip to the UK, artist and activist Matt Bonner concocted an absolutely mental idea, mate. To protest the rise of far-right politics around the world and give the US president “a taste of his own medicine,” the mad lad made—get this—a balloon where it’s Trump, but he’s a baby in a diaper. And before you even ask, yes, that baby does have tiny hands.
If Bommer ever imagined his balloon joining Pink Floyd’s Animals cover in the pantheon of great inflatable political statements (an admittedly small pantheon), its ignominious launch surely brought him back down to earth. Messaging aside, the balloon’s biggest problem was its minuscule proportions. While the van-sized windbag, which was the result of a nearly $40,000 crowdfunding campaign, may have seemed massive on the ground, once airborne and hovering all of two feet above the crowd of protesters, it was instantly dwarfed by every parking structure, Tesco, and tree on the block, leaving it wide open for deserved roasting. Even Nigel Farage got a solid burn in.
'American Idiot' Tops the Charts
There’s a long-running tradition in the UK of willing trash music to the top of the charts in the name of having a laugh. Historically pranked with novelty songs, these charts now incorporate streaming platform plays as a metric for tabulating rankings. Thanks to this, UK music fans have spent the past few years enjoying an unprecedented level of control over the number one spot, much to the chagrin of some music journalists.
Occasionally, these charts are manipulated for the sake of political commentary, as was the case in 2013 when “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” reached number two in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death. For Trump’s aforementioned July visit to the nation, the UK’s political activists banded together to politically game Spotify once again and launch Green Day’s 2003 anti-Bush anthem “American Idiot” to the top of the singles charts. Trump was definitely aware of and affected by this stunt.
J.K. Rowling's Twitter Presence
Elsewhere across the pond, The Casual Vacancy author J.K. Rowling spent her 2018 much as she did her 2017: Responding to trolls with double-digit follower counts and quote-tweeting Trump. Rowling’s run-of-the-mill ripostes earned her many a gushing “yass, kween” roundup article from left-leaning and content-desperate media outlets alike.
Perhaps the author’s 280-character eviscerations of Trump would carry a bit more weight were she not spending an equal amount of time obsessing over Jeremy Corbyn in increasingly strange rants. Undaunted, the self-described “bourgeois neoliberal centrist” now vows to use her platform to fight fascism “on both the left and the right," but in reality has merely established herself as British Jen Kirkman.
Jim Carrey’s Political Cartoons
Everyone copes in their own way. It would be easy to shrug off Carrey’s art therapy approach to weathering this administration were his /r/im14andthisisdeep analysis of politics a private affair. Unfortunately, because he’s an A-lister who’s good at one thing, his not-so-good other thing is lavished with praise and forced upon us by fawning press who treat a depiction of Paul Ryan’s face with “CREEP” painted over it like Guernica. Were that not irksome enough, the typically more discerning art world seems to have now fallen under the same spell. His subtlety-free doodling was recently indulged with a feature exhibition at a reputable LA gallery, even though he's basically a mediocre editorial cartoonist.
Worse still, this newfound artistic attention has turned Carrey into an insufferable, self-important knob. Do we really need to hear about his “process” for creating a magic marker drawing of Trump in Joker makeup? Apparently so. In a recent LA radio interview, Carrey likened his cartooning to “Bob Hope entertain[ing] the troops,” proclaimed that he lives “outside the lines,” and talked about getting into the mind of his subjects before painting them, describing the inside of Trump’s head as “a gigantic child needing a hug.” To paraphrase The Mask: Ssssomebody stop him!
The Krassensteins’ Children's Book
Twitter is rife with #Resistance hucksters and scammers, but the majority of these bottom feeders merely live in the shadow of the undisputed kings of anti-Trump grift, Ed and Brian Krassenstein. The brothers have attempted to shake their alleged ponzi scheming past by taking up the heroic mantle of Trump tweet reply guys. Having amassed hundreds of thousands of new followers with their tag-team approach to “have you no shame, sir”-ing Trump, they did what any opportunists worth their salt would and wrote a book. For children.
Their exquisitely titled magnum opus, How the People Trumped Ronald Plump, was flamed with the force of an atomic bomb blast the second it hit Twitter in July, with the left and right forming a temporary alliance to properly mock the book together. Sloppy, rushed, and artless in all respects, this failed Kickstarter project that didn’t know when to quit is a treasure trove of unintentional satire. Chief among them: Ronald Plump’s apparent rape sack; the book’s closing dedication “to the future of America, our children, and the world’s children”; and the prominence of Robert Moral, an absurdly buff Robert Mueller analog who, for some reason, is shirtless.
Robert DeNiro’s Tonys Speech
At the 2018 Tonys, Robert DeNiro was brought out on stage to ostensibly introduce a Bruce Springsteen performance. Instead, the angry grandpa shocked both the audience and (presumably) the CBS S&P team with a potty-mouthed outburst against the president.
“I’m gonna say one thing: Fuck Trump,” the actor declared. “It’s no longer ‘down with Trump,’ It’s ‘fuck Trump.’” And then everyone stood up and clapped.
The core sentiment of the statement isn’t the problem—spouting impotent bromides as if you’re speaking truth to power is. Setting aside the lingering question of why it took the actor this long to reach "fuck Trump" levels of outrage, the statement fails to offer any positive alternative to the president's atrocities. You’ve got to “yes, and” those thoughts, Bobby. “Fuck Trump, and… I’m donating $500,000 to a legal charity that’s working to get kids out of cages. Who’s with me, fellow wealthy celebrities?”
Though the show saw fit to offer candidate Trump a hosting gig in November 2015, well after he’d called Mexicans rapists and trashed John McCain for getting captured in Vietnam, Saturday Night Live has seemingly spent the years since that awkward “Hotline Bling” dance trying to atone for their sins. In 2017, as the administration’s first waves of unconscionable, norm-breaking moves began to impact the country, a desperate population demanded entertainment refuge from the onslaught. With the help of a squinty Alec Baldwin and long-time Trump friend Lorne Michaels reportedly working behind the scenes to keep those Trump zingers toothless in the run-up to the election, SNL quickly cemented itself as the premiere destination for milquetoast political satire.
Though it’s no longer enjoying the ratings of its “Trump bump” glory days, SNL still religiously adheres to the formula that garnered such success. Each Saturday the cast runs through a checklist of whatever bad, funny, or oddball things happened in Trump News that week, parroting quotes, mimicking gestures, and offering little else by way of jokes. SNL’s comedy has sunk to such lows that founding cast member (and noted asshole) Chevy Chase recently described its current viewership as “a whole generation of shitheads laugh[ing] at the worst fucking humor in the world.” If finding yourself agreeing with present-day Chevy Chase doesn’t convince you we’re living in the darkest timeline, what will?
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.