Donald Trump, a satirical inspiration for pop culture?

Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House has had a huge impact on entertainment. Under his era, fiction became a place of engagement. His election and his politics, nourished by past premonitions, have prompted artists to reflect on the image of the 45th President of the United States.

While the midterm elections of Joe Biden will take place on November 8, 2022 in the United States, the shadow of Donald Trump continues to hang over the White House and influence the country’s politics. This omnipresence is also found in film and television, since many decades. It materializes first in the form of humorous and innocent cameos, featuring the businessman. On the other hand, today, the tendency seems to be reversed, so much so that fiction wishes to destroy what it participated in creating.

During Donald Trump’s term, showrunners and filmmakers produced satirical creations, more or less subtle, ridiculing the former President and pointing out the faults of his administration. Others attacked the politician head-on – as well as his physique – by imagining the worst scenarios, and certain productions have never had as much resonance as in Trumpian America.

Trump, a premonitory subject

Trump’s forays into pop culture are numerous. They first appear in the literature and cinema. We think of American Psycho (1991), in which Patrick Bateman sees the businessman as a model to follow, but also to Mom I missed the plane (1992), Celebrity (1998) or that Zoolander (2001), in which he plays himself.

This marks the first traces of Donald Trump in popular culture. Later, uchronic films and series like back to the future 2 (1989), The Simpsons (1989), Idiocracy (2006) or The Plot Against America (2020) have been analyzed as anticipations of his election. For example, Biff Tannen, in Robert Zemeckis’ film, was largely inspired by Donald Trump’s physique, as well as his status as a financial magnate.

When The Simpsons Predicted Trump’s Term.

The film Idiocracy (2006) can be analyzed today as a satirical comedy presenting a dystopian future, close to what Trump’s America sent back. The most striking moment, however, remains the now frightening premonition of the simpsonswho managed to predict his election in the episode Bart in the Future (2000).

A physique prone to mockery

Difficult to separate the man from the physical as that of Donald Trump is inseparable from the caricatures presented in pop culture. We obviously think of the hairpiece that serves as her hair, mocked in The Simpsons as Homer travels through the rebellious fuse of the President of the United States. Moreover, current events oblige, Donald Trump has long been one of the favorite subjects of the Saturday Night Livemythical American show, in which Alec Baldwin has for several weeks imitated the facial expressions and posture of the head of state.

Trailer of The Comey Rule.

We also think of The Comey Rule (2020), series in which Brendan Gleeson is transformed into Donald Trump. In addition to discrediting the President’s diplomacy with members of his own administration, as well as his complicated relationship with FBI Director James Comey, the series relies on a flawless impersonation of the head of the State. Brendan Gleeson reproduces his gestures, his way of speaking, while adopting a look that screams realism.

Trump, the rejection of an entire system

As soon as Trump was elected, several voices were raised to challenge his inauguration. Again, reality inspired fiction. This is the case in House of Cards (2013), which at the time of Frank Underwood’s election echoed the slogan of anti-Trump voters: Not my president. On his side, the satirical series South Park (1997) compared in episode New President his inauguration and the arrival of the Republicans in power to attack the Galactic Empire of Star Wars (1977). In a different genre, we also think of season 7 ofAmerican Horror Story: Cult (2017) in which fear of Republicans is compared to coulrophobia (fear of clowns).

The “New President” episode of South Park.

Other creations have, for their part, attacked the Trumpian system. In the movie Borat 2 (2020), Sacha Baron Cohen tackles the antivax or the anti-abortion centers, symbols of his presidency. Better yet, he invites himself to a Republican rally in the hope of running into Vice President Mike Pence, disguised in a costume of the head of state, a luscious blonde on his shoulder.

It also echoes the sexist escapades of Trump and those around him. This misogynistic system surrounding his government has been targeted throughout the series The Loudest Voice (2019) and the movie Scandal (2019). These creations point to the sexual assaults of the founder of the conservative news channel, close to Trump, Roger Ailes, but also the method of fake news.

A mock policy

Donald Trump’s political measures have largely inspired pop culture, starting with his idea to open a department of American space forces – which is the starting point of the series SpaceForce (2020). If the President of the United States is not shown directly facing the camera, the characters describe him as a capricious and megalomaniac man, ready to do anything to achieve a lunar objective.

Season 1 trailer of SpaceForce.

Don’t Look Up (2021) by Adam McKay pointed the finger at the President’s ecological inaction. Meryl Streep takes up all the codes of eco-skepticism of the head of state in the face of a Leonardo DiCaprio and a Jennifer Lawrence frightened by such denial.

Of course, we must also mention Years and Years (2019), a not so dystopian British series. In this creation, we notably follow the rise of the populist Vivienne Rook, played by Emma Thompson. If she plays the candidate for 10 Downing Street, her ideas on immigration are sadly reminiscent of those on which Trump built his campaign in 2016, in particular that relating to the construction of the wall between the United States and Mexico.

Creations that echo Trump’s presidency

Several creations, such as The Good Fight (2017), attacked President Trump head-on, openly discussing his impeachment. Others had a broader resonance during his tenure. They serve as whistleblowers through the themes addressed and societal changes. Whether satirical or not, they become an entertaining learning tool for the viewer.

Trailer of Mrs America.

We think of The Scarlet Maid (2017) and at Mrs America (2020) on women’s rights, which appeared in a post-#MeToo context. Dear White People (2017) recalls the strong racial tensions and the rise of the Black Lives Matters movement in the face of white supremacism encouraged by Donald Trump. As for Succession (2018), it is difficult not to draw a parallel between the dysfunctional Roy family and the Trump dynasty, financial and television magnate.

The President of the United States as a prime target of pop culture

Cinema and series have long been inspired by American presidents. If biopics are a privileged genre, certain cinematographic creations have also endeavored to tell the scandals that have smeared the American presidencies. We think of President’s Men (1976) on the Watergate affairor in season 3 ofAmerican Crime Story (2021) on the extra-marital relationship between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Still others have played on caricature even if it means changing history.

Trailer of W: The Unlikely President.

This is the case in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2012). Among the Presidents that pop culture adores, we obviously find John F. Kennedy for the fantasy and the questions that his death raises, but especially George W. Bush. His administration, his way of managing the post-September 11 crisis and his policy have often been decried. We think of W: the unlikely President (2008), but also to Vice (2018) by Adam McKay. The escapades of American Presidents seem to be one of the director’s favorite subjects. In just four years, the filmmaker has targeted two figures of the Republican administration, objects of satire and ideal targets that contemporary pop culture loves.

Donald Trump, a satirical inspiration for pop culture?