TV shows vs. Trump: How popular culture is battling ongoing social and political injustice

Many have compared the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States to a dystopian scenario coming to life. In fact, after Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway first used the term ‘alternative facts’ the sales of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, which features similar alternatives to truth as a mechanism for manipulating the masses, skyrocketed and shot the book to 6th place on Amazon’s best-selling list.

In this time of traveling bans, deliberate misinformation, walls and meaningless slogans, however, we see a new kind of resistance forming and slowly making its way to people through their screens. Professionals from the film and TV industry have openly criticised Trump’s political views ever since he ran for office, but now they’re incorporating this criticism in their work and through this, into popular culture.

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Image source: Universal
The formula “Make America great again” has become well known to producers and scriptwriters and was even referenced in the slogan of the dystopian action horror film ‘The Purge: Election Year’ – “Keep America Great” (which Trump wanted to trademark for his 2020 election campaign, yes seriously)

TV shows, as the most flexible scripted medium, have been the first ones to adapt to the current political situation and reflect it. These are some of the storytelling metaphors the television show industry is using to portray the Trump administration’s policies and views:

Hyperbole

  • In these scenarios reality is greatly exaggerated, usually dystopian, but remnant of current events in the details of the storyline.

Watch: Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – a 2017 TV show adapted from Margaret Atwood’s book (the sales of which also shot through the sky the day after Trump was elected). It’s set in a future, where the government can freely exert power over women’s bodies and this is considered normal. The eerie references to problems such as rape culture, slut shaming, locker room talk and abortion laws are unmistakable, especially in a country run by republicans, who want to regulate women’s rights over their own bodies.

Parody

  • Laughter is said to be the best medicine, especially in the face of a potential authoritarian dictatorship. Political comedy has thrived on Trump’s statements, interviews and tweets, all the while using humour to inform viewers (and presidents) on serious topics.

Watch: HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ season 4. Despite being one of the many shows to offer social and political critique, ‘Last Week Tonight’ has differentiated itself from the bunch in its latest season. In the episode ‘Trump vs. Truth’ John Oliver not only talks about the president’s habit of publicly sharing unverified and untruthful information, but also offers a potential solution to the problem. The show sponsored and ran a series of ads featuring a cowboy who shares important facts that the president should know (such as what the nuclear triad is) during the morning cable news, which Trump regularly watches.

Contrast

  • Instead of fuelling the hate fire that Trump is spreading by criticising him, some have found that the best way to put it out is to uphold and promote its opposite – acceptance, and are trying to portray this on the small screen.

Watch: Starz’s ‘American Gods’ – a fantasy TV series based on the 2001 Neil Gaiman book. The story revolves around the battle between old and new gods, but its underlying message is in the diversity it portrays. It’s essentially a celebration of different cultures coming together and the power that their combined diversity brings and it’s set in a country, where politics are actively trying to undermine this exact diversity by instilling a fear of otherness in people and setting up immigration bans.

Whether TV shows will have any influence over the general opinions of Trump’s politics, only time will tell. However, I believe it’s good that they’re becoming a platform, which addresses social and political injustices and spreads awareness through popular culture.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comment section!


Cover image personally edited using pictures by tiburi, PublicDomainPictures and OpenClipart-Vector on Pixabay, all credited under CC0 Public Domain.

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