The World Needs Bad Men: How the Bush Era Caused the Anti-Hero Wave that Gave Rise to Trump

Toward the finale of the 2016 election, Mike Huckabee took to Fox News to give a defense of Donald Trump that I’ve been mulling over in my head ever since.

I see Trump as Capt Quint (Robert Shaw) on the boat, Orca, in the movie “Jaws.” He’s salty, drunk and says incorrect things. He spits in your face. BUT… He’s gonna save your rear. You may not like what he says but, in the end, you and your family survive.

“Vote for the fishing boat captain,” Huckabee said. “Not the shark.”

While ineloquent and muddled, Huckabee’s defense gave a great insight into why people were lining up behind Donald Trump. They saw him as a vulgar presence, but he was their vulgar presence against the greater dangers.

If Huckabee were more versed in film, literature, or television, he would have realized that there are a thousand better metaphors for who Donald Trump is: he is, in the eyes of his followers, the anti-hero of the True America.  

A different defense of Trump comes to mind, one that his followers would surely cite, had they seen the first season of True Detective:

Marty: Do you wonder ever if you’re a bad man?

Rust: No, I don’t wonder, Marty. The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.

true-detective-anti-hero
“The world needs bad men,” from True Detective‘s third episode.

The world needs bad men. It seems like a missed opportunity that Trump’s campaign didn’t snap that up as their slogan. One can imagine Rust and Marty’s conversation rolling over footage of Donald Trump mocking Serge Kovaleski, or Rust’s defense of bad men and musings on man’s inability to love intercut with I moved on her like a bitch and you can do anything.

This is not a specific argument I’ve seen much of, unsurprisingly. It’s easy to assume that True Detective didn’t have a major following among Trump voters, particularly when one  compares one recent study on regional television viewership demographics with the breakdown of voter demographics in the 2016 election.

However, Huckabee isn’t the only pundit to notice that Trump’s appeal is not being a traditional hero, but being the scoundrel on your side.

quint
If you don’t recall, this is the character to whom Huckabee compares Trump.

You can take a look at some of the headlines to see that this has been thoroughly explored, including a) Trump and the rise of the anti-hero from CNN b) President Trump: America chooses an anti-hero from Yahoo c) The Anti-Hero Candidacy of Donald Trump from Huffington Post d) The Donald Rises: Why Republicans Want an Anti-Hero in 2016 from The Week ad e) Trump’s success as an antihero relies on the power of reality TV and drama over reality from The LA Times

At this point, I have to point out that there is nothing unique in saying that Trump is an anti-hero and our obsession with anti-heroes in our media and film is what got Trump elected. As evidenced by the articles I just listed, this has been exhaustively explored. 

What I do have is another layer to add to this: the rise of the anti-hero in our media came from the America that emerged during the presidency of George W. Bush. 

During the Bush era, America found itself in the role of the anti-hero. This is what propelled the flawed and gritty protagonist into our film and television. This is what prompted the wave of dark and gritty reboots that are still grinding today.

Art imitates life imitates art. Politics causes pop culture causes politics. Bush was our cowboy hero who became tainted, tattered, and gritty as our wars became unwinnable and our morals murky. Obama was our shining hero, our knight in shining armor, our warrior who could not be everything he wanted to be.

And now there is Trump: the gritty anti-hero, the protagonist who rapes, the populist king. He is the danger.

But, before I move forward with this argument, it’s important to pause and discuss what we talk about when we talk about anti-heroes. Continue reading “The World Needs Bad Men: How the Bush Era Caused the Anti-Hero Wave that Gave Rise to Trump”

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The Short Story I Wrote Inspired by Wes Anderson and Carlos Castaneda

You may have noticed this blog’s recent lowered activity. Nothing new since early August, with only a handful of new posts since the beginning of summer. What is the deal, you may ask.

Where is your latest needless fan theory? Where is my latest exhaustive Batman dissection? How have you still not reacted to the most recent Bond film? Have you finally tired of comparing the 2016 election to your favorite action movies? 

The answer to these questions is simple: I have been busy with other projects. One project, in particular: The Moonborn, an e-novel I will be self-publishing this November.

I have also been busy with another project: Wildcat, a short story I wrote years ago that I finally decided to dust off and self-publish. Here is its cover, created by artist Dusty Conley:

wildcat-01-upload-size
Wildcat!

I wrote this story as a student at Denison University, and I think it’s the first thing I ever wrote that I still take pride in today.

Continue reading “The Short Story I Wrote Inspired by Wes Anderson and Carlos Castaneda”

Will True Detective’s Second Season be to True Detective as Halloween 3 is to Halloween?

Matthew McConaughey recently stirred up some folks by saying that yes, he misses playing Rust Cohle and, yes, he would consider reprising that character, if given the right opportunity.

“Would you ever consider going back,” his interviewer asked him. “Yeah, I would,” McConaughey answered

true-detective-flat-circle
Time is a flat circle = confirmed

This fueled some speculation and some argument. Questions like what would Rust Cohle do if he returned to the screen? And, is his narrative not finished?  Would it be a prequel, of his days in Alaska or Texas? The story of the loss of his wife and daughter? Or a sequel, in which he goes after the last remnants of the cult of the Yellow King? Continue reading “Will True Detective’s Second Season be to True Detective as Halloween 3 is to Halloween?”

How Hulu’s The Path is an Homage to Dennis Reynolds

I’m stunned to say I’ve seen every episode of Hulu’s bizarre cult drama The Path. It’s somewhere between a guilty pleasure and an amusing frustration, ten episodes of Scientology-mocking melodrama starring a cast of actors from your favorite shows: Michelle Monaghan of True Detective, Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, and Hugh Dancy of Hannibal

As I watched the first several episodes, I found myself distracted by Hugh Dancy’s character Cal Roberts, the up-and-coming charismatic leader of the Meyerist Movement. Who does he remind me of, I wanted to know. And then it occurred to, somewhere in the middle of the season: his character resembled Glenn Howerton’s Dennis Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In fact, I have become convinced that Hugh Dancy is intentionally modeling his acting on Howerton’s depiction of Dennis Reynolds, and that the writers of The Path may have been inspired by Always Sunny. 

cal-roberts
Hugh Dancy as Cal Roberts in The Path

Let’s investigate. Continue reading “How Hulu’s The Path is an Homage to Dennis Reynolds”

Some Commenters Just Want to Watch the Internet Burn

A strange thing happened today.

Those of you who have read this blog with any regularity will recall my True Detective review in which I offered a fan theory about the fate of Ross Geller’s son, Ben. It was a strange blog post, in that it ended up being a theory about a show I haven’t watched in years. The other strange thing about that blog post is that it got a lot of attention, showing up referenced or summarized on Entertainment Weekly, Hello Giggles, Cosmo, Redbook, Refinery29, and a series of other websites.

I’ve written about the reactions to my Ross Geller fan theory a few times, most notably in a post entitled “Commenters Gonna Comment”, in which I pondered the angry and hostile comments that readers leave on inconsequential pieces of pop culture writing. Continue reading “Some Commenters Just Want to Watch the Internet Burn”

Commenters Gonna Comment: Responses to a Ross Geller Fan Theory

After several waves of intermediate virality regarding a theory about Friends, this blog and its author have received some very entertaining feedback, through the legions of recappers, bloggers, and commenters that have thoughts and feelings regarding my suggestion that Ross Geller was an inept father who lost custody of his son. My initial response, when reading some of these, was to want to go out there and argue with people.

Instead, I remembered something important: haters are inevitably going to hate. As proven by the celebrities who read mean tweets about themselves, the best thing to do is laugh and shrug and keep doing what you’re doing.

You guys really that mad at me for making fun of this guy?
You guys really that mad at me for making fun of this guy?

So here are some of the rave reviews that I’ve received:

“…completely ridiculous.” – Michelle B, commenter on Huffington Post.

“What a waste.” – Sally K, commenter on Huff Post.

“….what a bunch of dribble….” – Patrise S, commenter on Huff Post.

“This is stupid.” – Jessica F S, commenter on Huff Post.

“Seriously? I think a hobby is needed…” – Melissa S-A, commenter on Huff Post.

“Anyone who spends this much time analyzing character on a comedy, yes – a fictionalized version of peoples lives, has way too much time on his or her hands. Do something productive!” – Lori M. H., commenter on Huff Post.

“He’s not a bad professor.” – Nait A. C., commenter on Huff Post.

“Waaaaay too much time on your hands” – Jay R., commenter on Huff Post.

“Way too much time on your hands. How many years ago was this show cancelled?” – Deborah B., commenter on Huff Post.

“Someone has way too much free time.” – Ephy K, commenter on Huff Post.

“Coming to all of these conclusions would be like arguing for statistics based on the frequency of extremely rare medical cases all occurring in Princeton-Plainsboro from House M.D. …” – Vadim B

“…maybe the child actor who played Ross’s son had to be somewhere else, like school.” – Ariel Karlin, someecards.com

“Or more likely, the boy or boys, playing Ben actually had some career success with Big Daddy and decided not to be on the show anymore.” – Joseph F.

“…smells of SJW…” and “This author has sympthoms of feminazi.” – Honza8D, on the Friends subreddit. (SJW, I learned, means “Social Justice Warrior.” Huh. Okay. Thank you!)

Now brace yourself for this one, because it’s long but it’s a good one:

“I just finished binge watching Friends from beginning to end on netflix, over the course of a few months. Friends had a lot of internal inconsistencies which indicate that actually it’s not a show where you should put a lot of effort into logically understanding. For example in one episode Chandler flies to Yemen and in the following episode (one week later) there is no mention of Yemen. It takes practically a week just to fly to Yemen and return. In another episode Joey’s eyebrows are destroyed and in the following episode, another week later, his eyebrows have returned to normal. This is a show that can be enjoyed for the wonderful acting and wonderful writing and jokes, but that is not a holy text to be understood through study and close analysis. It’s more like Gilligan’s Island, less like Lost. What is going on here is that Lovett has his own dead horses to beat, and is using old episodes of Friends to beat those horses.” – Peter J, commenter on Huffington Post.

Haters will hate

I’ll leave one response to all of this: over-thinking things is fun. Blogging is one of several fulfilling hobbies that I have, and a hobby I would recommend to all the angry internet commenters.

And to answer one more question I’ve gotten: No, I’m not much of a Friends fan. If you recall from the original post, I thought of this while watching True Detective, not because I watch Friends. I didn’t watch a single episode of Friends while writing this theory. I’ve never even seen most of the episodes. It took, from start to finish, about one hour to research this theory on Wikipedia and a few other sites, and another hour to crank out the original blog post, which has now been viewed by over 10,000 people. (My favorite recap of my theory is the one on Cinema Blend, because it’s the only one to consider my thoughts on True Detective and Ray Velcoro.)

Or, as Chad Velcoro would say: “K.”

K.
K.

Commenters gonna comment.

For those of you who enjoy this kind of thing, help yourself to some more fan theories here.

What Would Christian Bale Do in Season Three of True Detective?

I’m one of the lone defenders of True Detective’s second season. So far, I can count on one hand the people I know who actually liked it.

People didn't like this season? What do you mean?
People didn’t like this season? What do you mean?
While I disagree with the complaints and criticisms that have been leveled and hurled against it, I’ll admit that some of the complaints were grounded in a truth I also see: too many main characters. The pilot felt cluttered, as did many of the episodes. The death of one protagonist (of the four) at the end of the seventh episode came almost as a relief, as it meant we would have fewer plotlines, fewer threads, fewer scenes to cut between in the finale.

There are those who say that, whether or not True Detective was good, you cannot say that it moved the detective genre forward in any meaningful way. I don’t necessarily get on board with that, as I think that this season had moments of devastating brilliance which I’ve already discussed.

What I do think is that the third season, in order to move forward, needs to look back. A story that is more classically noir, in which one character is the detective and this one detective is at the center of every scene. Something that resembles the works of Raymond Chandler or Dashell Hammett, the kind of first person hardboiled narrative emulated by Jonathan Lethem and Bret Easton Ellis, the kind of story where the only facts we get are the ones that we get through the eyes and ears of the protagonist.

Continue reading “What Would Christian Bale Do in Season Three of True Detective?”

What Would Faulkner Say About True Detective Season Two?

In a previous post, I’ve argued that no one should call a show good or bad until the end is known. Which means, now that the end is known, we can decide if True Detective‘s second season was good or bad.

People love complaining about how confusing the plot of this season was. And I won’t disagree. The show’s storylines sprawled and overlapped, losing its audience. Some moments lingered, while other plotlines appeared and disappeared without explanation.

You didn't like it? Shhhhhh.
You didn’t like it? Shhhhhh.

But why is this a bad thing? Are we supposed to understand all the media we consume? Do things have to make immediate sense in order to be good?

TD’s second season and its response reminds me of a famous anecdote about William Faulkner and Raymond Chandler. Faulkner had adapted Chandler’s novel The Big Sleep into a film, and during filming he and director Howard Hawks realized there was something they didn’t understand. Had a certain character committed suicide or was he murdered and, if murdered, who did the murdering? And the best part, the part that makes it an anecdote worth repeating, is that Chandler couldn’t figure out the answer either. Chandler didn’t understand the plot of his own novel. Continue reading “What Would Faulkner Say About True Detective Season Two?”

Thirteen Ways to Fill the Flat Circle After Season Two of True Detective

Well, Season Two is over. Whether you are satisfied with the ending or not, chances are that you are a little bummed that you don’t get to watch it next week. Lucky for you, we have a list of things to watch and read if you are a fan of True Detective. Time might be a flat circle, but it doesn’t mean it all has to be the same thing.

Watch David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

If you’re trying to jump straight into another show, especially one with a murder and detectives and dream sequences and unconventional storylines, then here you go. The show is created by genius David Lynch, who also wrote and directed many of the episodes. It’s also populated with dark humor and strange mysteries, some of which, like the mysteries in True Detective, will remain unsolved.

A moment from the Twin Peaks pilot.
A moment from the Twin Peaks pilot.

Watch Bored to Death on HBO

If, on the other hand, you still want mystery but you’re craving some levity after all the murder and collusion and darkness, try Bored to Death. It stars Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer and Craigslist-using unlicensed private detective, Zach Galifinakis as his illustrator best friend, and Ted Danson as his wealthy, childish, editor boss. Like True Detective, there are disappearances and blackmailers, but the tone is lighter and the jokes abundant.  Continue reading “Thirteen Ways to Fill the Flat Circle After Season Two of True Detective”

True Detective vs. Friends: Did Ross Geller Lose Custody of His Son?

Enjoy fan theories? Check out more fan theories here, or buy D. F. Lovett’s novel The Moonborn here

A recent scene in True Detective got me thinking about something I haven’t thought about in a long time: Friends. In probably the saddest scene of the second season, Ray Velcoro and his son Chad eat pizza in silence while watching the famous sitcom. It’s Chad’s idea.

chad_friends Friends strongly contrasts poor little Chad’s reality. Friends is about a group of six, fun-loving twenty-somethings in Manhattan in the 1990s and early ’00s. Chad, on the other hand, gets bullied at school and has supervised visits with his father, a corrupt cop with a penchant for cocaine and at least one murder in his past.

But as I watched Ray Velcoro get overly-intoxicated alone and destroy his apartment, I started to think harder about how much this reality really is different from that of the Friends friends. Sure, the antics on Friends were slightly more cheeky and fun. The guys had a menagerie of fun pets. Monica dated Tom Selleck. Phoebe wrote jingles about cats. Ray Velcoro, on the other hand, threatens children and promises to “buttfuck your father with your mom’s headless corpse on this goddamn lawn.”

But one character didn’t seem dramatically different from Ray Velcoro. That character is Ross Geller. Sure, on first thought, Ross’s shenanigans seem just as cheeky and fun as the rest of the gang. He loves dinosaurs. He dresses up as the Holiday Armadillo. He claims to have invented the Got Milk? catchphrase. Continue reading “True Detective vs. Friends: Did Ross Geller Lose Custody of His Son?”