Or, When Did We Start Living in a Fictional Satire?
I’ve compared recent events—and, in particular, this presidential election—to many things: Armageddon, Alien, every Batman story, and almost every ’90s action movie.
But there is one painful metaphor that I have not explored: the 2016 election appears to have been written by writer and satirist Kurt Vonnegut.
I first started pondering the question of did Vonnegut write our current political climate this spring, when my aunt (a librarian) pointed out to me how much Donald Trump resembles a Vonnegut character.
I soon googled trump vonnegut and was surprised not to see more about it. I found a handful of articles, but none that fully explored the extent to which the candidate Donald Trump seems to have sprung straight from a Vonnegut novel. Nor did anyone mention the extent to which this entire election resembles a Vonnegut-penned narrative and universe.
Donald Trump made waves this week by releasing his list of SCOTUS picks. He must’ve had some help from a buddy of his, as the list was conspicuously absent of either John Grisham or Mark Geragos.
But let’s be real. We all know that Candidate Trump might be making half-hearted attempts at adult opinions (when he isn’t saying Ted Cruz’s father is an assassin ), but President Trump, if he comes into existence, will be 100% insanity. Grisham or Geragos would be too legit for President Trump. If elected, Trump’s pick for SCOTUS will be, at worst, Bret Michaels and, at best, Matthew McConaughey as Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill.
Jeb(!) Bush recently made headlines by declaring he would not vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, proclaiming “I cannot support his candidacy.” With this announcement, he has fallen into rank with Lindsay Graham, Mitt Romney, and the other two Presidential Bushes, in saying that he will not support either the Democrat or the Republican candidate for president in the 2016 election.
It is with these words that the power shifts from one man to another in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, as the terrorist and demagogue Bane rests a hand on the shoulder of corrupt, scheming businessman John Daggett. This is Daggett’s last moment alive, realizing that he staked everything on empowering a brutal man he never controlled. It’s a relevant moment, echoed in the recent power struggle happening within the Republican party.
“Tomorrow you claim what is rightfully yours.” – Bane, to the people of Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises
The majority of Batman characters were created in either 1939 or the 1940s, heroes and villains alike. We have compared Donald Trump to four Batman villains so far, each of which first appeared in the early ’40.s Bane is unlike the rest of these, making his first appearance in 1993.
Bane has two pinnacle stories: the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises and the comic book storyline Knightfall, both of which feature a Gotham plunged into chaos and a broken Batman.
It is these two stories which will serve as the majority of our comparison between the candidate Donald Trump and the character Bane.
Trump and Bane are both demagogues who inspire a hateful hope in their followers.
The similarities between Trump and the Joker have been discussed here before, in response to an editorial by The Economist. But that was before the current series of “Which Batman Character Does Trump Resemble Most,” and was limited to the Joker as depicted by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Let’s take a step further and evaluate how much the Donald and the Joker (in all his various depictions) really resemble one another.
To begin with, both men have remarkably poor taste.
In what they say, in what they wear, in how they look and present themselves: these are crude, tasteless men.
The Joker drives a car with his own face on it, while Trump will brand anything with his own name. Both prove that taste does not accompany wealth.
He uses chaos and anarchy as a weapon, manipulating the weak and confused.
Shouting, punching, screaming, hysteria, name-calling: these are regular trappings at any assembly of Trump fans. Above this chaos stands Trump, fanning the flames and upping the ante.
It is a key element of Trump’s campaign and rhetoric. He brands himself as “anti-establishment.” Consider what the Joker says about establishment and order in The Dark Knight:
Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!
As it happens, we are farther into the campaign and the expendable characters have started to drop away. It also happens to be October, aka Horror Movie Month, and so I have updated the WWBD Guide to the 2016 Election. This time with horror films, because that’s the other genre in which you can be guaranteed that characters will be eliminated one at a time.
First, let’s take stock of the characters we’ve already said goodbye to.
Who is already eliminated?
Four candidates are already out of the running, making them the equivalent of those slasher victims who are taken down in the first act.
Scott Walker is Kane in Alien
Oh boy, is he ever. I called this one in the last blog post, and I have to say that I was pretty accurate. As stated before: He looks and talks and dresses like he should be the hero and the one who makes it to the end, but it’s far more likely that we will see him as an unexpectedly early exit.
Rick Perry is Drew Barrymore in Scream
Big name, small impact. Barrymore was on the poster for the first Scream film, but didn’t live long enough to interact with a single character other than the masked killer.
I previously said Rick Perry was the equivalent of Randy Quaid in Independence Day. Turns out he’s playing even more of a bit part than that.
Lincoln Chafee is Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation
Right now, you’re thinking: “Matthew McConaughey is in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie?” Well that’s the exact same thing people are going to be thinking about Lincoln Chafee in a few years when they hear that he ran for president in 2015, for the 2016 election.
Jim Webb is Boyd Banks in the Dawn of the Dead remake.
The Democratic Party
Hillary Clinton is either Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween or Sigourney Weaver in Alien.
And it’s worth noting that while Curtis was eliminated in earlier Halloween films, she came back swinging in Halloween H20. Is this Hillary’s equivalent of the “twenty years later” reboot?
Will she make it? Either way, there is a sense of inevitability and invincibility.
Martin O’Malley is Paul Rudd in Halloween 6.
He’s cool. He’s hip. But it’s not his moment yet. Maybe in a few years. Martin O’Malley in 2016 is the same as Paul Rudd in the early ’90s: some young white handsome guy that no one cares about.
Will he make it? No.
Bernie Sanders is Jamie Kennedy in Scream
He’s bold, smart, snarky, and innovative. He also seems to be relegated to “supporting character.” Chances are that Sanders will still be active and important when it’s the grand finale, but, like Kennedy being the non-romantic sidekick to Neve Campbell, Bernie will be the sidekick to Hillary, dropping wisdom and cracking wise.
Will he make it? Jamie Kennedy’s Randy was the unlikely survivor of the first Scream, and an unlikely victim in the second Scream. Either way, he’s a sidekick, not a protagonist.
Marco Rubio is Johnny Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street
He’s a pretty boy at the beginning of a long career. And he is not gonna make it to the end of this narrative.
Will he make it? I just said no, but with this one, we have to refer back to the answer I gave last time about Rubio: he’s Affleck in Armaggedon. If he makes it, it’s on someone else’s ticket.
Donald Trump is Bill Murray in Zombieland
You know how sometimes, someone has one cameo scene and then they’re forgotten? But other times, the brief cameo moment ends up stealing the show? They might not make it until the end, but their impact will never be forgotten.
Will he make it: No. But he might be the most memorable thing about this whole spectacle.
Carly Fiorina is Amy Irving in Carrie
Unlike most of her GOP peers (Rand Paul being another exception), Fiorina doesn’t take shit from the awful bully (John Travolta in Carrie, Donald Trump in this sad spectacle of an election). And she deserves some admiration for that.
Will she make it: Like Amy Irving’s Sue Snell, she might be around at the end but she still won’t be the main character.
Rand Paul is Josh Hartnett in Halloween H20
Josh Harnett portrayed the son of original hero Jamie Lee Curtis in the “20 years later” sequel. And while he and the young Paul have family legacy and a bunch of determination, they still aren’t quite the main character.
Will he make it? There’s a sense that this isn’t exactly his finest work. Let’s give him a few years. (Although Rand, as said before, also deserves respect for not tolerating Trump’s nonsense.)
John Kasich is Bishop in Aliens
He’s pretty cool, for a robot.
Will he make it? It’s hard to say. And it’s hard to say whether we want him to or not. It seems like we aren’t entirely sure who he is, but he could be a good guy.
Ben Carson is Robert Carlyle in 28 Weeks Later
“Oh, so this guy is the main character? Cool. Yeah, he seems pretty cool. Wait, what did he just do? That was a weird choice. Still a good protagonist though. Oh shit, that’s a strange choice. So is that. So is that. Okay, yikes, this guy isn’t the hero.”
Right now, we are getting lured into the false sense that Carson is going to be the last man standing. He won’t be, of course, but there’s this weird feeling right now that he could be.
Will he make it: No.
Lindsay Graham is Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense
A strange middle-aged man, wandering around, not realizing that no one he speaks to will acknowledge him.
Will he make it? He’s failing to realize that he already hasn’t made it.
Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal are all the fellow classmates in Carrie.
They don’t have a chance.
Will they make it: Absolutely not.
Chris Christie is Vince Vaughn in the Psycho remake
Chris Christie should’ve called it a while ago. There is no reason he should be in this election. Likewise, there is no reason Vince Vaughn should have been in a Psycho movie. Like Christie’s campaign, that Psycho remake should never have existed.
Will he make it?
Both Vaughn and Christie are fun guys. They’re charming. They’re entertaining. But this is not the right move for Christie, like Vaughn should have taken a year off rather than make Psycho.
Mike Huckabee is still Wilford Brimley in The Thing
As I said before, “He has some strong opinions. Very strong opinions. But his finger-pointing and suspicion of the others does not make him more likeable to anyone. He feuds with the main characters and gets hysterical over his own theories. At times, you wonder if he is someone’s bizarre version of comic relief.”
Will he make it: Still no.
Ted Cruz is David Arquette in Scream
The highpoint of David Arquette’s career was Scream, although he wasn’t the main character: he was just a colorful side character who provided a few laughs.
Ted Cruz is likewise peaking with a spectacle in which no one will afterward consider him the main character, but it is the most successful he’ll ever be.
Will he make it? He isn’t going anywhere, but he also is never going to have center stage.
Jeb Bush is James Caan in Misery
There’s a real sense that Jeb thought this whole thing was gonna be a lot easier than it is. And suddenly, he’s not sure he has it under control at all. He’s in completely over his head and it’s not going well.
Will he make it? If he does, he won’t be the same man he was at the beginning.
“Who will survive, and what will be left of them?”
This question was the tagline of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It also sums up the sad spectacle that is a presidential election: watching candidates attempt to win, often selling out and compromising their ideals in the process.