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.
“Make it new,” Ezra Pound famously said, a mantra which can be applied to any example of what is called found poetry. Examples of making it new can be found throughout history, both ancient and recent. Shakespeare lifted most of his narratives from existing stories; Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in an art museum; Ezra Pound himself created many examples of what could be considered found poetry; writer Hart Seely rephrased Donald Rumsfeld’s speeches into poems; and, most recently, Google Poetics surfaced across the internet. There is even the Found Poetry Review, founded in 2011 by a poet who was tired of having her found poems rejected.
Recently, while researching the search queries that lead people to this site, it occurred to me that oftentimes these search terms are poetic, especially when one views many search terms at once, in a list.
And so, I put together a number of found poems, using only the search queries provided to me by Google Search Console, only the search terms that lead people to this blog (according to Google) in the last 90 days. Enjoy:
Haiku about the meaning of the song “Renegades”
spielbergs and kubricks
renegades lyrics meaning
spielberg’s and kubrick’s
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.
In a post published on this blog earlier today, I discussed why I “stopped feeling the Bern,” i.e. why Bernie Sanders is a troubling, disappointed candidate, in my opinion. This is a follow-up, companion to that article.
As I pondered Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, he began to remind me of another disappointing character: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark of Game of Thrones. Let’s look at how these two resemble one another.
It’s what draws you to Sanders. This idea that he is speaking for noble truths that others will not. The idea that he’s above the politicking, the games, the money. That he cannot be bought. That he has honor.
Ned Stark has that same sense of honor. But what one has to ask is, is this honor or is this delusion? Is he a good example, or is he an example of misplaced self-importance, of smug piety?
When one looks closely at Bernie Sanders, some of his arguments that seem so persuasive out of his mouth begin to weaken. He’s an isolationist, and has some bizarre history with guns, including odd, questionable statements very recently. Bernie believes that violent television is to blame for mass shootings; Ned believes that children should watch beheadings, and that all beheadings should be performed by the lord who passed the sentence.
He won’t win.
Cersei Lannister is one of the many people who try to get real with Ned Stark, telling him “when you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.” In Ned’s case, he dies.
This isn’t to say that Bernie’s run will have a fatal end. But he certainly won’t win. It’s a winless war, being waged by a naive man living to his own sense of honor, fighting for ideals from ages past.
He’s a hero…
It’s worth noting that Ned Stark is a man worth admiring. Bernie Sanders is too. But neither belongs on the throne.
The question is whether Bernie can inspire a generation of politicians and citizens and leaders with more honor, through his gestures and efforts. In his failure, Ned inspired people to do better. Perhaps Bernie will do the same.
It’s been no secret that Bernie Sanders has an unusual history (for an independent / socialist / Democrat/ whatever he is) when it comes to gun control. And people are starting to talk about it, including articles such as “The Last Thing Bernie Sanders Needs it a Conversation About Guns” on NPR, which does a good job summarizing the situation so far.
To briefly give an overview of Sanders’s strange history with guns and politics: at one point, he voted against the option for victims of shootings to sue the manufacturers of assault rifles. He has tried to frame the gun control argument as if it’s about hunting, even when discussing assault rifles and mass shootings. Despite being someone who thinks we need more federal laws and regulations when it comes to anything related to economics, he thinks that states should make their own decisions about whether purchasing a handgun should require a waiting period.
But what is really troubling me is this: Bernie Sanders took to one of his two official Facebook pages on Friday (less than 24 hours after the most recent mass shooting) and posted a preachy, idealist monologue. In it, he said we need to be “comprehensive” and “sensible.” His next sentence is some mild vagaries about mental health, the kind of thing that people on both sides are saying as a way to avoid having to do anything more concrete. (You can read the statement, along with some other coverage on his stances on gun control, here.)
And then we have the kicker: “We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.”
This is such a shocking, disappointing, empty politician’s promise. And as someone who like violent movies and television and books, I’ve decided to respond about why he’s wrong.
Let’s break down all the problems with it with a few questions for Senator Sanders:
a) Is there any suggestion, any evidence, that consuming violent fiction (regardless of its medium) results in violent acts? Specifically, is there any kind of link between violent media and mass shootings?
b) Are you advocating for mass censorship? If our television, music, movies, video games and books are to have less violence, how is this to be accomplished? More petitions from family groups? A stronger, tougher FCC? The elimination of premium cable as an option? Doesn’t all of this reek of the banning of books and constraint of freedom of speech? Do you want to bring back the V-chip?
c) The most popular drama in the United States is NCIS. It’s a cop show, in which protagonists are cops and the cops carry guns and sometimes have to shoot people. Should the cops in this show stop carrying guns? Should they stop shooting people? Is this show an example of the violence you’re discussing?
d) The most discussed show in the United States media is Game of Thrones, in which the characters carry swords and sometimes chop off the heads of other characters. Does this promote mass shootings?
e) Isn’t this argument very ’90s? Do you also want to ban Power Rangers?
f) In your opinion, what makes violence “gratuitous”?
g) Finally, I think it’s worth noting exactly what you said, Senator Sanders. The six questions so far have been responding to the idea that there is too much violence in our fiction. But that’s not actually what you said. You said media. Which includes news. And yes, you’re correct, there is too much violence in the news media. You know why? Because the United States is too violent. Because there are too many shootings. Too many mass shootings. So here’s the question: what will you do to have less mass shootings in our media, by having less mass shootings in our news, by having less mass shootings in our reality? You say we have to “stop shouting at each other.” I agree. If you think you can be President of the United States, what are you going to do?
These are the questions I want answers to. This is what worries me about Bernie Sanders. This is why I’m not “feeling the Bern” as so many other people my age are. The answer to mass shootings is not censorship. It’s not banned media. But yes, I do want less violence in the media, by having less violence in the news. Let’s hope Senator Sanders can help provide some genuine comprehensive sensible reform to the issues of guns, like he has promised.