It seems that the Donald Trump phenomenon is something that pundits and commentators can’t seem to stop talking about, but also something they can’t seem to actually understand. One particular remark on Special Report Online struck me: Dr. Charles Krauthammer wondered how it was that a man born in wealth and with a tremendous fortune, how can he connect with middle and lower economic class voters?
The problem, it seems to me, may be that Dr. Krauthammer is a great intellect (and avid fan of baseball), but it seems he doesn’t watch enough movies. Because, as Ace of Spades explains, politics has become a a movie, analyzed in terms of a heroes journey and the sensibilities of plot, pacing and motivation. But how does that help us figure out the Trump phenomenon?
There are a lot of theories among pundits: some think he panders, some thing he simply shoots from the hip, some point out his crudity, borderline vulgarity and so on. All of that has some merit, but none of them capture the whole picture: Donald Trump is Thornton Melon.
Back to School is a great comedy, and a big part of the success is the ensemble cast. That’s because, just like Donald Trump, Rodney Dangerfield’s Thornton Melon is a man we root for in part in spite of himself. The thing is that if take away the loathsome, hidebound, patrician economics professor, the cartoon jock villains and the unctuous dean, and we’re left with Melon… who’s kinda an insufferable schmuck.
At the risk of fantastically over-analyzing a light 80’s comedy, Thornton Melon would be nearly intolerable in real life: he is constantly breaking the rules and suffering no consequences because he throws large amounts of cash at problems, he’s unashamed about being crooked and simply bribing public servants, he’s a womanizer, a coward and, most significant to the plot, he’s a cheater.
In Back to School we don’t root for Melon because he’s a hero, we root for him because he’s not actively a villain. Once we realize that, and that Paxton Whitehead‘s acerbic and patronizing performance is as important to the movie as Dangerfield’s own, we understand Trump and his role in this film.
Because if Trump is Melon, who has been cast in the role of the uptight, head-up-his-ass professors that everyone wants to see get their comeuppance?
Since putting in the Republican Congress Republican Voters have been subject to one episode after another of what Ace aptly terms failure theater. No principle seems too big to sacrifice on the alter of expediency, no favor to donors too imbecile to come through on. The Republican base is appalled and feels betrayed. They’ve delivered both houses of Congress to their party only to be told ‘oops, turns out nothing worthwhile can be done without the White House too‘. The Republican leadership is running a con job on its voters, and they have noticed. In other words, the base has collectively decided that it’s time to do something futile and stupid.
Enter Trump, stage right.