A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving a Trump Presidency
A fictional future that strips women of their most basic rights.
So it looks like your worst fears have been confirmed: The last couple of months weren’t a moist, protracted nightmare after all, and Donald Trump is now officially the 45th President of the United States. Any hopes of an electoral college uprising or Kyle Reese coming back in time to protect us have shriveled up like America’s last shred of dignity, and now you have to face the inevitable.
It’s therefore understandable if you’re not completely prepared. I myself have spent the past 60 days in a fog of bourbon and A-Team reruns. Fortunately, I still managed to put together this primer of entertainment properties to ready you all for the next four years. Vaya con Dios.
Jack London — The Iron Heel (1908)
The Call of the Wild author didn’t get everything right (the rise of Socialists as a viable political party, labor coming together to prevent a world war), but accurately foresaw the coming global oligarchy and the shrinking of the middle class. For those reasons, don’t expect to see this in the Trump Library (also because there’s no CliffsNotes version).
All The King’s Men (1949)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A populist firebrand who “tells it like it is” and promises to shake things up takes office and turns out to be just as corrupt as everyone else. Robert Rossen’s Best Picture winner was perhaps the first to show the futility of “draining the swamp,” which is ironic considering it’s based on former governor of Louisiana Huey Long.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that John Frankenheimer’s exercise in Cold War paranoia is laughably subtle. Elaborate Communist brainwashing? Encoded conversations? Why bother when the current Republican leadership doesn’t even blink when the Empire Formerly Known as Evil invades a sovereign nation or manipulates our democratic process? On a more hopeful note, Shaw does end up killing himself.
J.G. Ballard — The Drowned World (1962)
Ballard set this tale of catastrophic climate change and submerged cities in the year 2145, which — given Trump’s choices to lead the departments of State and the Interior — will probably render this an uncharacteristically optimistic prediction for the cynical visionary.
Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s masterpiece was praised on its release for its almost excessively biting satire. Forty years later, it’s practically quaint, with the commodification of Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch’s) anger standing as eerily predictive of the lengths to which nearly all television media was complicit in normalizing and accommodating Trump’s ascent.
Pink Floyd — The Wall (1979)
The edifice Roger Waters and company built up (and eventually tore down) was metaphorical, created by the protagonist’s growing alienation from humanity. In that sense, it’s fairly reflective of non-Trump voters. In another, it’s about as corporeal as anything the new President is apt to actually get constructed.
Mad Max (1979)
George Miller’s introduction to the chronicles of Max Rockatansky shows us a world where the collapse of society hasn’t happened yet, but you can see it looming on the horizon (like Russia from Sarah Palin’s house). Max, like many ordinary folks, is just struggling to protect his family and maintain some sense of order against a bunch of criminals led by a crazy-haired maniac.
Trump’s offhand comments about dropping nuclear bombs on our enemies should be comforting to anyone who grew up during the 1980s. This BBC movie reminds us what wacky hijinks await the survivors of even a so-called “limited” exchange of nukes: fallout, cholera, martial law and nuclear winter. Hilarious.
Margaret Atwood — The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Easily spooked American conservatives like to invoke the specter of “Islamic fundamentalism” and sharia law while doing their best to create an actual Republic of Gilead by stripping women of their most basic rights. Nominating and electing a self-proclaimed “pussy grabber” was only the beginning.
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Writer Bob Gale admitted a couple of years ago that his 1985 version of Biff Tannen (enriched thanks to receiving a future sports almanac from his future self) was based on “The Donald.” Seeing as we’re currently into the first week of Trump’s presidency and neither Marty McFly (nor Kyle Reese, for that matter) ever showed up to warn us, we can conclude time travel is a miserable failure.
The Simpsons — “Marge vs. the Monorail” (1993)
“But Main Street’s still all cracked and broken.”
“Forget it, Mom; the mob has spoken.”
And we don’t even have Leonard Nimoy to comfort us this time.
The Lion King (1994)
Last Friday’s inauguration ceremony was essentially a re-enactment of the scene in which Scar ascends Pride Rock as his Twitter egg — er, hyena cronies follows in his wake. Admittedly, Scar was more cunning than Trump could ever hope to be, but his governing style is likely to be just as apathetic. Trump also probably considers himself a Gaston, but he’s totally a LeFou.
Bruce Springsteen — The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995)
The Boss goes (mostly) solo to sing about economic hardship, displacement and the decline of the American empire. If that Springsteen cover band hadn’t backed out of the inauguration, I was kind of hoping they would’ve played this album in its entirety.
Cormac McCarthy — The Road (2006)
Just in case you thought books and movies about climate change and nuclear war were too cheerful, Santa Fe’s favorite iconoclast is here to bring the room down a bit. The cataclysm leading up to the events in the book is never specified, but the lessons for humanity are clear: Stockpile that ammo and develop a taste for human flesh.
Black Mirror (2011 to present)
The BBC horror series is hardly the first to depict a technophobic future, but the immediacy of episodes in which one’s life hinges solely on his online reputation or a game allows voters to select murder targets strikes a little close to home. Especially when faced with a chief executive whose proudest accomplishments are the size of his Twitter following and how many beauty contestants he’s seen naked.
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