The Eight Pieces of Pop Culture That Defined the Trump Era

“Roseanne” / “The Conners”

How old media stalwarts can still overcome cultural differences.

If ever there was a Culture Break Up case, Roseanne Barr made it available. Two decades after its original run ended, Barr’s eponymous sitcom “Roseanne” returned to television in mid-2018 with great fanfare and a slew of new episodes exploring the culture and folkways of the white working class in an intelligent, empathic, and balanced way. Her character was a vocal Trump supporter, a rarity on broadcast television – and a mindset that navel-gazing liberal studio managers were keen to explore after the 2016 election.

Just as the show found its stride, the real Barr – a notorious political crank – let go of a hideously racist Twitter rant about Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Barack Obama. The show was canceled immediately.

And then it wasn’t. Just five months later, “Roseanne” returned without Roseanne, Barr’s character written off-screen as dying of an opioid overdose.

Since then, the show, reinvented as “The Conners”, has been a consistent success for ABC, demonstrating the resilience of the sitcom format with multiple cameras and a media object that is now more than three decades old. Aided by stellar appearances from John Goodman and Sara Gilbert – among the returning lead actors of the show’s original run in the 1980s and 1990s – the series has stayed grounded in its past and artful enough to update for the present. The continued popularity of programs like “The Conners,” Chuck Lorre’s mini-empire with sitcoms and melodramas similar to those of Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise is a cultural trend that is constantly flying under the radar of America’s critics.

The best of this populist program, “The Conners” speaks to a wide audience on sensitive cultural issues without the need to condescend or moralize. Liberal media managers clearly hope to reach the 70 million+ Americans who voted for Donald Trump without condescending or facing them, but that’s easier said than done. The team of old writers and producers behind “The Conners” are doing well.

If you’re the type of person who reads long, chin-stroking pseudo lists of what culture is “important” in a hazily defined political era, you might be prone to missing out. Not. Its longevity, even after self-immolation by its namesake on social media, is evidence that the valuable properties of old media can endure while throwing away their unneeded baggage.

Naomi Alderman’s “The Power”

The righteous wrath of women and the limits of the imagination of power.

Marvel Studios’ superhero films have grossed more than $ 22.5 billion worldwide since the studio opened in 2008. Three of the top five highest grossing films of all time in the US (not adjusted for inflation) are Marvel films, and all three were released in the past three years. Not to burden it: America loves its superheroes.

Countless works over the past decade have attempted to deconstruct our obvious fixation on power – some quite well, some even transcendent– but none of them are like the 2016 science fiction novel by British writer Naomi Alderman, The power. part X-Men, Part Margaret Atwood and part Stephen King, The power tells the story of different women in an alternate universe where their sexes collectively develop the ability to send out fatal lightning bolts from their fingers.

In America, women have tried publicly for the past five years to eradicate violence from men and hold them accountable for it like never before. In this way, the attraction of the story can be felt as wish fulfillment. But the meaning of The power is not just its clever premise from the #MeToo era or its crystalline science fiction worldbuilding; it is as exciting in its moral clarity as the title energy of the book. They thirst for revenge along with their abused protagonists. They excite when they achieve it. They share their accusation and dislike. But through its clever framing device, the book holds up a mirror to the sincere, vengeful delight of readers, reminding them that a world built on vengeance and coercion is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the replaced world.

By his apocalyptic conclusion, The power is both a humanist and a feminist parable that takes a fresh look at a familiar theme in genre fiction: the corruption of the world through indiscriminate violence. It is reminiscent of a gender reassigned version of the Cold War’s atomic moral stories, visions of an apocalypse forged by men with iron jaws behind mahogany tables with a large red button. Alderman’s genius is to show us not only the ugly violence of power, but its purifying, cathartic possibilities – and then pull the carpet out to remind us of the same bleak outcome at the end of every street.

Our pop culture is covered in youthful power fantasies, one of which meets the needs of seemingly every point on the ideological spectrum. The power is a rebuke to them and an implicit reminder that power wisely exercised is seldom so satisfying.

The “Renegade” dance / meme

The joys and risks that come with democratizing fame.

If you are over 30 years old the words “mmmxneil”, “Dubsmash” and “Shiggy” probably mean nothing to you. Almost everyone else will recognize them as dots in the constellation of viral online music and dance trends that have become mainstream thanks to their popularity on TikTok, the China-based social media app that has been launched a thousand times Technology policy takes in the dwindling days of the Trump administration.

If you’re unfamiliar, the app has short videos (less than a minute) that usually contain some sort of short-lived joke, dance, or meme reference. There are around 100 million active users in the US alone. It’s designed for virality – you see someone dance or joke, you do your own iteration of it, your friends see your version and replicate it, and so on. Perhaps most important as a cultural phenomenon is the platform’s most popular dance, at least for the fleeting moment when things like that burn brightly and burn out: the renegade.

Apparently they all went viral with their version of the dance from the Grammy-winning rapper Lizzo to different K-pop Stars to the local TikTok superstar Charli D’Amelio. However, one person who didn’t was its creator: a 14-year-old dance student in the suburbs of Atlanta named Jalaiah Harmon.

In late 2019, Harmon uploaded a simple, homemade video of the dance that went viral almost instantly and was filtered down to the aforementioned taste makers with millions of clicks. TikTok would, almost naturally, at some point separate the work from its creator: the popularity of their video in turn inspired other users to recreate the dance on their own and for no reason in the food chain until it was adopted by mainstream celebrities. After Harmon became a kind of celebre for those dealing with murky internet authorship and credit issues, he made one New York Times profile and finally made it to this great showcase of mainstream culture in the middle. “Ellen. ”

Her strange saga – from the near-universal experience of teenagers grappling with friends and making up silly dances to national television and the center of a debate over cultural appropriation and credit – is a neat symbol of the emerging media landscape. A social media “creator” is more likely to be the 14 year old next door, or your ambiguous cousin or math teacher, than the product of a smart entertainment company.

The pop culture landscape is not only atomized, it is open source. We are no longer just members of niche cultural loans. We have the power to create fiefdoms – and inevitably watch them escape our control. Enjoy responsibly.

“Heroes of the Fourth Turn”

The Conservative Identity Crisis and America’s Collective Empathy Gap.

Will Arbery’s 2019 critical smash game seems at first glance to be a straightforward political comment: During a pitch-black night in rural Wyoming, a group of classmates from a conservative Roman Catholic university get back together and share their fears and fears and ambitions about everything from the state of the nation to the state of their eternal souls. Troubled by what they consider to be the decadent secular world, they pace, push, hug, and examine each other’s intellectual and emotional defenses, trying to see their place in it. The virtues of Barry Goldwater, Steve Bannon, and Trump are all discussed, including the latter’s function as a trigger for a character’s gag reflex.

Arbery is the son of Glenn Arbery, President of Wyoming Catholic College, the real analogue to the alma mater of fictional characters. Shortly before the climax of the play, the new president of the university appears and holds a powerful monologue in which she encourages her protégés to engage in “slowness, standstill” and “the space between cup and lip”. It’s a pleasant, engaging message that dangles the potential of an oasis away from the madness of cable news and Twitter. But Kevin, the group’s pissed off optimist, immediately sees through her glitz and asks what this “slowness” could possibly have to do with a movement – and belief – that includes Trump. She doesn’t have a good answer and falls back on a lecture on the past of the conservative movement that clearly falls on skeptical ears.

But there’s something far more interesting in Arbery’s game than an autopsy of the conservative soul in the Trump era (which is nevertheless expertly executed). Each of the four main characters in the play represents a certain version of the restless half-mouth: the passionate ideologue with the motorized mouth, the thoughtful survivor of the back-to-the-land, the over-stimulated, over-washable washout and the gentle empath of the world cruelty is shaken. The latter is given the climax of the piece, which seems to speak from the world behind it with an almost shiny color that makes your hair stand up when you have a pulse. In doing so, and with the following stunned silence, she makes the central theme of “heroes” all too clear: If others share their pain, no matter how strange their experience is to you, ignore them at your own risk.

The lost souls in “Heroes” are united by their shared beliefs and policies, but their approach to these beliefs is almost as different from those who directly oppose them. By giving his audience a window into their alternating sincerity and hypocrisy, doubt and enthusiasm, and reconciliation and vengefulness, Arbery humanizes them with the ability of a master and invites us to do the same.

Fyre Festival

The closing yet inescapable distance between image and reality.

“Let’s just do it and be legends.”

The Cri de Coeur of the Fyre Festival, the bogus island party / music festival that was such a fiasco that it had its own home industry for streaming documentaries and Insider accountsis a perfect slogan for our time. His source, according to Chloe Gordon’s report in New York Magazine: “A man on the marketing team.” Who better to compose the epigram for half a decade of Rauch und Spiegel? of projection and reinvention via social media for an audience unprepared (or rather unwilling) to separate fiction from reality?

The promised Fyre Festival was a decadent millennial paradise, a Dionysian retreat in the Bahamas, filled with celebrity performances and performances by top-class artists such as rapper Pusha T and pop-punk legends Blink-182. But for Billy McFarland, the startup Huckster who planned the festival together with Ja Rap, the rap superstar of the millennium, the details were out of the question: the festival itself was the work, its participants were both audience and participants. The presence of influencers like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski would have starred in McFarland’s orchestrated performance art, and their inclusion would prove to the world that he and his gang of pirates were indeed “legends.” No matter which local workers in the Bahamas he stiffened, the thousands dollar participants charged the pleasure of being pressed cheek to cheek in mud pits and laden with alcohol or the liquor iconic sad lunch served to the festival staff.

Cultural critics, lifestyle magazines, and their peers are in a hurry to define the past few years as imbued with the spirit of the “impostor,” with Fyre as the role model for the age of social media. There’s another way of looking at it: while McFarland is literally a convicted scammer, his plan doesn’t make more cynical sense Music man-style con, but as a reflection of what happens when the easy-to-create worlds of social media and high finance compete against the difficult, slow corridors of “planning” and “reality”.

Fyre, the feverish dream of a naive and amoral 20-year-old, should get him and his cohort more exposure, more money and more influence. Instead, it delivered an object lesson about the distance between image and real life. The happy backlash What followed was a cultural phenomenon in its own right, and the “Fyre Festival” became a metonym for a certain type of social media brand used by would-be influencers. In this sense, the “guy from the marketing team” may have achieved his goal of becoming part of the legend.

The Ben Garrison political cartoons

America’s confrontation with the troubled identity of the conservative fever swamp.

A Twitter search for “Ben Garrison” and “geil” yields many, many results. Conservative political cartoonist and eccentric 63-year-old Montanan has a penchant for over-sexualizing his subjects, men and women alike: see a ridiculously chiseled trump card Sports a six pack in the boxing ring against Joe Biden or his aggressively raw presentation a crop-top Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tending Bar. Not only are they libidinal Mad-style caricatures, but also the most obvious reflection of the uncontrollable, angry identity that underlies Garrison’s overriding ideology.

Garrison’s prospects are extreme. Sometimes it manifests in a way that is just caricaturally unrealistic, like his depictions of a granite jaw and resolute Trump card-as-superman. Sometimes it’s downright psychedelic, like his hallucinatory portrayal of a sentient, “swamp thing” -like one Deep State surrounded by an unfathomable assortment of monsterized conservative boogeymen. And sometimes it’s just plain racist, like in its grotesque way comparison from Michelle Obama to Melania Trump. For his excess and extremism, Garrison earned a legion of fans on the so-called “alt-right“Although he tried to refuse it.

In that light, Garrison’s cartoons could appear as offensive curiosities that are not worth putting on a list like this, since they are on the edge of acceptable language. The catch: your aesthetic has nothing to offer.

Spend tons of time on various popular far-right Facebook groups and you will find photoshops ten times as offensive as Garrison’s depiction of the Obamas and memes so crude that Garrison looks like Herblock in comparison. The vitriol and the contempt for everyone outside the right-wing extremist tent ferment in forums and comments, but eventually get mainstream: See the t-shirts “Trump that bitch” Popular At the outgoing President’s rallies in 2016 or at Donald Trump Jr.’s publication of a bizarre photoshop on Instagram in which his father can be seen as a meme icon from the Trump era Pepe.

Garrison is the Matisse of the conservative fever swamps that are easily refined The racist and psychosexual pathologies at the heart of far-right meme culture that – if you blink – make it resemble something like mainstream political art.

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