Having got through the 100 days blather, the press stepped back and took a breather. The Repubs in the House finally got it together and came up with a trial balloon healthcare repeal/replacement. This, of course, shortchanges just about everyone in need of healthcare. The upshot? The Repubs are acting like Repubs again. The current episode of Invasion of the Political Body Snatchers seems to be over.
And this leads me to my topic, that is entertainment. Or, to put it another way, the collective noun that is Hollywood. This includes the Meryl Streeps and Tom Hanks of the world, along with the famous for nothing Kardashians and the 15 minute denizens of reality TV programming. All of it, “crafted” or not, is entertainment. News can be entertainment, as well; for instance all the fluff about Princess Diana and her now grown progeny is more entertainment than history. I hate to tell you this folks, but The Crown, although a beautiful series, is not history. It’s entertainment.
My point? Hollywood, in its supremely unselfaware way, seems oblivious to the irony of the Donald Administration. Take the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – please! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Over the years, this has become an increasingly glitzy affair, earning sobriquets like “nerd prom” for its parade of red carpet gowns and glitz. The local DC social scene, not known for its beauty or media chops, along with numerous rumpled print journalists, loved it. By 2016, however, the last of the Obama White House Correspondents’ dinners incited a bit of commentary that perhaps the affair had gotten out of hand.
This year the whole business was much more laid back. This, however, was not due to any sense of restraint or decency. It was, rather, due to the fact that President Trump, fighting headwinds of media disapproval, declined to attend. It is not mandatory for the sitting President to attend, although it is customary. The entertainment folks, not to be outdone, then put on something called Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which gave Hollywood a chance to needle the Administration anyway. Skits from this presentation made all the newscasts. Strangely, the actual White House Correspondents’ dinner got almost no media coverage at all.
The love affair between liberal Hollywood and the Obamas continues unabated, as scenes from Obama’s post-presidential vacation attest. Hollywood, at least the Hollywood that makes academy award wining movies and prestige TV, is an unabashed fan of the Obamas; from “informal” visits to various late night talk shows to airbrushed magazine covers, the Obamas were It.
Donald Trump, part of whose claim to fame is actually entertainment, has been met with nothing put virtual rotten tomatoes from day one. One should remember, however, that The Donald is an old Hollywood hand. He has done cameos in movies; he piloted The Apprentice through several successful seasons. He understands media. I daresay, he understands Hollywood a lot better than the Obamas ever did.
Yes, the Donald Administration is full of hypocrisy. So was the Obama Administration. Hypocrisy is the name of the game in politics. Hollywood, however, cannot claim purity in this argument. It underestimates President Trump if it thinks that it can level the trembling finger of righteousness at the doings of the current Administration.
The Trump people have a deep understanding of reality television, the money machine that keeps TV afloat. Accordingly, they run the White House that way. So far this has worked, at least with the Trump “base” (whatever that is). The Obama Administration, on the other hand, seemed to spend the last two years of its existence trying to recreate Mad Men which, I don’t know about you, left me cold in the end. The point of the White House bully pulpit is to bring people over to your side. Seems to me that reality TV works much better in the persuasion department than glossy I’m-glad-those-days-are-over nostalgia.
In short, the entertainment industry has been outdone by one of its own. Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Mr. Spielberg, et al., they can harangue from awards show podiums, they can tweet, put out statements on Facebook or their own websites. In the end, however, they have been bested. Trump is the king of media.