This election certainly was historic, and no because a “political outsider” won. To be more specific, an entertainer won. A reality show host. A former pay-per-view Wrestlemania contest. The owner of the Miss USA pageant. A member of the Screen Actors Guild. Someone who has appeared on the Nanny, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Job, Suddenly Susan, Sex and the City, The Drew Carey Show, The Little Rascals, Two Weeks Notice, The Associate, Zoolander, Eddie, Home Alone 2: Lost in New york, and numerous commercials, including Pizza Hut. Not to mention The Apprentice, which is now being taken over by an actor turned politician turned reality TV host (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
We are all focusing on the fact that he was a political outsider, but no one is acknowledging he was a Hollywood insider. But this is not the first time an entertainer won office. But why is nobody talking about the fact that he’s an actor? A person who behaves in a way that is not genuine (that’s a definition, not my opinion)?
Michael Moore said “Democrats would be better off if they ran Oprah [Winfrey] or Tom Hanks,” said Moore. “Why don’t we run beloved people? We have so many of them. The Republicans do this – they run [Ronald] Reagan and the Terminator [Arnold Schwarzenegger] and other people.”
So why aren’t liberals running reality TV stars? Famous personalities? We have plenty of beloved liberals in Hollywood, why didn’t they run? Perhaps because they have no experience and politics and no foreign policy experience? But it seems like that does not matter, and that is where the country is heading.
Whether for or against Donald, everyone, yes everyone, still ate up everything he said. We thought that he couldn't possibly top the next outlandish or crazy thing he said. During the republican primaries and debates, he made everyone laugh out loud when he said Marco Rubio sweat too much, or Jeb Bush was weak or that Carly Fiorina has an unpresidential face or whatever insult he was hurling.
Even the brightest individuals are not immune to the media traps that suck you in. Something about celebrity gossip and Hollywood makes people turn into simple, dumb, zombies. Whether you were suckered into buying a hat or enthralled by the media circus surrounding the insanity, you feel victim to an entertainer. You let the actor control your mind, your emotions, and your sense of fear like a marrieth. And I don't blame you. It takes a sharper more analytic mind to realize it’s being manipulated: a kind of mind most Americans simply don’t have.
No one wants to watch C-span. Everyone wants to watch The Apprentice. The ratings are far better. Policy is boring. A loose cannon who spews politically incorrect things? We tune in. It makes for better TV. It’s more entertaining. Even if you disagree with him. He’s funny, he’s outrageous, and maybe you voted for him because you just didn’t want the show to end.
This year showed that star-power wins elections, not experience. Entertainment is valid more highly in our society. You probably don’t know who your local congressman or senator is, but you definitely know who Taylor swift, Drake, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lawrence, Beyonce, and Brad Pitt all are. Who knows, maybe Matt Damon will be president. Kanye West might run in 2020. I’m still not entirely convinced it’s a joke. And you know what? He’ll probably get a decent following because, like Trump, he's a shocking celebrity.
In “Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs”, Chuck Klosterman explains the phenomenon of reality TV as dividing people into one-dimensional personalities: The gay one, the loud one, the innocent one, the jock, the princess, the basket case, the nerd (you’ve seen John Hughes movies). Humans group themselves into these categories. One dimensional personalities are far more entertaining to watch than multi-dimensional, moderate people. We thrive on watching these one-dimensional people with their one-dimensional problems.
We are living in a media-saturated society: constantly watching movies, Netflix, television, and social media. Our attention spans are shrinking, and we crave to be engaged. Eccentric personalities are far more engaging than policy makers who have years of schooling and experience.
We are media consumption machines. We carry little media machines around in our pockets. Then we go home and turn on our slightly bigger media machines. We consume and consume, constantly needing to be entertained. And that need for entertainment has slipped into our politics.
But voting for president is not the same as voting for the next American Idol. But the lines have been blurred. Reality TV is becoming reality. And, even though the name would say otherwise, reality TV is not the real world. Clips are cherry-picked and scripts are written behind the scenes. Much like politics, right? But American elected a lotic outsider to avoid this, right? Well, if I may quote Donald himself “wrong”.
Reality TV and politics have a lot more in common than you would think. One is just more fun to watch.