As a pop culture junkie living through the first-ever reality star President, I’ve spent maybe a little too much time wondering what the inevitable series of political biopics and miniseries about the Trump Era and all of the events surrounding it will look like.
With the shortening of the news cycle, so much has happened this year that we’ve already forgotten about (Trump was impeached in January) let alone before he even took office (the Access Hollywood tape). In my eyes, a sweeping, well-done narrative would actually be both enlightening and engrossing, not to mention the fun there is in dream-casting. (Patti Lupone as Nancy Pelosi? Allegra Edwards as Kayleigh McEnany or Ivanka? Holland Taylor as Hillary?)
However, it would be too easy to go into parodic territory. Long before Trump came down the escalator, when he still hosted The Apprentice, people did bad impersonations of him, telling friends, “You’re fired,” across the table at dinner parties. (Guilty.) This has only increased since he took office. But it’s not funny anymore.
It’s one thing to impersonate a guy with funny hair who hosts a successful reality competition show who says incendiary things on cable news but mostly stays away. It’s another thing to impersonate the President on Saturday Night Live, or a talk show, or at a dinner party, who makes fun of disabled people, disrespects war heroes, refuses to attend the funeral of civil rights icons, and basically violates everything to do with common decency and respect in the name of America First.
Regardless of what policies you support or which party you’re registered with, the research and statistics show that Trump has not made America great again. He has done everything in his power to ignore the coronavirus pandemic and act like we’ve defeated it when it’s only getting worse while working to undo the legacy of presidents before him.
At this point, to portray Trump in any fashion is to perpetuate his image and legacy. From a practical, artistic standpoint, it’s impossible to do a portrayal or impersonation of Trump and have it taken seriously at this point. Even if Daniel Day Lewis did his method acting most, we’d all still laugh at it because that’s what we’ve been trained to do since 2015–laugh at the “orange man” so you don’t take him seriously and notice what he’s actually doing. From a political standpoint, to keep impersonating Trump is dangerous. It contributes to mythmaking, positive or negative, and no good can come of that.
So to answer the central question posed in this post’s title, what should a dramatization of the Trump Era look like? We’re getting our first taste very soon. Showtime announced this week their new miniseries, The Comey Rule, and yes, it looks as gross and trite as it sounds.
With Jeff Daniels as the eponymous James Comey and Brendan Gleeson doing his damndest to “seriously” portray Trump, The Comey Rule seems to be prestige television’s answer to my question. However, I would argue that building off of what I’ve stated above, Trump should be entirely absent from any dramatizations of the Trump era.
The Comey Rule is a bad idea for lots of reasons (least of which it seems to ignore the Hillary Clinton mess entirely and start with Trump in the White House?). But the story could easily be told without Trump in it at all. (No shade to Gleeson, who is a fine actor.) But if this is a taste of the kind of stories Hollywood thinks we should tell about the Trump era, I’ll pass.
Read more about The Comey Rule here: James Comey is no hero and Showtime’s The Comey Rule won’t change that