Some villains were born to destroy: Godzilla, the Joker, Donald Trump. It’s only been 11 weeks since the election, but Trump has already ravaged America’s democratic institutions, our standing in the world, and women's and minorities’ sense of safety. And those are just the big things. The smaller ones will come later: a new and surprising and then actually-not-that-surprising-if-you-think-about-it revulsion toward Cheetos, pumpkins, orangutans. Cotton candy will make you sick, as will baby hands. Filled with shame, the word “huge” threw itself off a cliff last Saturday while everyone was too busy marching in the streets to notice.
Then there’s TV. Because Trump started out as an entertainer, his grimacing mug is all over television, as far back as The Jeffersons. Trump comes into our living rooms, leaves a stink, then sneers at how small our homes are. And it’s not just Celebrity Apprentice or cable news, since his followers and enablers also keep jolting us back to reality when all we want is a few fleeting minutes of escape. By pledging to cut arts funding, Trump has essentially declared war against culture. But for someone so lazy he can’t bother to read his daily intelligence briefings, he’s had an awfully quick effect. Here are five shows Trump’s presidency has already ruined for the rest of us:
For the last four years, critics and fans have wondered why the rest of the country has stubbornly kept away from this ’80s-set FX drama starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Russian spies in suburbia — despite it consistently being one of the best-reviewed shows on the air. The most convincing explanation so far is that American audiences don’t care to sympathize with violent revolutionaries who aim to bring down the United States, no matter how compellingly complicated their marriage or how delightfully loopy their wig collection. With Vladimir Putin seemingly having installed his puppet in the White House, though, The Americans feels a lot less “safe” than it did three months ago — and like an even harder sell for first-time viewers. Thankfully, the show’s fate is secure, with FX having renewed the perpetually low-rated series last year for its final two seasons.
Another underappreciated gem from FX feels newly relevant, with Justified creator Graham Yost debuting his new Amazon project, Sneaky Pete, and that former show’s star, Timothy Olyphant, soon to headline Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet opposite Drew Barrymore. But those who revisit this crime drama, which largely takes place in a self-cannibalizing rural Kentucky, might find the show’s stylized white supremacists harder to chuckle along with now that their real-life counterparts pose a greater threat to our shared civic life. Walton Goggins is charismatic as the villainous Boyd Crowder, but the character is harder to stomach now when he’s introduced holding a rocket launcher in his swastika-tatted arms and aiming it at a black church. The thrum of drug addiction in the show’s background, too, feels like one more depersonalizing insult to a people we too rarely see humanized by pop culture. And if you’re still irate about the impending repeal of Obamacare, it doesn’t help that 85 percent of the real-life Harlan County voted for Trump — bad news for its many, many fictional gunshot victims.
ABC’s long-running small-business pitch show is the ultimate hangover treat: not too smart, not too dumb, fun in a middle-school-auction-y, it’s-exciting-when-people-talk-over-each-other kind of way. But the prospect of Mark Burnett even inadvertently launching another unqualified blowhard’s political career — this time entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary’s bid to lead Canada’s Conservative Party, presumably with an eye toward becoming prime minister — is galling. As an added insult, O’Leary didn’t rule out the possibility of continuing to appear on Shark Tank should he succeed the current PM (and thirsty social-media star) Justin Trudeau. (Even Donald Trump handed over the Celebrity Apprentice franchise to Arnold Schwarzenegger.) With O’Leary’s co-stars including conservative Robert Herjavec and Trump supporter turned appeaser Mark Cuban, it’s time to distrust the show’s message that millionaires are the best thing that could happen to ordinary people.
When this highly anticipated ABC drama premiered with Kiefer Sutherland playing a low-level Cabinet member assuming the presidency following a catastrophic terrorist attack, its simplistic, slate-clearing bloodlust merited caution. That wariness is something that we should cling to when fantasizing about Trump’s impeachment, because it’s not as if his next-in-line, Vice-President Mike Pence, is any better — nor is his successor, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In fact, the only thing that Designated Survivor’s facile premise underlines is the kakistocratic crowding of venal reprobates and/or incompetent loons in the new Cabinet. Trump’s autocratic tendencies are terrifying, but it’s not as if Ben Carson — who cynically ran for the nation’s highest public-service office to sell more copies of his book, and who’d become president per the show’s story line — is any more promising.
Sex and the City
Trump has weaseled his way into so many TV and movie cameos in the last three decades that you can’t be sure when you’ll be rudely reminded of his frantic self-promotion. Sex and the City is a perfect example: The broadly feminist series includes multiple appearances by The Donald, and in so doing betrays its tacky worship of wealth and whiteness. The Happily Ever After that the HBO comedy’s six seasons and two movies works toward — marrying Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) — is now undermined by the series’s initial description of the emotionally unavailable millionaire: “He’s the next Donald Trump, except he’s younger and much better-looking.” True to Trumpian form, two years later, Big leaves Carrie for a younger woman: a model with an Eastern European name (Bridget Moynahan’s Natasha).
At least there’s some solace to be found in the fact that pockets of pop culture have always side-eyed Trump. In The Little Rascals, Trump is cast as the father of an insufferable spoiled brat, and Designing Women featured a shutdown of the future POTUS’s narcissism in what feels like a pretty obvious precursor to the puffed-out broadsides of today’s liberal late-night comedians. But the Trump appearance that most speaks to 2017 is from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Priggish Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) faints upon seeing the braggart billionaire arrive at his home, but everygirl Ashley speaks for all of us when she yells at the celebrity money-grubber: “Thank you for ruining my life!”