President Barack Obama owned pop culture, sometimes literally.
Remember how many stars pledged their allegiance to Obama during his first term?
In return, President Obama acted like all of pop culture had his back, and he had a point.
He slow jammed the news, shared his March Madness polls on every available TV outlet and even hawked his deeply flawed health care overhaul on Between Two Ferns. When he left office Obama signed up with Netflix to continue his pop culture mastery.
Enter the Trumps.
Not only is President Donald Trump a TV and film veteran, he’s adept at working pop culture to his advantage. Consider his use of social media memes, leveraging Twitter to get his messages across and his 2015 Saturday Night Live hosting gig.
Hollywood officially cast him out once he took the oath of office, but he continues to find ways around the usual gatekeepers.
And it makes them furious.
Just ask Lilly Wachowski. The co-director of The Matrix, a hibernating franchise set to rise again in 2021, slammed both Ivanka Trump and Elon Musk on Twitter over the weekend.
Their crimes? Musk continues to pummel California for its extreme lockdown measures and anti-business bent. The billionaire sent out the mysterious tweet, “Take the red pill,” tied to The Matrix. The phrase refers to people who see beyond the reality posed by the film’s nefarious power brokers.
In recent years, conservatives have rallied behind the phrase to indicate the moment when a liberal finally sees the light. They even made an entire podcast about it.
Naturally, the First Daughter chimed in on social media, Tweeting back to Musk that she’s already taken said pill. Wachowski’s reaction? Pure profanity.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s tongue and cheek tweak on a classic moment from Independence Day drew the ire of the film’s key actor. Bill Pullman played the feisty Commander in Chief from that 1996 blockbuster. Pullman’s president led the earth’s resistance against the alien invasion.
For what it’s worth, the president’s Tweet earned nearly 82K retweets and close to 260 “hearts,” as of May 18. Pullman kept his response to Trump’s video clean, but it’s clear he wasn’t happy about.
“My voice belongs to no one but me, and I’m not running for president — this year,” Pullman told The Hollywood Reporter.
Pullman’s response generated news stories from The Hill, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly and more. The reporters bandied about provocative terms like “heavily altered” and “doctored” in the process, as if some were duped into thinking the clip was real.
CNET.com dubbed the clip a “deepfake,” referring to a sophisticated process that tricks viewers into thinking the clip is genuine. Imagine anyone seeing the Trump speech and thinking it’s real.
Why give the throwaway video such extensive coverage, not to mention the sober descriptions? Those outlets, much like Wachowski and Pullman, don’t want the Trumps to encroach on pop culture turf.
It’s similar to how many musicians shriek like vampires chomping garlic when a Republican embraces their music. Conservatives aren’t allowed to usurp pop culture moments. That’s not their land, their property. It’s meant for Democrats to till over and again.
The days of Richard Nixon croaking, “sock it to me!” on Laugh-In are long gone.
It’s why Late Night TV features a non-stop parade of Democratic politicians, feted and thrown softballs from start to finish.
When was the last time Sen. Ted Cruz, a smart, pop culture savvy pol, graced a late night stage? He’d be a great guest, no doubt. He’s self-effacing, intellectually quick and surprisingly funny.
Imagine Cruz reading some of the incredibly mean Tweets he receives on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
That’s all you can do, since Team Kimmel would never imagine inviting him back on the show now.
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]