Springtime for Trump (Lilja Valtonen)

In reading Emily Nussbaum’s article ‘How Jokes Won the Election’, I could not help but think of the Kierkegaard quote, “I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.” When Trump ran for President, most people thought it was a joke. Surely the American public would not elect a reality TV-star with no political experience into the seat of the world’s most powerful person, right? Everything about Trump is the perfect set-up for a joke – his Cheeto coloured skin, his bird-like hairdo, the way he pronounces and emphasises certain words (“huge”, “China”), and his catchphrases (“Fake news!”).[1] It was all fun and games until he actually started winning. How far could the joke go? And was Trump in on it?

Nussbaum’s article and the entire situation of Trump being President reminds me of the 1967 Mel Brooks film The Producers. In the movie, Max Bialystock tries to swindle a large sum of money from a few older women to put on a play – a “love letter to Hitler” entitled Springtime for Hitler – that he is sure will fail spectacularly, from which he can then profit. He does everything he can to make the musical the worst thing to ever grace the Broadway stage, but, unexpectedly, it is a massive success. The audience sees it as a comedy, not the seriously disturbing appreciation for Nazism that it was. This reminds me of Trump because everything he did until he won seemed like an elaborate prank, a complete impossibility. Jokes won him the election because no one considered him a threat when it mattered. People just saw him as a rebel who spoke his mind – no matter how offensive or nonsensical his statements – an entertaining, wildcard alternative to a woman candidate.

The comparison was even sketched into the Jimmy Kimmel Show with the actors from the 2005 remake.

[1] Emily Nussbaum, “How Jokes Won the Election” The New Yorker (23/1/2017): https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/23/how-jokes-won-the-election.

3 comments

  1. While the Trump persona has certainly fueled political comedy since his announcement of his presidential candidacy, to say that his campaign was perceived by most Americans to be a joke seems to me to be oversimplifying it. The 2018 presidential campaign was affected by all kinds of things, and pinning Trump’s success on him being a joke ignores many other aspects of American culture that he appealed to.

  2. I like how to associated “Springtime for Hitler” to Trump. I completely agree with your viewpoint, as well as that no one took him seriously until he won. Do you think that it was the jokes overall that contributed to his win, or that they just hoped to push him over the edge?

  3. The connection you make between “Springtime for Hitler” and “Trumped” is really interesting. It highlights the fact that Trump is a grotesque character (Foucault) that since his election has been subject to a lot of ridicule.

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