White House reality show always entertains

By Rong Xiaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/12 19:58:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

When Donald Trump announced his campaign for president in 2015, the Huffington Post decided to place Trump-related news in its entertainment section. That policy only lasted for five months until the news site reversed it and brought Trump to the serious news section along with all the other candidates. The reason, as shown in the headline of the op-ed piece by Arianna Huffington, the founder of news site, as she sought to explain the flip-flop, is that "We Are No Longer Entertained."

But I have to say that more than a year after Trump began living in the White House, I still find him quite entertaining.

American politics has always been intertwined with the entertainment industry. There were movies or TV shows inspired by political scandals, movie stars running for public office, and actresses rumored to have had affairs with presidents. But never has all of this - and so much more (think horror, comedy and reality TV shows) happened all at the same time in the political arena - as it clearly is now.

Since Trump's election, the real stories in the White House have been much more dramatic than anything that the once-popular House of Cards Netflix drama ever envisaged. Few now care about the final season of the show - slated to be released later this year. Why should you when you have the Trump White House to watch every day?

The president himself was and still is a reality show star anyway. He brought his catchphrase from NBC's The Apprentice, which he has hosted for years, to the White House. It seems as if he has told members of his cabinet "you're fired!" more frequently than he told contestants in the show. He hired Larry Kudlow, a TV personality to be his top economic adviser and told Kudlow that he looked handsome on TV. He, although involuntarily, has kept Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims to have an extramarital relationship with the president, in the spotlight. 

Then there is the new Roseanne, the ABC TV sitcom that ended 20 years ago and was revitalized in late March. The new episodes are still about the life of the same working class Conner family, with new family members and relevant modern issues added, including that the protagonist Roseanne, starring actress Roseanne Barr, is now a Trump supporter.

The debut of the rebooted show on March 27 attracted 18.2 million viewers, topping any other comedy on any TV network that has been shown since 2014. And it's not a surprise that in today's America, the success of the show is no longer entertainment news but political news. Trump supporters claimed the show vindicates their stance. Trump haters vowed to boycott the show. The resident himself called Barr to congratulate her the next day after the premiere. And he mentioned the show in a public speech a day later as saying: "Look at her ratings. They were unbelievable... and it was about us." He clearly took it as an alternative poll for his job performance.

Of course, not all shows take place in the White House. In March, Cynthia Nixon who played Miranda in HBO's hit series Sex and the City, announced she was running for governor of New York. There are not many people who believe that the experience of playing a brainy lawyer in a TV series is a credit transferable to public office. However, the additional attention Nixon gets from the media draws immediate comparisons with the likes of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That's why many more enthusiastic audience members are still waiting for Oprah Winfrey to announce her 2020 presidential campaign. Although she has said she won't stand several times, in politics, the word "no" often only makes the prospects more appealing.

Even if Winfrey really means no, lobbyists should work together to persuade her to change her mind, or they should try to persuade Beyonce or a Kardashian to consider the option. If President Trump is to be replaced after his first term, his successor has to be someone equally entertaining. Otherwise, American people who are used to political drama, will be bored.   

There is still one more change that needs to be made: If movie stars are eligible to run for public office, why are politicians not eligible to compete for Oscars? Now that would be fun.

If President Trump cannot make the change in his time, the next president should. And please take note, Hollywood.

The author is a New York-based journalist. rong_xiaoqing@hotmail.com

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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