To understand Trump’s popularity, I suggest you watch The Room.
The Room, which is the subject of the upcoming Biopic “The Disaster Artist,” is the brain child of writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau. The movie, at face value, follows Johnny, an obvious Mary Sue for Tommy, as his perfect life quickly falls apart when his fiancée seduces his best friend. But, The Room isn’t just a bad movie, it’s the bad movie to end all bad movies.
Every wrong choice you could make in one movie, this one made, from its unintelligible dialogue and dream logic plot progression to bizarre directorial choices. Against all odds, its very terribleness made it a small cult hit with audiences that played along, dressed up, and shouted at the screen, just like with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
This movie works—well, doesn’t work—on so many different levels, from Tommy’s life experience that inspired the scripts, to the behind-the-scenes antics that seeped into the movie. And every once in a while, you see a glimpse of genius peeking out through the skull-pounding mania of a film. After a while, you’re not sure if you’re watching the work of a passionate but inept auteur with an unexplained amount of money, or a Kubric-like mad genius who, intentionally or not, subverted everything you knew about movies and made a movie that inspired genuinely uncontrolled reactions from audiences. The true lesson of The Room, for me, is the case it makes that consumption and interpretation is the final step in creation.
Which brings me back to Trump. Every rule there was, Trump broke. He lied about small things and bragged about committing crimes. He stood on stage of other candidates and declared that his money held more influence than their voters—and was he wrong? He joked that he could shoot a guy on live TV and people would still vote for him—again, was he wrong? The same man who declared every immigrant was a rapist showed a surprising amount of compassion for Neo-Nazis; he branded his adversaries with belittling nicknames; he would swear like a sailor; he would talk like a sixth grader; he used Twitter like a passive-aggressive teenager.
So…did he mean any of it?
I think the answer lies in the interpretation of the audience. Because his actions were a Jackson Pollack of wrongitude, but his carefully cultivated reality-show image was of a successful businessman…who knew the real Donald Trump? Was there even a “real” Donald Trump to begin with?
He appealed to business assholes; people who, rightly or wrongly thought minorities and immigrants were getting social services while they were left behind in factory towns; people who wanted to “shake up the system”; elites who thought they could control him; regular joes who were convinced that the elites (The Illuminati?) controlled everything but they couldn’t control Trump; people who were sure it was just an act and he’d act less crazy once the campaign was finished; people who were sure that he’d be the same president than he was a candidate. Whatever you wanted Trump to be, Trump was that candidate. And now Donald Trump, the president, is exactly what many of us predicted: so bad it’s hilarious. Or, you know, it would be if he didn’t have nuclear weapons.
Other commentaries by Rob Mania:
The Lesson of 2011
Tweet Attack! Re: FoxNews
How to Win an Argument, if you’re Donald Trump
Don’t Panic. (Except... Do Panic)
Substituting Sexual Assault
Tweet Attack! Re: Deplorables
The Saga of DC and Bones Jones