If you think enough time has passed since the election for people to have gained some perspective on the next four years, you’d be wrong.
Not only did Vox invoke Donald Trump in its review of Broadway’s A Bronx Tale; Trump essentially dominates the narrative. Here’s a sample:
As we enter a Trumpian America, the overt displays of bigotry and hate that have swept the country in the wake of his election have removed whatever comforting nostalgic distance A Bronx Tale might have had from America’s racialized, xenophobic past.
If only this were an isolated incident. Today’s arts reporters can’t help but inject Trump into their reviews, even if the content has no direct or indirect ties to our next president. Of course, the references are rarely kind.
The real question is, why aren’t these critics and reporters doing their real jobs? Aren’t reviews meant to inform readers about the quality of a given show, not serve as a convenient soapbox?
For weeks, we were told Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might be a Trump referendum thanks to some last-minute reshoots. It didn’t matter that the film went into production before Trump won the Republican primary battle, or that Disney wouldn’t dare politicize a project that needs both red and blue state audiences to thrive.
The film itself turned out to be apolitical to its core, focusing on the same good vs. evil template that has always made the saga appealing. That didn’t stop a gaggle of critics from weighing in with their Trump-sized cudgels.
CNN.com claimed the film’s diverse cast was a shot across the bow of the incoming Trump administration (which includes a black man and several women in critical positions), stating that the movie’s “refreshing diversity comes across as a rebuke to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.”
Here’s Salon.com’s take on the film’s core message, which is about hope:
With Trump entering the Oval Office, hope is dead. Or worse, right now hope looks foolish. . . . But vowing to fight because you refuse to let the bastards grind you down? That’s something we can work with in the age of Trump.
The Daily Beast attacked Trump Nation in the headline for its Hidden Figures movie review. The new film focuses on three brilliant black women who helped John Glenn orbit the earth. With the not-so-subtle headline, “Hidden Figures: The Movie Trump’s America Needs to See,” the piece states:
It’s the movie that Trump’s America—our America—needs. It’s a historical roadmap to the values required to make America great again.
Or consider Esquire’s profound assessment of Hell or High Water, the 2016 indie hit starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. The story of two brothers who resort to bank robbing to pay off medical debt was apparently all about racism, Trump style.
In that way, Hell or High Water presaged Trump’s election. It was a film, in August, that imagined the destructive lengths to which a certain set of people would go to hold onto something they’d always felt was theirs. The racialized truth of this is clear, if not spelled out by the film. It’s only two white characters left standing, after all.
Salon.com also wove the story of Trump’s rise into a piece celebrating two Oscar-bait films, Loving and Moonlight. The former deals with interracial marriage, while the latter showcases a gay black man’s emotional journey:
Trump’s election and the policies he will attempt to put in place are a direct assault on the spirit of human dignity and progress spoken to by films such as “Moonlight” and Loving. In Trump’s world and those of his supporters, black and brown lives are diminished; the poor are under siege and disposable; gays and lesbians are to be written out of the social contract.
This is no doubt just the beginning. The next four years will likely see an avalanche of ideologically-motivated reviews. Just as celebrities can’t finish an interview without trashing Trump, too many arts critics can’t set their disgust for him aside and just do their jobs. And that’s a shame. Because we need thoughtful critics whose judgments we can trust, and who take their role seriously—even if they might not always agree with their readers’ politics.