A Face In The Crowd

We are living the life they warned us about:

I’m far from the first to remark on the parallels between Donald Trump and A Face In The Crowd. Elia Kazan’s 1957 film about a media-spawned megalomaniac has long been the go-to movie reference for explaining Trump’s rise from NBC reality shows to far bigger, much less amusing reality shows. In September 2015, a mere two months after Trump announced he was running, The Washington Times’ Cal Thomas pointed out the eerie similarities before he barely had any to work with, noting that both the film’s antagonist, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (played by Andy Griffith in a revelatory—and very loud—performance), and Donald Trump were narcissistic, trophy wife-collecting womanizers who trafficked in rabble-rousing bluster, blowing right past facts and reason to appeal directly to their audience’s lizard-brain fears. In turn, both became, as Thomas put it, “the dictionary.com definition of demagogue”: a leader whose popularity depends on playing to people’s emotions and prejudices. Twenty-five years earlier, Kazan himself had suggested the film “anticipates [Ronald] Reagan,” a list to which others have, over the the years, added other populist, shrewdly dumbed-down figures like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.

Like all of those people (and their mutual shadow advisor, Roger Ailes), Rhodes laughs off outdated concepts like “preparedness” or “actual beliefs in things” that the soundbite age finally made obsolete, declaring, “Instead of long-winded public debates, the people want slogans. ‘Time for a change!’ ‘The mess in Washington!’ ” (“Build the wall!” “Drain the swamp!”) But once you add in the open pandering to the rural disenfranchised, the scandalous personal life, and the misogyny, the resemblance to Donald Trump in particular is so uncanny that many, manypundits picked up on it the second he entered the race—most of them inevitably quoting Walter Matthau (as the cynical, rumpled head writer on Rhodes’ show) in his pithy summation: “I’ll say one thing for him, he’s got the courage of his ignorance.”

One thought on “A Face In The Crowd

  1. But unlike the movie – no matter how horrific the things Trump says are – his followers still want him. I’m not sure he could alienate them even if he directly insulted them. 33% of Latino men voted for him. Women voted for him in droves. It’s insane.

    I’m not sure his crowd would even recognize damage from his administration.

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