Researcher Associate at Centre for Politics and Media Research and a MA International Political Communication student at Bournemouth University.
Section 7: Pop Culture and Populism
- Donald Trump, reality TV, and the political power of parasocial relationships
- New roles in the presidential campaign: candidates as talk show comedians
- Farage’s Trump card: constructing political persona and social media campaigning
- Does Twitter humanize a politician’s campaign?
- What is Trump?
- Out of touch, out of ideas? The American Presidency in film and television
- It’s never just a joke: pop culture and the US Presidency
The US election has been dubbed the nastiest election in recent US history with both candidates’ attacking each other at any opportunity. But this does not seems too different to other elections of the past, mud slinging has always been a big part of the US debates. However, you would be forgiven in thinking you are watching another amusing boardroom firing session, as Trump’s behaviour can be likened to that of an Apprentice contestant, not a US presidential candidate.
Donald Trump, host of “Apprentice“, his brash, masculine and dominant persona suits the reality TV show genre. We’ve grown to accept these larger than life characters that are “just being honest” and “real”. Reality TV shows are great to watch, a guilty pleasure perhaps, but the outcomes are of no consequence to us as citizens. But this is the US presidential election, the contest to become leader of the free world with an unsurmountable level of responsibility. This surely should not be performed ina similar way to a reality TV show format, but a decision based on well thought through policies and political experience.
Trump says he prides himself on being “honest, real, the anti-politician” – sound familiar. Donald Trump’s style seems more akin to Kim Kardashian, than the qualities required for a world leader. He doesn’t have the qualifications or experience for a higher office, his plan and proposed policies are lacking in substance and most likely won’t see the light of the day. Instead, he is offering to American people an “Apprentice” style show, this special brand of positives (everything Donald Trump) against all of the negatives that he sees in both the current president,the Obama-care policy and the “weak economy” and his immediate opponent Hilary Clinton.
In the Apprentice we see candidates competing with each other to demonstrate they possess the qualities required to be a great businessman or woman or the best business leadership skills, although this can come across as excessive or childlike. Candidates regularly bicker and attack each other’s personal and professional persona in the board room. We see this channelled throughout the primaries with him shooting down other candidates one by one. Now using the same tactics in the election, we see him try to dominate and intimidate his opponent with his very aggressive approach, with humiliation added to the mix. He seems to have forgotten that he has a duty to offer the American people facts and well thought out policies. Rather Trump seems happy to offend almost everyone, African- Americans, Mexicans (with his big great Trump wall), woman, Muslims- calling for a complete Muslim ban , Latinos, President Obama, and soldiers.
Recent interviews with Jimmy Kimmel and then Jimmy Fallon contain Donald Trumps’ monolog about his successful businesses, himself and of course all things beautiful. The presidential candidate never misses an opportunity to remind us how much he achieved in the business world and how he can use this knowledge and experience to make America great again! He is reorienting the qualifications required for US President. It is much easier for the American people to relate to business success than political success, such as Hilary achievements as Sectary of State, as often most things go on behind closed doors. So it may seem plausible that a successful business man could make America great again!
Unlike other candidates who use these shows to improve their rapport with the general public and repair or improve a damaged image, Trump uses these to appear more human. However, Trump seems to do the opposite, reinforcing his reality TV like character an extreme version of a human with extreme views! For instance, when asked about ISIS Donald states that “we should go after their families, wives and children, mothers and sisters”. He doesn’t seem to care that he is publicly suggesting committing war crimes leaving CNN anchor speechless on live TV. It may have appeal, but it lacks the measured approach one might expect of a president.
However, he still has supporters and people seem to relate to him. Is this the power of the all too familiar genre of reality TV style helping to secure the vote of voters that have never voted? He seems familiar, real and honest which is juxtaposed against the secretive and in Trump’s words “corrupt” politician Hilary Clinton. But simultaneously, he is actually alienating large groups of people, inciting fear and spreading hate. But this behaviour is so familiar to us on reality TV, that maybe the audience are desensitised to it, but if this were to become normalised it could be dangerous for democracy. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or a fan of reality TV you surely couldn’t believe Trump is qualified for this monumental responsibility?