I’ve been thinking a lot about the cultural phenomena issuing from the trauma of a Trump presidency. In the first year, we had #metoo, in which powerful men who’d sexually assaulted and manipulated women (and sometimes men) actually faced consequences. It was such an obvious and constructive displacement of the rage we felt about not being able to unseat a well-known sex offender elected to the highest office in the land. Enter the 2018 elections, in which voter turnout hit a 50-year high, the Democrats finally took back the House of Representatives, and a record 117 women won office. More recently, have you noticed all the takedowns of liars and fraud schemes? Just today, my social media timelines include discussions of the admissions scandal; The Act, a Hulu series about the Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome queen DeeDee Blancharde; the Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival fraud; and The Inventor, Alex Gibney’s doc about Elizabeth Holmes, the long-con CEO who even lied about her real voice. If only we could take down our Liar-in-Chief, too.
Then last night K and I saw Us, Jordan Peele’s brilliant followup to his game-changing Get Out. In the years leading to this Very White House, dystopia was the name of the Hollywood game. But now that a real-life dystopia has taken root, horror is the most logical cinematic response, and Peele’s American Horror Stories comprise an uprising unto themselves. Though his genius is fully his own, I believe the record-breaking public receptiveness to it partly can be attributed to the revelation that we’re in a real-Life American Horror Story. Exactly like that, actually. The demons of this country have been released like the spirits of a displaced Native American burial ground, and Peele’s reigning metaphor, the Sunken Place, reflects the ramifications of DT’s real gospel: Hate and Fear Thy Other.
We’ve all got PTSD–President Trump Stress Syndrome, also known as the DTs. And you know what? Some of our “symptoms” have been powerfully productive.
Do you remember that scene in All of Me when Steve Martin is trying to convince Richard Libertini as Prahka Lasa to put Lily Tomlin’s spirit back into a bowl? BACK IN BOWL, BACK IN BOWL, the two men kept shouting. In retrospect, the depiction of an Indian mystic by an Italian-American was irrevocably offensive but in 1984 we all just laughed uproariously at the portrayal, coached as it was by the great Carl Reiner. Well. Today, I can’t get that scene out of my head. Because I’m in my writers space for the first time in three weeks–a lot went down that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to describe here; Mercury Retrograde in space-age Pisces is addling me like there’s no tomorrow (literally)—and I just keep hearing a variation of that phrase in the same (totally offensive) intonation: BACK IN BOOK, BACK IN BOOK. Send light and whiskey; I’ll send it right back to anyone who can bear it.