While years and actions will ultimately determine the length of footnote allowed Donald Trump in the annals of history, his mark on pop culture is becoming quite obvious.
Contrary to punitive, ultra-conservative and pervasively power-hungry platforms, the 45th president of the United States is now inspiring liberal, meaningful television story lines. At least two dramas on network television more than slightly reference the shortcomings and undoing of the former (self-proclaimed) reality television icon.
Most obvious was the title change of Madam Secretary to Madam President during the show’s season premiere. The theme of collusion, corruption, and cyber meddling of foreign countries provided the punch required to set the course for the upcoming season as the first fictional female U.S. president sets out on her journey.
Television has a history of solid Whitehouse-based episodic dramas. Madam Secretary has already had a decent run and, no doubt, we will watch further not-so-subtle references to the current real-life administration for the remainder of the season. Trump’s ways and days are full of mass media story lines waiting to be retold.
But, it was the new courtroom drama All Rise that caught my eye with an episode heavily based on the ‘send them home’ cries you often hear reported at Trump rallies as he attempts to cap (in fact, eliminate) immigration into his country. It may well be the watermark of his presidency, with or without his promised walls.
The courtroom case we end up following in episode two of All Rise – in addition to the show’s sub-text along the racial divide – stems from charges levied against a driver who attempts to run down a woman with his pickup truck after shouting “go back where you came from”.
Immigration, on this continent and globally, is a hot topic and is not particularly new to television; Madam Secretary last season focused its camera on the children being held captive, away from their parents, at the Mexican border in an accurate moment of art reflecting life.
What I find refreshing is the tone of the writing in both shows. I believe we are starting to hear some true empathy behind the stories, and we are seeing believable characters fighting injustice, human rights, and freedom of the press as it continues to be called into question by a president who spends more of his time bragging and tweeting insults than taking care of the nation’s business.
I don’t watch a lot of television. In fact, I now only stream and with not a lot of regularity, but every once on a while a show captures my imagination.
Edward R. Murrow, more than half a century ago, labeled television as the “opiate of the people”, a criticism over poor programming and the improper use of what, then, was considered progressive technology. In the decades that followed, channels were added and programs improved, and while a swath of pap still exists, there is a show or two that seems to raise the bar. In doing so, it raises our consciousness of what is happening on this planet.
It does not, however, shield us from the self-serving and sufficiently insidious posturing of an amoral politician that continues to take up a large percentage of the never-ending news cycle. Perhaps the subjects and story lines addressed on small screen dramas may help nudge us towards a kinder gentle nation.
In an era where the reality of what’s going on has out-trumped reality television, I can only hope entertainment with a mindful message and sympathetic soul can get us thinking about what really matters.