Donald Trump is leaving. There are tens of millions of people who regret it. On the other hand, they will be few among the artists to mourn his departure on January 20.
One would have thought that in the adversity of the Trump presidency, artists would be inspired to create like never before. It is not, says columnist Judy Burman in a text in the magazine Time published last week (Donald Trump’s Presidency Was Supposed to Be Great for Art. It Wasn’t). According to the journalist, for the past four years, Donald Trump has mainly polarized opinions in a binary cartoonish logic and channeled anger among artists which in return only provoked a painful creative impulse.
The nuance, Judy Burman believes, was the first cultural victim of the Trump era. The US president has become the easy target of dubious gags, if not the proverbial villain of all scary stories. The hackneyed farce turkey, the obese buffoon on whom to project all his grievances, a walking metaphor for the decline of the empire and the new reign of indecency.
Did Trump push artists to surpass themselves, to surpass themselves, to transcend their discipline? Rather, he seems to have suffocated them, by dint of breathing all the ambient oxygen while occupying all the media space.
Like the sketches of the show Saturday Night Live, the comedians were ordered to reproduce the original, but less comical (since his controversial animation of the show, at the start of the 2016 election campaign). They may have shouted at ridiculing Trump for four years, they have never reached the ankle of the principal concerned.
Sarah Cooper understood that Donald Trump was a larger than life character, one that we could not parody because he is such a caricature of himself. The comedian has been a resounding success by interpreting on social networks the words of the outgoing president, doubling his most absurd statements by adding hilarious mimics and rolling eyes. Sarah Cooper alone illustrated the cultural vacuum that is Donald Trump. The special she presented on Netflix was not quite as comical as her short clips on TikTok.
The hosts of the late-night American shows have also had their day with the Trump presidency (The gift that keeps on giving, as the saying goes), but laughed more and more yellow-orange (sorry) over time. I myself have come to no longer distinguish the tone of a monologue by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC and that of an op-ed by Don Lemon on CNN. The stand-up number and the sardonic note drinking from the same sources of indignation.
It has been said often: a novel, a television series or a film whose narrative arc includes as many twists as the Trump presidency – even in a single month – would be judged implausible. Every time it was believed Trump had hit rock bottom, he found a way to dig deeper into the outrageous, the abject, and the abysmal.
Rather than inspiring artists, the 45e President of the United States especially exasperated them. Few of them found favor in his eyes, except for his most ardent supporters: Ted Nugent, Scott Baio, Randy Quaid or James Woods.
For four years, Donald Trump has openly despised not only many artists, but already weakened public cultural institutions. He promised to cut their food, granules in the federal budget, so that the mode of financing of these national organizations – theatrical, museums, musical, even media -, pillars of artistic life in the United States, is reduced to nothing. Fortunately, once again he broke his promises.
In a country where culture has never had the right to the equivalent of a Minister of Culture, the laws of the market occupy a central place. These are the only laws that Donald Trump seems to obey. What he sees as culture worth living is one that is profitable, in hard cash. The commercial culture of the American steamroller, which will be the main one to survive after the present health crisis. Starting with the blockbusters Hollywood, which will face, all but on a level playing field, independent films in what remains of movie theaters in the United States.
The not only political but cultural legacy of the Trump era is heartbreaking. The COVID-19 crisis, which he has minimized from the start, has threatened entire cultural sectors (notably cinema and theater).
In a short time, the American brand image was greatly damaged. The American dream, magnified by the global influence of its culture, makes people dream less.
After the Trumpian cultural desert, Joseph Biden – seen in the reassuring role of the patriarch in a soap opera titled Grandpa is right – will he be the savior so desired by artists? asks my colleague Charles-Éric Blais-Poulin.
The American cultural community should not have too many hopes in him. President Barack Obama, for all his inspiring cultural prescriptions on social networks (he publishes his list of the best books, albums, series and films every year), did not invest substantial sums in the arts during his two terms. . And he would have resisted representations by Quincy Jones to appoint a head of a cultural portfolio to his government.
Unlike Donald Trump, who has never been seen promoting the arts and artists, Barack Obama was much more an ally than an enemy. What Joe Biden should logically be. (Incidentally, when he was Vice President, in the summer of 2016, Biden suggested a list of his favorite songs for the Spotify platform that included Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen, in the version of kd lang.)
The American president considered closest to the world of the arts was undoubtedly John F. Kennedy. His name was also associated shortly after his assassination with the new National Center of the Arts in Washington. Although some claim that it is his wife Jacqueline who was the true pasionaria of the arts in the couple and that Jack was especially interested in the geostrategic power of American culture.
“The arts embody the creativity of a free people,” an American president once wrote. When the creative impulse cannot flourish, when it cannot freely choose its methods and objects, when its spontaneity has been withdrawn from it, then society cuts off the roots of art. ”
A hint: it wasn’t Donald Trump.