Of course Darth Vader voted for Trump. Get over it, libs
Donald Clarke: All the Friends voted Democrat, right? No wonder the party is in trouble
Trump supporters: Star Wars miniatures line out for Donald Trump. Photograph: David Gilliver/Barcroft via Getty
Hello, Trump fans! I’m joking, of course. Even the stereotypical Irish Times reader – so demonised by Angry Twitter (“Neoliberal, Dublin 4 Centrist Dad!”) – has reservations about the cowpat of ego that occupies the White House.
Domestic discourse on the recent US midterm elections (a contest that would, in this country, have once been as obscure as plebiscites in Ulan Bator) has been characterised by fear and bafflement. It was as if the George Bailey Party were running against the Childcatcher Contingent.
But was that right? At the height of the pre-poll clamour, Matt Zoller Seitz, distinguished American film and TV critic, posited an interesting thesis about Mr Bailey and the other characters in Frank Capra’s most famous film. “Everybody in It’s A Wonderful Life would’ve voted for Trump, except for Mary and Clarence. Even George is a toss-up,” he remarked.
The Joker is a Trumpian. So are Ebenezer Scrooge, Iago, Shere Khan and Sauron
Women skewed away from Trump in 2016 (figuratively and, I’m betting, literally), so we can cautiously mark down George Bailey’s long-suffering wife for the Democrats. Trump would surely accept that Clarence voted for that party too. Remember that he is an angel and thus dead. “Voter fraud! Such bad voter fraud!”
George Bailey himself is a trickier proposition. In an essay for the British Film Institute, Pamela Hutchinson reminds us that, early on, the protagonist, plucky manager of a building society in Bedford Falls, despises this “crummy old town” and longs to escape and build skyscrapers. He’s a bit of a tool. But he seems keen on entering the cosmopolitan elite that so appals the average Trump supporter. Later, after Clarence helps free him from despair, George embraces all the cosy pleasures of flyover life. He really could be one of the “nice” Trump supporters that Newsnight is always suggesting we shouldn’t discount.
Joker Trumps all
It’s very easy, when ascribing political positions to fictional characters, to mark all the bad guys down as Trump supporters. Why not? It’s fun. Darth Vader is a Trumpian. The Joker is a Trumpian. So are Ebenezer Scrooge, Iago, Shere Khan and Sauron. Look how much fun we can have identifying Trump figures in popular television. Charles Winchester is Trump in MASH. We know for certain that – before political aberrations killed her off – Roseanne really was a Trump supporter in the series that bore her name. More or less everyone voted Trump in Game of Thrones.
Walter White began Breaking Bad in soft liberal mode (a hard-working teacher) and ended it as a full-on Trumpian nightmare (a ruthless entrepreneur who reverses over competitors for fun). Michael Corleone goes through a similar journey in The Godfather. “They’re saps because they risk their lives for strangers,” Sonny says of young men who enlist. “Oh, that’s Pop talking,” Michael, a war hero, replies despairingly. By the close of the picture he has embraced capitalism at its most efficiently thuggish.
None of this is worth saying. For a start, by swapping Trump for villains, we avoid having to ask questions about the complex forces that created the real thing. Heck, everyone of every political persuasion thinks their opponent is Darth Vader. He’s Trump. He’s also Hillary Clinton. He’s both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The Star Wars franchise didn’t knock up $9.3 billion by appealing to liberals alone.
Moreover, identifying Trump surrogates in popular culture gets us away from the more interesting bit of the game. Who are the Trump voters out there in our fictional universes?
The Walking Red
The psephologists have had a fairly easy time of it with recent American elections. Never have the political divides been starker. A map of Illinois after the 2016 election illustrates the demographics. Clinton won the state by a comfortable 17 points, but the map is a near-unbroken mass of Republican red surrounding one dense blue patch in Chicago. There are Trump voters everywhere. (After all, Roseanne lived somewhere in the edges of that great city.) But the divisions are, more than anything else, now between the urban and rural.
On balance of probabilities, most of the Waltons – apparently neutral on the New Deal – would now be voting for Donald Trump. The Beverly Hillbillies are certainly Trump supporters: relocated rural types who profit from lower taxes on the super-rich. So, yes, it would be a big surprise if Bedford Falls hadn’t swung for Donald in 2016 and last Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the urban heroes of popular culture tramp out loyally for Democrats. Perhaps that points to a corner of the party’s problem. We can count on all six of the ghastly friends from Friends voting for the current Democrat. Right? Smug Ross, selfish Chandler, boorish Joey, rude Monica, dippy Phoebe, ignorant Rachel. Eugh! No wonder the masses on the plains and in the valleys turned against the urban elite. Who wouldn’t want to vote for Trump after a glance at that lot?