Friday, February 21, 2020

About Trump and Parasite

Donald Trump’s comments about Parasite winning the Oscar for Best Picture have done what they were meant to do – energise his base and annoy his non-base. The film has all the necessary attributes to make it a hate object for the president, being cast entirely with people not lucky enough to be white Americans, and it’s subtitled, which requires reading and concentration. His ignorance is genuine, but it’s also performative and weaponised. This is not just about people who don’t watch foreign films with subtitles, which doubtless covers most Americans; it’s about those who react to such films with an instinctive fear and loathing, as if they represent all that is wrong with the world. People who do enjoy them are weird, dangerous, the other.

And if Trump had actually bothered to watch the film, he’d have discovered that it’s about the perils of an unequal society, especially because it pokes fun at rich people who, like Trump himself, barely manage to conceal the visceral loathing they feel for the poor people without whom they would be unable to function. He compared it unfavourably with Gone With The Wind, which he obviously hasn’t seen either, because it’s too long and isn’t about him, or porn, but he does know that it’s reassuringly racist and sexist and was directed by the enthusiastically pro-Nazi Victor Fleming, so it must be OK.

The paradox of Trump when it comes to matters of culture is that, despite his feeble attempts to pass himself off as a man of the people, he was born into enormous wealth, and enjoyed an eye-waveringly expensive education; an education, however, that seems to have passed straight through him like cultural Olestra, never touching the sides and leaving nothing but a greasy residue.

PS: Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

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