MOVIE REVIEWS |
EDITORIALS | EVENTS |
EXAMINER.COM FILM ARTICLES
Friday, March 4, 2016
The Face Of The American Crowd
Donald Trump, top
photo, and Andy Griffith, above, as Lonesome Rhodes, in Elia Kazan's "A Face In
The Crowd". Getty;
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
For it is impulse, impulse - and impulse alone - that almost always rules.
I just made up the line above. But it's true. Humans are ruled by
impulse and restrained by conscience.
With that said, the most urgent question at the moment is, are we all Marcia Jeffries? Do we have the power,
or more precisely, the willingness to pull
the plug on Donald Trump, the reality television show racist and misogynist who is also a
"A Face In The Crowd", Elia Kazan's excellent 1957 film scripted by Budd
Schulberg, is astonishingly prescient about today's fanatacism, media stardom
and the power of influence over the masses. In the film Andy Griffith is
unforgettable as Lonesome Rhodes, an Arkansas criminal picked up off the prison
scrap heap by Marcia Jeffries (a memorable Patricia Neal) and catapulted to fame
and later megalomania.
Almost sixty years after Mr. Kazan's film Donald Trump is Lonesome
Rhodes -- but far, far worse. Trump, a master manipulator of an equally
calculating and excessively Trump-promoting mainstream media, has obviously watched Mr.
Kazan's film. Though Trump University was one of several calamitous
business failures, Trump himself
is a Lonesome Rhodes scholar of sorts. Trump has lauded the rube class,
much of whom are devoted to him. "I love the poorly educated!", he said last week.
Trump is an apt pupil adept at media, culture and the impulses of people. He knows how
to tweak and disrupt all of these. He entertains in an atmosphere where
skill is less rewarded than slickness and appeal to base instincts. He nods to
violence, endorses it and champions anti-Muslim fervor. Last September he
nodded in agreement as a voluble questioner at his New Hampshire rally said
America's problem was "called Muslims."
But if Donald Trump is a fascist and a narcisist what are we? For a clown
to rule the stage he or she needs an audience. And we are the theater he
plays to. Some of us are repulsed. Others curious. Or
enthralled. Or approving. Even those who say they won't vote for Trump watch him for
"entertainment" purposes. Some voters in the Democratic Party have said
that if their candidate doesn't get the party nomination and Trump is the GOP
nominee they will vote for him.
It is that very thing, that excuse or that impulse that Trump feeds and
massages within human beings - that titillation switch - which may explain why
his popularity is spreading like wildfire across America. It's a
disturbing reality, given Trump's vitriol, hatreds and obvious sociopathic,
unstable ways - that some hardened Bernie Sanders supporters (or Hillary Clinton
supporters, for that matter) - will in an instant vote for Trump. They
secretly desire him. Why? Perhaps because their basest feelings znd
Marcia Jeffries is us in the sense that we project our own demons, desires and
monstrous appetites onto something we see as either helpless or bigger than us.
Or both. We are the architects of projection. We could be projecting
onto Trump and vice versa. Or both.
One could also say that Jeffries is every bit a predator as any major media news
organization CEO is today. She is a hawker of image, willing to carry or
hawk that image wherever it leads and no matter how large it gets. News is
currency. Or more precisely, no news is. Commodity is currency.
The less substance the better.
In a fame-crazed, short-attention-spanned reality TV world, we continuously seek
the next new thing.
Marcia Jeffries and Lonesome Rhodes are two sides of
the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. In "A Face In The
Crowd" they live in a
slow-burn 1957 world. They need each other. They feed off each other
the way Trump and his angry hordes do. The results are drastically
Marcia Jeffries is wide-eyed with a big smile at the start of "A Face In The
Crowd", the architect of the same-titled radio show and the creator of the
Rhodes persona that has taken over America in a blink of an eye. She wants
to get paid. She's upset that she's not making the money she should from
her own creation (with the sexism implicit and explicit in the 1950s
atmosphere). At that moment she's conscious but thinks little of the damage she has
already done. Another impulse rules her: money.
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," Les Moonves, the
CEO of CBS said this week in San Francisco, referring to Donald Trump. Mr.
Moonves (aka Marcia Jeffries) was all laughs as he rejoiced about the windfall
that he and the corporate media entity he runs was making from the ratings on
all things Trump. The mainstream media's relentless coverage of a man with
no substance and all style rakes in millions of dollars for the four
corporations which dominate the media.
Worse yet, at the same time there's no critical questions raised by the
mainstream news media of a candidate who says things but shows no detail, plan
or even the vaguest kind of specifics. The mainstream press have cheerled
and enabled Donald Trump, violating basic rules of journalism. With the
Fairness Doctrine gone thanks to Ronald Reagan, it's all hands on deck. Even the
notion of equal time doesn't even get honored in the true sense on a consistent
basis by the mainstream media.
Many people don't care about substance. They don't have time for it.
And the absence of substance is precisely why
Lonesome Rhodes and Donald Trump thrive. Both are bigots. They
thrive in the circus atmosphere of one-liners, crudeness, callowness and in the
era of silly and trivial debate questions designed to get Republican
presidential candidates skirmishing in a mosh pit.
Besides his appeals and not-so-veiled fealty to white nationalism and racists
Donald Trump is thriving because of Twitter and the 140-character soundbites it
and he speaks in. The brevity and vacuousness Trump exhibits is an
effective strategy of sloganeering simplicity, dumbed-down enough so that the
average person's head doesn't explode.
In "A Face In The Crowd", General Haynesworth, played by Percy Waram, offers
this timely and applicable advice in what was then the dawn of the television
age: "Politics have entered a new stage, the television stage. Instead of
long-winded debates people want capsule slogans: 'Time for a change.' 'The
mess in Washington.' 'More bang for a buck.' Punchlines and
There are lots of punchlines from Donald Trump but glamour is replaced by Trump
supporters assaulting and beating protesters, or in several cases, beating
people who aren't saying anything at all. Fascist, totalitarian violence.
Worse than Lonesome Rhodes, Donald Trump has an army of violent people at his
disposal. When people attack a homeless Latino man and tell the police
that they are Trump supporters, the gimmick of Trump, who announced his run by
saying Mexicans were rapists, gets even more ugly and dangerous.
The truth is, Trump is screaming to white racists across America. He seems
dying to put on Klan sheets in public. He has stripped bare and made a
mockery of Lee Atwater's dog-whistle racist politics. He's the Republican
version of George Wallace, who himself prepared Barry Goldwater (whom Hillary
Clinton admired as a teenager), Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, the first George
Bush, Pat Buchanan and Mitt Romney well in the ways of racist language and coded
messaging. Trump is a good student of it too. He is crazy, extremely
dangerous and pathological but not stupid. He has studied the playbook
well, even stealing Reagan's slogan. He's studied Mussolini. So he
has surely studied Lonesome Rhodes.
The GOP is poised to be torn asunder not because of Trump's initial refusal to
disavow David Duke and the Klan - whom Reagan essentially flirted with while
making a speech in Mississippi in 1980 just a short distance from where three
civil rights workers were murdered - but because they are too subtle.
Trump is a billionaire authoritarian, which fits in to numerous studies,
including Stanley Milgram's experiments, that show that people need, yearn for,
or naturally like or want to be led and have an affinity for authority.
America has long been an authoritarian nation. Founding Fathers.
Patriarchs. The GOP as the Big Daddy party. "I know how to get
things done" is a line politicians often speak.
In "A Face In The Crowd" Marcia Jeffries is the puppetmaster. And the
experimenter. She runs the show and pulls the strings of Lonesome Rhodes,
whom uses a hick persona but also displays a contempt for those around him as
his fame soars. Rhodes is a Frankenstein. The mainstream media and
the GOP has
made Donald Trump a Frankenstein and he, the GOP and the media are playing us
So who pulls the strings of the public? Both Trump and the mainstream
media do. What both are selling is showmanship. Like Reagan, a
pitchman in the 1950s and a B-movie star, Trump is a salesman. Trump is
selling persona, and if he has to use poison as perfume or his brand to do so --
and he has, with racist invective, cursing, calls to violence, anti-Muslim
fervor and misogyny -- he won't hesitate.
Some of the people who are seemingly logical and sensible and well-educated are
falling hard for Donald Trump -- whether due to their own deeply racist
impulses, or the candidate's brashness or riches, or just the need to see
someone new in The White House. It's absurd and troubling that the stand
eschews substance -- especially since no one knows where Trump stands on core
issues. Those who support him don't care. But it's up to the rest of
us not to fall into the trap.
So just who will unplug Donald Trump from the American consciousness? The
mainstream media? No. The public? No. The Establishment?
Maybe. We'll see. It isn't that Donald Trump taps into a
disatisfaction with Washington or the Establisment. I don't buy that.
That's a hook or excuse every politician uses - until they become part of the
Instead Trump is tapping into racists and the will to be hateful, mean, divisive
and bombastic. He is the id of all of those things. He feeds it both
in himself and in his followers. In short, Donald Trump is Demagogue
Central. The difference is, Donald Trump wants to be president of over 300
Lonesome Rhodes only wanted to be loved by them.
COPYRIGHT 2016. POPCORNREEL.COM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
MOVIE REVIEWS |
EDITORIALS | EVENTS |
| PHOTOS |
EXAMINER.COM FILM ARTICLES