The last time I wrote about Samantha Bee it was the summer of 2016, Hillary Clinton seemed likely to be the next president of the United States, and liberals were very angry at Bee’s fellow late-night host, Jimmy Fallon, for normalizing Donald Trump with a relatively friendly interview.
In response, I suggested that Bee and her fellow late-night liberal shouters were actually doing more for the Republican nominee than was Fallon, because Trump’s appeal was in part a reaction to a pervasive late-Obama-era politicization of pop culture — which was encouraging Republican voting as a form of cultural protest, and Trump voting as an act of transgressive rebellion.
Many times since the 2016 election, but in the last few weeks especially, I feel like I’ve been cursed to live inside an exaggerated version of my own analysis. I thought I was just describing how trends in pop culture can shape politics, but the Trump presidency has demonstrated that when the unemployment rate is low enough and the ruling party’s policy cupboard bare enough, entertainment can simply become politics and vice versa. Forget about culture war; this is the age of pop culture war, a version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with all the Cold War substance taken out.
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