When I first heard of the impending release of the film “Sharknado”, at first I couldn’t believe that someone had gone out of their way to make this film, but later, I began to look forward to at it as one of those “it’s so bad it’s good” films. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn’t go far enough in making it really “bad”, and it was a disappointment for reasons that I hadn’t expected, mainly that I wasn’t laughing as hard at the cheesiness of the concept as I would have liked to. Although I must confess to having a soft spot for the comedy gold moment where our leading man takes a chainsaw, allows a shark falling out of the sky to devour him, before cutting himself out of the shark with the chainsaw and saving his leading lady in the process. You don’t get moments like that in film every day.
I’ve been watching a number of video clips of Bill Maher on Real Time over the past month. Bill has been (quite rightly) making light of Donald Trump’s rise to the Republican nomination in the 2016 US Presidential Race. In one of these clips, he refers to Trump’s rise as “Trumpnado”, and it immediately crystallised for me the similarities between the ridiculous nature of “Sharknado” and the rise of Donald Trump. After all, exactly how is it that a man who has built his reputation on endless, narcissistic grandstanding and reality TV celebrity come to being within a whisker of being the Republican’s nominee for President of the United States? Are we watching a bad comedy unfold? Unfortunately we are not. This is very real and come the beginning of November this year, this oaf everyone has been writing off as a clown may very well become the most important person in the world.
Back in 2009, an oaf of our own making in Australia came to the position of leadership of the Liberal Party in Australia. His name was Tony Abbott. Winning the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull by a paltry single vote, Abbott became one of the most ruthless and effective opposition leaders in recent memory. He successfully sent his foes in to a tailspin, which resulted in the disastrous Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard handball match of the century as they battled between them to occupy the Prime Minister’s Office. This led to chaos in the Labor Party and paved the way for Abbott’s unlikely ascension to the top job. Throughout the chaos of the Labor years, everyone wrote off Tony Abbott; he would never ever become Prime Minister they said.
And then, four years after he became Opposition Leader, Abbott became Prime Minister. What followed was two years of what everyone should have expected to occur; leadership devoid of good judgment, an inability to listen to his colleagues and to the wider public, rhetoric that inflamed tensions within our society, and the projection of an image to the world that Australia was a laughing stock. Lines like “I’m going to shirt-front Mr Putin” may work well behind the scenes, but not before the cameras on the world stage. Thankfully, the Liberal Party came to its senses in September last year and removed this oaf from office before he could do any more damage than he already had done. If you want a brief summary of exactly what we went through in Australia during Abbott’s reign, check out this hilarious video by John Oliver:
I bring up the Tony Abbott example because his rise to power was similar to what we are seeing now with Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong; Tony Abbott is no Donald Trump and I would take him any day of the week over the Donald. Abbott is a sane, reasonable politician compared to the sheer stupidity and ignorant statements of what Trump is putting out in to the world. However, as with Abbott, everyone has been quick to dismiss Trump’s continuing rise as an aberration; “don’t worry, at some point, sanity will prevail, people will wake up and he’ll get shown the door.” The problem with this attitude is that everyone is waiting for everyone else to come to their senses; this happened with Tony Abbott, and guess what, he became Prime Minister of Australia. It’s not that much of a stretch to believe that if the same thing happens in the US, Donald Trump will become President of this influential nation. Don’t laugh people, it could actually happen.
I’d like to finish up with Bill Maher’s take on the self-esteem movement. You can watch this hilarious clip below. In essence, he is saying that our culture helps to create the Donald Trumps of the world by not teaching our kids to face reality: that you are not the most important person in the world, that not everyone necessarily likes you, and that’s okay because without a good dose of humility, we wouldn’t be able to function together as human beings or as a wider, civilised society. What is not okay is to tell everyone to “suck it” if they don’t agree with you or don’t like you. Sound like a certainly presidential nominee that we’ve been talking about?