Movie Blogging In The Age Of Trump

Doctor Strange.

Jackie.

Arrival.

These are all movies I have seen in the past two weeks that are right up my alley (a new Marvel movie AND Oscar Contenders!? A dream come true!) and movies I should be chomping at the bit to write about. All three of these movies are great, displaying that end-of-year release that makes this season so great for movie fans. So what’s the deal? Why the delay in reviewing them? To put it simply, for the past week I’ve been fluctuating between absolute nausea and overwhelming worry at the thought of the next four years. Donald Trump will be our next President, so we need to figure some things out.

This is not a post that will announce the blog is being transformed into a political advocacy page (we’ll be getting back to movies at the end of this folks). This is not a post to say we need to get over it (we don’t) or to reassure you that “everything will be ok” (it won’t). This is not a post where I assume my readers are looking to me for an authoritative opinion (guys, I ranked the X-Men movies two weeks ago).

This is for me.

I have sat down to write those reviews several times over the past week, and I have been stopped dead in my tracks every time. Whether overcome with sadness or politically-filled rage, I have been unable to put my fingers to the keyboard and process my thoughts about some amazing films. We have a President-elect who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States, bring back waterboarding, deport millions of people during week one, is in favor of the unconstitutional Stop And Frisk, and is more likely to create an alliance with Vladimir Putin than he is to honor our allies in NATO.

With all that in mind, what’s the point in writing about movies?

Variations of that question have kept me paralyzed for the past week. What’s point in retweeting funny memes? Who cares about how memorable the music is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Is now really the time for an awesome cheese dip recipe on Facebook? If you’re reading this, then you are someone who takes time out of their day to think about media and entertainment more than the average consumer, I’m gonna assume (if you’re worried about the President-elect like I am) that questions like this have plagued you too.

I really do want to get back to movie blogging, but I have to process some thoughts in order to move forward. I’m not gonna assume this is gonna be some life-changing post for anybody reading this. Though I’ve got over 250 Twitter/Facebook followers, I’m very well aware only a handful click through to my posts. So for those who are here to listen to me externally process, thanks for being part of the faithful readership, and please allow me some space to get some things off my chest.

Movie Blogging In The Age Of Trump

Though I do have some thoughts on what life will look like moving forward, sometimes it’s easier to just state what it won’t be. There have been some other posts/videos out there dealing with this subject, using those as a guide I want to be clear what I am NOT saying. I am not saying the following things:

#1: “How bad can it get?” or “Don’t worry guys, we’ll be back to normal in no time.”

No.

We won’t.

And yes.

It will be bad.

There has been this sentiment that we need to give Trump a chance. “Let’s see how he governs.” “Maybe there is some common ground we can come together on for working families.” “All that stuff he said was just campaign rhetoric, he’s not really gonna do any of it.” The idea that he’s not really going to move forward with his unconstitutional proposals, that we should just ignore the past 18 months, is ridiculous. Words matter. Whether or not he enacts them doesn’t matter at this point. The KKK is already celebrating in North Carolina and Trump-inspired hate crimes are happening as we speak.

To the idea that we need to “give him a chance” or “wait to see how he’ll govern,” let’s look at two examples as to why that is not a viable option.

  1. As President-elect (no longer just a candidate), he was asked if he would require Muslims to register in a national database, Trump said “Absolutely.” When asked how this database would be different from the Jewish databases in Nazi Germany, he ignored the question and moved on. Give me a break guys. No amount of “economic anxiety” excuses a President-elect from having ideas as toxic as this.
  2. This is a big one, Trump has appointed Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Steve Bannon is a misogynist White Nationalist who used to run the alt-right cesspool that is Breitbart. Though I just used many different words in that description, one sentence ought to frighten (and then enrage) anybody reading this: A White Nationalist is a few months away from being inside the White House. (the strength of our representative government is being tested here as Senators and members of Congress are being petitioned to use their influence to stop this appointment dead in it’s tracks)

#2: “Politics are dumb, it doesn’t really matter, we just got too hyped up.”

While there is an aspect that maybe we all got a little too aggravated this past year, that is not to say that politics are stupid. Politics are important. Just ask the millions who have health care now that wouldn’t without the Affordable Care Act. Just ask the gay soldier who can now serve his country as a patriot without having to hide their true identity. Just ask my Liberty University co-worker who had his right to vote reinstated after he was released from prison years ago. Whether we like it or not, politics are important. And whether we want to admit it or not, the politics of Donald Trump are set to take our country back 50 years.


#3: “Let’s use movies as a means of escapism to avoid this tough stuff.

This might be the hardest temptation. Whether it be watching film/television or engaging with some analysis online, it can seem natural to use Westworld discussion as a means of ignoring the craziness happening in our country. Maybe there is a time for that. Maybe a vidoe making fun of the Transformers series is just what we need to make it through a tough week at work or a family tragedy. But that can’t be the standard frame of reference for four years.

It would be a disservice to our fellow country men and women to just put our heads in the sands. It would also be a disservice to the filmmakers behind this entertainment, simply using their work as a drug to escape the harsh realities of the world. While I’ll address this a little more below, we need not be ashamed of our love of storytelling. Watching and reading about movies is not simply a hobby or a means of escapism. I actually experience joy in watching film, and that joy is only enhanced via analysis and discussion.


#4: “We’re going to reform this blog to tackle politics through the lens of movies.”

As you can probably tell, I have strong feelings about current events and politics and how we as artists (using that term loosely) should address them. The biggest thing I want to communicate is that I will not be using movie discussion as a means to address political topics. Maybe that will become a separate blog (I highly doubt it), but that discussion is not warranted here.

Now don’t get me wrong, our beliefs/worldview/politics shape who we are and will (of course) influence our viewing of any given piece of art. This blog is a place where I get to give you my opinion on movies. This is an extremely personal place and I am extremely biased (spoiler alert: if you are on a blog entitled Tarpley Movie Talk then you will be exposed to the opinions of Josh Tarpley), so it is to be expected that anything related to my worldview will come up when discussing movies. Looking back to those three recent movies, it will be impossible to discuss Doctor Strange without discussing its spirituality and how I am interacting with the film from my place of faith. Similarly, reviewing Arrival or Jackie (a movie about how a First Lady struggles with her own political influence!) all but requires an understanding and opinion of political things.

So though a political worldview will be integrated to movie discussion, this blog will not be taking the shape of an advocacy website.


So Why Even Write About Movies?

For any of my movie-blogging friends, that’s the ultimate question isn’t it? Why am I taking time out of my day to sit down and nerd out about visual storytelling? I can’t speak for other writers or give understanding to their reasoning, I can only tell you where I’m coming from. To make a long story short, I’ve always love watching movies, then I found I liked talking about movies with my friends, then I discovered the internet gives you an opportunity to talk movies with other nerds from around the world, and then I found that I could contribute to the conversation myself through blogging.

As mentioned above, I do this because I love film and television. Watching a satisfying movie or seeing a plot developed in a TV show actually brings pleasure to my life. I experience real emotion though this medium (and suspect you do too). Whether it be reading it or writing it, analysis and discussion have only served to enhance my enjoyment of entertainment. Whether it be long takes on controversial movies, funny YouTube videos, or highly informed Awards predictions, this stuff is a part of who I am.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a big nerd when it comes to this stuff. My brain is stimulated when I see someone make a good point about a movie on Twitter. I’m able to feel some real emotions inside a theater. My wife and I’s relationship was started over a love of movies and that continues to this day (I know, I know, you can’t believe it, a guy who blogs about movies for fun is married to someone who likes movies too, crazy right?).

Anybody in the same position as me deals with something all the time though, we all know that this doesn’t really matter. Yes, there are stories of people who were suicidal and then that one Game of Thrones podcast helped them get through their struggle, and I’m not belittling that at all. But in the grand scheme of things, we all have to come to terms that it is crazy people can make a living by playing make-believe on camera…and it is even crazier that we spend our lives analyzing the people who are playing make-believe.

This goes back to my earlier point, I don’t want to be trivial here and say that movies are dumb and just used for escapism. That is not what I’m saying. Film is important, Film criticism is important. For me, the Oscars are important. For me, the cultural impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is important. This stuff is important to me guys, but this election season has forced me to deal with the two passions in my life. One, my deep love for film and film discussion. Two, WANTING TO SEE OUR COUNTRY TAKEN CARE OF BY MEANS OF A REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT.


Moving Forward

So how am I going to move forward, trying to blog about movies in the age of Trump? Again, this is not a call to action for anyone else. This is a deeply personal post. I want to make this clear, I simply could not go back to writing (or even tweeting) about movies until I processed some of these thoughts. So how am I going to move forward? Well, no matter what, I’m gonna jump back in the arena of movie blogging and Oscar punditry. As you can probably tell, my conscience won’t let me go back to being a movie nerd without also contributing to our country in some way. With that in mind, I will be doing the following under the Trump presidency:

-I’m going to try and stay less political on social media. Though it may seem like sharing that video or giving your opinion is really going to change things, it probably isn’t. The people who engage with you on your social media feeds are already part of your bubble, we are all just contributing to an already established echo chamber. There are many means of activism, personal social media pages seem to be one of the least effective (no one is changing their vote due to a retweet).

-I’m going to cherish and grow my relationships with various friends and family members. Taking care of the people around you is the strongest protest to Donald Trump. He is a person that only cares about himself and has spent 18 months dividing people and pitting Americans against each other. This is a little hard for me since it is natural to be more introverted, but this election has taught me the importance of loving the people in my life (early I said this wasn’t a call to arms for anybody else, but I do highly recommend everyone take this action on their own). In the words of J.K. Simmons, “call your mom.”

-I’m going to continue along a recent direction I’ve taken in self-improvement. I won’t let Trump’s racially-charged authoritarian office dictate how I have been improving in various areas of my life. First, I actually developed a budget for the first time in my life and am on the path to paying off a credit card (come to think of it, paying off a credit card is THE biggest protest to the failed business man that is Donald Trump). Secondly, that ever important goal of a healthy lifestyle. I’ve put off a lot of weight this year and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

-I’m going to VOTE. And this is not just tweeting out funny suggestions for who should run in 2020. I’m talking the 2018 mid-terms and any other local elections that may be held during the off years. As simple as it may seem, voting is important, and not just every four years. But simply showing up to vote is the bare minimum I must do to feel engaged, which leads me to my last point-

-I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and help out causes and organizations I feel important. Whether it be the ACLU or HRC, I’m simply going to set up a series of low dollar monthly donations. I’m aware that a couple bucks here or there might not help an organization change the world, but I have to start somewhere. There are organizations that are important, and if we all just pitched in a couple bucks a month it would go a long way. There are many methods of activism, at this point in my life, I feel comfortable funding those who are doing some great work (maybe that will change later in my life and I’ll jump in the arena myself, who knows).

Well, there you have it, a random collection of political ramblings and movie fandom. I really don’t know how this post will be received by other people. I hope it will help you process your thoughts, I know it helped me process mine. I’ll be honest, writing this post has been extremely therapeutic. I am ready to stand against President-elect Trump AND I am ready to give you my thoughts of Doctor Strange! Hopefully my reviews and Oscar predictions are coming out sooner rather than later. Thanks for reading this and let’s get back to the movies guys, there are SO MANY good films coming out these days.


I highly recommend you check out the following:

-This piece at IndieWire: How Filmmaking and Film Critics Need to Adapt In The Age of Trump

-This video from Bob Chipman. I’m a newer fan of “Movie Bob,” but man did this video hit the nail on the head. Though it may seem like I was just copying his points in this post, that tells you the amount of solace I found in watching the video, I was thinking these same thoughts before I even pressed play:


-And as always, the ever influential John Oliver. Seriously, take some time and watch his 30-minute piece on President-elect Trump. There is not only a sense of closure to it all but that ever important call to action:

 


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