There’s a compelling argument to be made that if Donald Trump had been asked to host the 2016 Academy Awards, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this current presidential predicament.
In February 2015, the future commander-in-chief shared a characteristically bright idea: “The Academy Awards last night were absolutely terrible,” he bemoaned, “Terrible, boring, ugly sets, everything. I have the perfect host for next year: me.” Four months later, undoubtedly ignored by the Hollywood elitists that he so fervently wished to perform for, Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy. More than half a year into an unprecedented presidency, during which the POTUS continues to tweet his reactions to awards ceremonies, carefully chart TV ratings, and reportedly spend an unhealthy amount of time in front of the boob tube, it’s more apparent than ever that Donald Trump would rather be rehearsing cheesy skits with A-listers than meeting with foreign dignitaries or poring over intelligence briefings.
One of the many disturbing facets of having a TV-obsessed, celebrity-rabid president is the like-minded company he keeps. This month, miscellaneous Trump heads have shown their true colors as wannabe Hollywood elites—all while paying lip service to the “limousine liberal” ire that got their fearless orange leader elected. Recently, the real Hollywood elites appear to have latched on to team Trump’s hypocrisy, and are resolved to take him and his cohorts to task.
Speaking to a group of reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival, bona fide A-lister George Clooney emphasized that, “Steve Bannon is a failed fucking screenwriter, and if you’ve ever read [his] screenplay, it’s unbelievable… Now, if he’d somehow managed miraculously to get that thing produced, he’d still be in Hollywood, still making movies and licking my ass to get me to do one of his stupid-ass screenplays.” Clooney offered The Daily Beast an equally explicit elaboration: “Steve Bannon is a pussy.” He concluded, “Someone in Hollywood should’ve given him a script—or approved one of his scripts—just to keep him out of the right wing.”
While giving Bannon the Hollywood glory he clearly thirsted after may have been a good long-term tactic, it would have involved bankrolling projects like The Thing I Am, a rap musical that Bannon co-wrote.
The painfully bad script, which The Daily Beast managed to get ahold of last year, reimagines Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus through the lens of the L.A. riots. According to The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng, the script “includes rap music, racial tensions aplenty, looting, gangster ‘foot-soldiers,’ and chaos at ‘ground zero of the 1992 L.A. riots.’ Coriolanus’s Menenius Agrippa, a senator of Rome, is recast as ‘Agrippa, ‘Mack Daddy’ of South Central, an ORIGINAL GANGSTA (O.G.) upper-echelon Blood.” Suebsaeng also noted that, “This project appears to embody the progressive, social-justice principles that Bannon’s media flagship—the Breitbart network—emphatically rejects.” Bannon’s taste for making Shakespeare bad (but arguably woke!) is directly at odds with his later efforts to make America great. In spite of his history as a budget Lin-Manuel Miranda who collects Seinfeld residuals to this day—not to mention his Goldman Sachs coin—the ousted Bannon is still trying to gain political points by bashing “limousine liberals.”
Clooney isn’t the only celebrity who’s sick of the right’s penchant for crying “Hollywood elite.” On Tuesday night, Jimmy Kimmel continued his righteous campaign against politicians who would deny their constituents crucial healthcare, calling out GOP senators for their most recent attack against the Affordable Care Act. Kimmel’s moral stand was quickly dismissed by Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, who wrote Kimmel off as “Hollywood elite,” ranting, “Sunday’s politically charged Emmys may have been the lowest-rated in history, but that’s not stopping Hollywood elites like comedian Jimmy Kimmel from pushing their politics on the rest of the country.”
Kimmel wasted little time shutting Kilmeade down during his late-night monologue. “The reason I found this comment to be particularly annoying is because this is a guy, Brian Kilmeade, who whenever I see him kisses my ass like a little boy meeting Batman,” the host explained. “He’s such a fan. I think he’s been to the show, he follows me on Twitter, he asked me to write a blurb for his book—which I did, he calls my agent looking for projects. He’s dying to be a member of the ‘Hollywood elite.’ The only reason he’s not a member of the ‘Hollywood elite’ is that no one will hire him to be one!”
Unfortunately for these hypocritical hangers-on, an association with Trump doesn’t exactly curry favor with the A-list entertainment crowd. Sean Spicer learned this the hard way last Sunday night, when he was inexplicably asked to appear at the Emmys, milking his dishonest and shameful stint as White House press secretary for laughs. Initially, Spicer’s craven lunge for the spotlight seemed to be going well, with Page Six reporting that he was “the belle of the ball at the after-parties”—reportedly mingling with the likes of Ben Affleck, Alex Baldwin, and James Corden. Spicer’s decision to participate in the ceremony spoke to his poor character, and his willingness to suck up to so-called coastal elites in the hopes of scoring a second act.
Sadly for Sean, redemption doesn’t appear to be in the cards—as evidenced by the swift backlash against his cheesy skit. The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon joined the choir of celebrities, critics, and civilians criticizing Spicer, writing, “Former Trump staffers making light of the administration only after they’ve left the White House and their jobs are no longer at risk does not absolve them of their complicity in the international dumpster fire they were more than happy to pour gasoline over while they were still getting a paycheck… This dude does not get to be a folk hero.” No matter how desperately they want to go Hollywood, it seems like fired/retired members of the Trump administration are going to have to resign themselves to under-unemployment and infamy.
It’s no wonder that Trumpsters would trade anything, including their non-existent integrity, for a Hollywood project or a selfie with a TV star. After all, they’ve all sworn allegiance to a man whose chief ideological consistency is his obsession with all things fame or fame-adjacent. Donald Trump’s storied history as a Hollywood hanger-on is as well-documented as it is pathetic.
For a man who critiques “liberal movie people,” our Razzie award-winning president sure has spent a lot of time chasing the spotlight. In addition to The Apprentice, Trump pitched a multitude of horrible-sounding reality TV shows over the course of his career. When he wasn’t trying to get himself or his business on primetime television, Trump was busy posing as his own publicist in order to brag about all the celebrities who wanted to date him. In 1991, John Miller, one of Trump’s alleged publicist alter egos, called People to detail Trump’s allegedly star-studded sex life. “Actresses,” Miller reportedly swore, “just call to see if they can go out with him and things.” The publicist further claimed that Kim Basinger and Madonna had been trying to date Trump. (Both claims were untrue.)
Incapable of bagging a real-life A-list girlfriend, Trump later turned to Twitter, a refuge for wannabes and outsiders everywhere. He’s shared his opinions on numerous entertainment world happenings, chiming in on Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s relationship and advising Miley Cyrus not to “worry about Liam.” It seems that the A-listers who Trump tweeted about weren’t texting him back or offering to hang out at Trump Tower—so he had to console himself with the has-beens who agreed to appear on The Celebrity Apprentice.
Perhaps nobody’s said it better than George Clooney, self-appointed Trump administration shit-stirrer. “Donald Trump has 22 acting credits,” Clooney proclaimed. “He collects $120,000 a year in his Screen Actors Guild pension fund. He is a Hollywood elitist”—a Hollywood elitist who everyone in Hollywood hates.