Forget spending time with loved ones and grilling meat for America—Eric Trump has his own ideas about how true patriots should spend their Memorial Day weekend.
The combover in training boasted that he and his wife Lara devoted their holiday weekend to watching Michael Bay’s Benghazi flick, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Trump’s son told Fox News that the film made him “literally livid.” In response to Hillary Clinton’s recent criticism of Trump Sr.’s presidential qualifications, and prior to Clinton’s much-ballyhooed speech attacking The Donald’s foreign policy bona fides, Eric Trump exclaimed, “Her foreign policy has literally cost this country trillions of dollars, thousands of lives…She left these guys on a rooftop in the middle of Benghazi getting shot at, having mortars drop on their head because she wouldn’t pick up a phone call in the middle of the night.”
In the hopes of riling up his fellow countrymen, Trump Jr. ended his tirade with a laughably sincere assignment: “I think in order to vote in this next election, you should have to watch that movie.”
In the tragicomedy that is the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump’s son’s insistence that every voting American ought to watch a Michael Bay movie falls somewhere between Hillary Clinton’s Nae Nae and Trump bragging about the size of his own Trump Jr. Barack Obama’s best speech writers couldn’t have imagined a better quip about the current state of our union. The unintentional joke is as multi-faceted as a Michael Bay movie isn’t. The Trumps, self-fashioned tastemakers with a distinct lack of taste, would recommend the work of a filmmaker who’s been hailed as, “The crassest hack in the business.” Bay is an industry punching bag, the man behind such cinematic travesties as the Transformers franchise and Bad Boys II, which one critic mournfully described as “a catastrophic violation of every aspect of cinema that I as a film critic hold dear.”
Eric Trump could have endorsed any filmmaker—instead, he went for the rich, insensitive playboy with a taste for loud violence and a penchant for beach blondes. It’s an uncomfortable reminder of how Trump has profited off of and encouraged the dumbing down of the American people, eagerly ushering in a world in which two and a half hours of gratuitous explosions is considered patriotic edification.
Apparently in Trump Land, a Michael Bay movie is the prioritized voting prerequisite—as opposed to human decency, basic empathy, critical thinking skills, or not being a xenophobe.
And we’re not just talking about any Michael Bay movie.
Bay’s Benghazi opus is more than just a movie you wouldn’t even watch on a plane. It’s also a big hunk of lies and exaggerations, wrapped up in conservative dogma and served to the Hillary-hating masses. In the past, Bay has dodged overt political affiliations, saying only, “I’m very proud of my country; obviously it’s going through a lot of turmoil, and we have a very ineffectual government.” While Bay might not be a declared conservative, 13 Hours has been deliberately marketed to conservative audiences—pre-release screenings were strategically held in red states, and advertisements for the movie ran multiple times throughout January’s Republican presidential primary debate (Ted Cruz even closed out one of the GOP debates with a gushy plug for the film).
The movie, which Bay claims has “no political agenda,” capitalized off of and arguably fueled anti-Clinton rhetoric. The Guardian’s review accused 13 Hours of having a “not-very-subtle screenplay where Fox News viewers are cued to hiss at a phantom Hillary Rodham Clinton.” And hiss they did—Republican groups hosted screenings of the movie, and conservative politicians and pundits hailed the film’s dramatization of D.C.’s inaction during the Benghazi attacks as a criticism of Clinton’s performance as Secretary of State.
Unsurprisingly, Bay’s attempt to rally Republican moviegoers came at the expense of verisimilitude.
In spite of the targeted marketing campaign, Michael Bay assured audiences that his film was a well-researched, unbiased, and altogether truthful retelling of the fatal terrorist attack. This was quickly and wholly debunked by CIA officials, who explained that Bay mishandled vital details and twisted plot points.
A crucial scene in the film shows the officer in charge of the security team ordering his men to stand down, instead of attempting to save the life of the captured US Ambassador to Libya, the late Chris Stevens. According to the real-life officer in charge of the CIA’s Benghazi facility that night, his fictional counterpart’s actions are entirely fictitious. “There never was a stand-down order,” the officer told The Washington Post. “At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart.” Nothing that could even be “interpreted as equivalent” to such an order took place. The House of Representatives’ account of the incident confirms the officer’s intel, claiming that the stand-down order was uncorroborated, and further expressing doubt that any sort of tactical call—from Washington or from the armed operatives on the ground—could have saved the American diplomat. In Bay’s fact-bending scene, the officer and his stand-down order are obvious stand-ins for Secretary of State Clinton and her band of D.C. insiders, who are depicted as undermining the guard detail—strong, rugged military men who were willing and able to successfully carry out the mission.
Of course, when it comes to the Trump campaign, Michael Bay’s willingness to totally twist the truth makes his film even more on brand. As does Michael Bay’s history of misogyny, another one of Donald Trump’s core values.
This past week, Kate Beckinsale elaborated on some of Bay’s less savory directing tactics. The actress said that Bay ordered her to work out and diet on the set of Pearl Harbor, noting, “I think he was baffled by me because my boobs weren’t bigger than my head and I wasn’t blonde…I’d just had my daughter and had lost weight, but I was told that if I got the part, I’d have to work out. And I just didn’t understand why a 1940s nurse would do that.”
And the charm didn’t stop there—Beckinsale continued, “When we were promoting the film, Michael was asked why he had chosen Ben and Josh, and he said, ‘I have worked with Ben before and I love him, and Josh is so manly and a wonderful actor’…Then when he was asked about me, he’d say, ‘Kate wasn’t so attractive that she would alienate the female audience.’ He kept saying it everywhere we went—and we went to a lot of places!”
While gendered double standards and gross body and beauty norms are the Hollywood norm, Bay has spent his career taking dude director ickiness to the next level. Megan Fox, who Bay first cast in Bad Boys II as a 15-year-old in a bikini dancing under a waterfall, later compared the director to both Napoleon and Hitler.
From being compared to Hitler to a sincere devotion to misogyny, Michael Bay and Donald Trump actually have a lot in common. As much as we might hate him, we can’t look away from Trump. He’s a train wreck; the kind of explosion that Michael Bay specializes in. Except when it comes to Trump, the collateral damage is unimaginable. Eric Trump’s endorsement of a blatantly false political thriller isn’t just an ignorant son speaking out of turn—it’s another missive from the front lines of a presidential campaign where loud shouting and mindless chaos are quickly becoming the status quo.