FILM & TV

SATURDAY FILM SCHOOL | 'Our Cartoon President' is More Frightening Than it is Funny

The king of satire somehow misses the mark on Showtime's "Our Cartoon President."

Showtime

The show's inconsistency in terms of comedy—or lack thereof—is understandably a problem of morality...

When Stephen Colbert's "Our Cartoon President" (Showtime) isn't entirely revolting, it's only mildly funny. Aside from Jeff Bergman's Donald Trump—a decent, if not admirable impression—there's little to no comedic relief strong enough to pacify the reality that there's a Cheeto-in-Chief in the White House.

As much as we all love Colbert's brand of satire and political commentary, how many Americans want to watch a Colbert-led writers' room lampoon the president and his wife? It's a sad state of affairs when watching an animation of America's president engenders melancholy (and slight disgust) more than it does entertainment. Watching "Our Cartoon President" is like being in a fever dream where everything and everyone is soaking in radioactive waste; it's a weird funhouse mirror held in front of Trump's current presidency, and it's grueling to watch simply because the real thing isn't funny at all.

'Our Cartoon President'Showtime

It would be another story if Colbert wrote an essay or short story titled "Our Cartoon President" with illustrations—for those who desire the visual emasculation of Trump, as Colbert's cartoon anatomically does—something that critically bemoans Trump's presidency without exacerbating all the qualities that make him so vile in the first place. The thing is, watching Trump in real life is, well, unpleasant. This man, after all, represents our country, what we stand for as Americans; the very fact that he stands as our leader is absurd.

Colbert, unfortunately, doesn't nail the absurdity of his fictional universe. The jokes and puns are stale like the last piece of bread in a bag, squished to the very back of your cupboard; like stale 10-year-old saltine crackers you eat anyway because you're out of ramen; it's like any unappetizing food ever. "Our Cartoon President" is a 30-minute stomach ache, 1) on account of the intellectual labor gone into scrutinizing the very things that allowed Trump to win and, 2) because HOLY CRAP, watching Melania in bed with Trump is the saddest thing ever. Too many things are at play all at once: Melania's disgust for Trump is even more apparent in the cartoon; Trump's sons are embarrassingly infantile (seriously, it's almost cruel); Fox News offers additional exposition, in case the other jokes about Trump being awful don't land; and Ted Cruz and Mike Pence rival each other in the Creepy Olympics.

'Our Cartoon President'Showtime

The show's inconsistency in terms of comedy—or lack thereof—is understandably a problem of morality: If you humanize Trump, you legitimize his divisive, racist, sexist, and overall, ignorant rhetoric. If you hyperbolize Trump, you essentially lessen the real-world terror of his ACTUAL presidency. Animating him and his family is the artistic equivalent of giving Chucky a soul.

Again, this project feels like revenge porn, a feverish cartoon trying to make a comedy of the man who supports militarizing American schools. Colbert wants to grab (or perhaps wring) Trump by the…umm…ears, shouting "You suck!" and instead, settles for tickling his all-American gut. The Trumpisms you've come to expect in reality are formulaic in the show: How many times can the joke be, simply, that Trump is a slouching oaf with sons who follow suit? You want to be in support of Colbert's satire, wishing this show could make you hold your sides in laughter; instead, you find yourself in the fetal position, holding your sides after a joke about Ted Cruz refusing to brush his teeth is made for the fifth time. (Folks can belabor the president in the privacy of their own homes without the assistance of a cartoon, right?)

Critically challenging the president, his team of limp benefactors, and Russia (his favorite country in the whole wide world!) should not mean ironically using Trump's trademark antagonism to subvert his presidency and emasculate him as a man. "Our Cartoon President" undeniably understands why Trump is no victor to many Americans but fails to scrutinize his cartoon supporters and the cartoon world that put him in office. If there's anything President Donald Trump has taught us as Americans—you can be gross, you can be incompetent, you can be ignorant, and you can still win.

POP⚡ DUST Score: ⚡⚡


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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ben carson crazy hammer story

'Brilliant Neurosurgeon' is how Dr. Ben Carson is usually described, but he would like us to also add 'hammer-wielding' when we go to the voting booth next November.

The soft-spoken retired pediatric neurosurgeon is fond of repeating a childhood story from his official biography in which he went after his mother with a hammer.

Along with a story of nearly stabbing a schoolmate to death, the incident is meant to serve as the key to his Redemption Story.

Redemption Stories are important to Carson's religious base; they humanize the candidate while at the same time endowing him with a Godlike grace. When God stepped in to change Dr. Ben's violent ways, viola, a star was born.

You don't have to see pictures of Dr. Ben's house to know he is crazy, but it helps. Huge portraits of Dr. Ben gaze down from nearly every wall and surface. One where he poses with Jesus Himself is probably most telling. The spacious house is a shrine to Dr. Ben, perfectly suited to his own greatness.

But let's focus on that hammer.

When some news services decided to interview Dr. Carson's childhood friends and neighbors, none among them had heard of the hammer (or the stabbing.)

They only recalled a nice quiet studious lad, nothing like the wild quasi-thug described in Carson's biography and subsequent movie adaptation.

Upon hearing that his story was being questioned, Dr. Ben went nuts. Make that more nuts.

He raised his voice to an anxious falsetto and accused the media of a witch-hunt.

How dare they go after him like this! Why hadn't they 'vetted' Barack Obama in the same way?

Oh, Dr. Ben, you forgot about the birth certificate, Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, college pot-smoking, Marxist father? Where were you, Dr. Ben?

Perhaps he was thinking about the pyramids but that's a different story. This is about the hammer.

So!

Dr. Ben's team found an old interview from 1997 where his mother corroborates the hammer story. On the one hand, she's his mother, so it's natural for her to support him. On the other, why not give her the benefit of the doubt?

Here's why: In 1988, Dr. Ben's mother Sonya was interviewed by The Detroit Free Press for their Sunday magazine, before his book or any other version of his story had been published.

In her own early account, his mother raised the hammer on Ben.

You know, I'm ready to accept that there was a hammer. But I think Dr. Ben created a story that would glorify his gentle manner, turning it into a triumph of character instead of an inborn temperament.

Now he's not just a working class African American who achieved a dazzling height in his career, but a former thug as well!

Dr. Ben was likewise very agitated when his story about a scholarship to West Point turned out to be false, and when he was asked about his connection to a fraudulent vitamin company. Insisting that he had no relationship with the company when he is featured in commercials stating that the supplements cured his prostate cancer, Dr. Ben appears to confuse fact with fiction.

Why can't Dr. Ben just go back to his paid speeches and inspirational books? Why does he feel qualified to be the President? Is he really even that smart?

Here is a neurosurgeon who weighs in on the last question for DailyKos

As a neurologist in practice for 20 years and one who has worked closely with many neurosurgeons I can assure you, Dr. Ben Carson is not smart. Not even close. He is a painfully ignorant person. This is an easy point to defend. We are all familiar with the litany of uninformed, intellectually shabby statements he has made over the last few months; a list that I won't waste electrons repeating. 'Smart' is a multifaceted cognitive feature composed of excellent analytical skills, possession of an extensive knowledge base that is easily and frequently augmented, possession of a good memory, and being readily curious about the world and willing, even eager, to reject previously accepted notions in the face of new data. Being smart includes having the ability to analyze new data for validity and, thinking creatively, draw new insights from existing common knowledge.
Neurosurgeons are not automatically smart because they are a neurosurgeon. To get through training and have any sort of practice they must be disciplined, have immense ego strength, a reasonably good memory, and have mental and physical stamina. However, like many other doctors, they are not always smart. Neurosurgeons, like other surgeons, can be outstanding technicians but that is different than being intellectually brilliant. A truly brilliant internal medicine specialist once told me that 'you can train anyone to perform a procedure.'

And here is the most important take-away, I think:

The feature shared by neurosurgeons far out of proportion to other doctors is a large ego. All doctors can be accused of having big egos but more than other specialists, neurosurgeons ( [and] Ben Carson is exhibit 1 in this regard) have pathologically large egos. You know, the kind of ego that requires not one large self-portrait prominently displayed in an ostentatious mansion but a second of Mr. Ego sitting with Jesus; at the right hand of Jesus.

Amen.

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ben carson rap ad

In a bid to rally voters at the street level, Ben Carson has released a rap ad, and it’s some of the craziest shit you’ll ever hear.

The Republican Presidential candidate has splashed out $150,000 on radio spots for a two week ad campaign that will run in Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee and Little Rock, Arkansas.

If Dr. Ben Carson Had A Hammer

The aural ad assault mashes Carson’s stump speech with a rap by a Christian musician called Aspiring Mogul, who spits out gems such as, “Vote and support Ben Carson…..For the next president he’d be awesome.”

Carson’s blatant attempt to get down with the [black] kids, is made all the more repugnant by his track history of throwing those very same black kids under the figurative bus—his disingenuous claims of “color blindness”, his laughable viewpoint that African Americans who support the Democratic party are essentially stupid, unsophisticated, hyper-emotional, irrational, and incapable of thinking for themselves, and his claim that the Republican party are the real advocates for racial justice and positive change along the color line in the U.S.

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“I’m not sure I agree that there isn’t a fair amount of racism here, there is, but it’s not where you would expect it to be,” Carson opined during an interview with radio host Dennis Prager.

“It’s mostly with the progressive movement who will look at someone like me, and because of the color of my pigment, they decide that there’s a certain way that I’m supposed to think, and if I don’t think that way, I’m an Uncle Tom and they heap all kinds of hatred on you. That, to me, is racism.

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“Race doesn’t really keep you down in this country if you get a good education,” Carson, who has previously compared both Obamacare and abortion to slavery, concluded.

According to ABC, the 64-year-old retired neurosurgeon believes his new ad campaign allows him to communicate with black voters “in their preferred style.”

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Right, because that’s not deciding that there’s a certain way that they’re supposed to think, Dr. Carson.

According to Carson’s campaign manager, the ad is “reaching out and talking to [young African Americans] in a language that they prefer and in a language that, and in a cultural format that they appreciate” and is a way of broadening Carson’s appeal to the younger black voter.

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“This happens to be a group that we feel pretty strongly is ready and prepared to start working for Ben Carson,” Doug Watts says, going on to vow that they intend to “pursue this medium and particularly this demographic aggressively, especially through the March primaries.”

Here’s the ad’s lyrics in full:

YEA

Vote

Inspire

Vote

~REVIVE~

Vote

Ben Carson 2016

Vote and support Ben Carson

For the next president he’d be awesome

If we wanna get America back on track

We gotta vote Ben Carson, a matter of fact

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