Last night, as I watched various idiots bicker with each other and make incredibly stupid decisions while surrounded by giant camel spiders in a town with remarkably poor roof integrity, it dawned on me that watching American politics is a lot like watching cheesy horror movies. You have a Big Problem (recession, unemployment, land shark, atomic tornado), you have people trying to solve it, and you inevitably have some jackass trying to sabotage them – usually because he has an ulterior motive, but sometimes because he’s just stupid and/or crazy.
Based on my embarrassingly extensive knowledge of bad horror movies, I offer you these five examples of life imitating art, or vice versa – feel free to add your own in the comments.
1) The Bad Idea Man.
In the movies: Usually a general or agency head whose brilliant plan for stopping a natural disaster or rampaging monster (usually involving nukes or even bigger monsters) would actually make the problem worse. Refuses to listen to the experts who actually know what they’re talking about.
In the real world: Everyone who proposes to revive our economy through a combination of austerity, deregulation, and tax cuts for corporations and rich people. So, pretty much all the Republicans and a big chunk of the Democrats, including Obama.
2) The Ostrich.
In the movies: The mayor or local bigshot who refuses to call off the town’s annual cauliflower festival just because some egghead scientist says she saw rabbit droppings the size of softballs. Values his own power and prestige above the well-being of his fellow citizens.
In the real world: Global warming deniers; anyone who claims that racism, sexism, or homophobia doesn’t exist; anyone who insists that income inequality isn’t a problem because everyone can make money if they’re willing to work hard enough.
3) The Opportunist.
In the movies: The general, business tycoon, or mad scientist who wants to keep the bloodthirsty monster alive for their own benefit, usually either military applications, profit, or scientific curiosity, depending on which one of them it is. They are often the monster’s creator as well.
In the real world: Politicians and regulators who resist oversight or restrictions on the corporations and military contractors who reward them so richly with junkets, sweetheart deals, contributions, and job opportunities.
4) The Bully.
In the movies: The character that is just flat-out mean and makes everyone else miserable, especially the nerd who knows that the best way to stop a nuclear earthquake is by using a car battery to magnetize the earth’s crust. Almost always a broad stereotype, like the Bigoted Redneck, the Entitled Jock/Fratboy, or the Mean Girl.
In the real world: The right-wing hatemongers and eliminationists who are unhinged by the idea of black presidents, independent sex-enjoying women, and married gay people (or any gay people, for that matter). Gay-bashers, abortion clinic picketers, and gun-toting town hall shouters.
5) The Randian.
In the movies: The character who cares only about his or her own survival, and the hell with everyone else. They will cut a deal to sell out their friends to the baddie, and/or steal the only working vehicle in a solo escape attempt.
In the real world: Tea Partiers and libertarians who are deeply offended by the idea that the government is taking their hard-earned money to give it to greedy geezers, welfare queens and Mexicans. Politicians who would rather let their constituents die than offend their big campaign donors.
Alas, if only the outcomes were as similar as the characters. In the movies, these assholes either see the error of their ways and strive to redeem themselves, or else they receive a delicious comeuppance, usually either consumed by the creature they tried to exploit, or personally ruined by some combination of firing, arrest, bankruptcy, and public humiliation. But in the real world, they’re the ones who live happily ever after while everyone else suffers.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh should be eaten by a Balrog, but it sure would be nice to see them face some kind of consequences every once in a while. Maybe that’s why I like cheesy horror movies so much…