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How the Donald Trumped Hollywood

November 29, 2016

Donald Trump

You know how after a break-up, every song on the radio seems to be speaking directly to you? Like, you’ll hear Foreigner singing, “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you to come in to my life… ” And you’ll add tearfully, out loud: “And I lost you!”

In the aftermath of the election, I feel like America dumped me. After all those years going with cool cat Barack Obama, how could she leave me for dirty dog Donald Trump? At first, every song on the radio seemed to be commenting on my betrayal: “I wanna be sedated,” “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control… all in all, it’s just another brick in the wall,” “You may be right, I may be crazy, but I just may be the lunatic you’re looking for,” etc.  ad nauseum.

Now it’s seeping into movies. I go to films to try to escape, but everything reminds me of Trump. I’ve already written elsewhere about the post-electoral resonances of Miss Sloane, Arrival, Lion, Loving and Moonlight. Thank God I saw Bad Santa 2 before the election or I’m sure I would’ve viewed the closing-credits montage of a bedridden Tony Cox tormented by being photographed with Billy Bob Thornton’s testicles repeatedly resting on his face as a metaphor for our current predicament.

So I thought: I’ll go see an old movie. A classic that won’t conjure unpleasant thoughts of our contemporary quagmire. Sadly, the movie I picked was The Diary of Anne Frank. Not that it’s a bad film; the 1959 version holds up well, even at three hours, with Alfred Newman’s overture, an intermission, and closing music, as it was shown recently in its roadshow version at NYC’s great temple of cinema Film Forum.

Even though I was sitting next to the tiny and adorable Dr. Ruth Westheimer in the audience, it was the Orange Anus — as Rosie O’Donnell has dubbed him — who kept creeping into my mind. The scenes of the Nazis going house to house to round up Jews and ship them off made me think of the abhorrent Muslim registry proposal and the deportation force Trump promised to deal with undocumented immigrants. And as Anne and her fellow attic-dwellers gathered around the radio to listen to Adolf Hitler’s hateful diatribes, I could hear chilling echoes of the anger that metastasized through Trump’s speeches into our body politic. (I know, comparing someone to the Fuhrer seems like a desperate rhetorical tactic, but in this case, it feels apt.)

15192511_10154854820439074_8494396090503729347_nIt turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Before and after the film, Millie Perkins — the unknown model who made a brilliant screen debut as Anne and has only grown lovelier at 80 (she proudly proclaimed her age twice) — did a Q&A with film historian Foster Hirsch and tearfully drew parallels to today’s headlines.

“When you hear Anne say, ‘In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart,’ doesn’t it make you think about all these things that are going on in the world?” Perkins said. “I hope that idea is still true. I never said that before. I always accepted it. But I hope people are still good at heart, because we’re at a time, as far as I’m concerned, where we’d better start expressing love to each other, because it’s not going to be easy, I don’t think, with the world and what’s going on.”

“I was moved by the film tonight,” she said. “It has something to do with the election we’ve all been through and the nastiness and craziness that’s going on. This film had a different effect on me tonight. Seeing the Jewish people coming down the street with the Nazis following them and taking them away, it makes me think of the refugees. I’m thinking different things seeing this movie tonight I never thought before.”

Finally, she concluded: “I felt confused tonight. It was a different movie to me. I’m very affected by what’s happening in the world. We have to be loving because we’ve got a new President, and there’s no solving the hatred and the anger. We have to be as nice to people as we can possibly be and hope it spreads.”

Anne Frank couldn’t have said it better herself.

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