By Andrew Nogay
Assistant Web Content Manager
Right now, Donald Trump is in position to win the Republican nomination for president, a sentence that would have seemed beyond impossible a year ago. Whether he will become president or not isn’t the point of this article. Neither is whether he would single-handedly cause the destruction of the United States. What I want to talk about is art, and how if Donald Trump becomes president, we will experience an explosion of protest art that would rival great art movements in history.
American art isn’t dead; we still make good music, we produce good movies sometimes, we have amazing television shows and, overall, we care about creative things more than nearly every other country in the world. But art comes from passion and sometimes passion needs to be reignited. Art works best when it is dissecting, when it has something to say and there are plenty of things to be said about Donald Trump. Conflict is the key to any story and who has brought about more arguments than Trump over the last year or so?
Historically, the best American art has been reflective of the social and political climate of the times. During the Cold War, film noir flourished as the paranoia of the times bled through to the movies of one of the most distinctly American film genres. The Twilight Zone was one of the first great works of art brought to television and there’s no way it would’ve been possible in any other era. It would be difficult to watch an episode such as “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” and not see that it’s subtly about the Red Scare and the dangers of conformity.
The most interesting war films have always been anti-war movies, and no war brought more anti-war sentiment and better movies than the Vietnam War. Vietnam was the most divisive war in American history and the best war movies deal with the pain and suffering endured during that conflict. Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket all rate as some of the best war movies ever made and the Vietnam War was used by filmmakers as a canvas that all sorts of ideas could be painted on. It is no coincidence that the sketchy post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era is when America made its best films.
In the ‘80s, hardcore punk grew and flourished out of their hatred of Ronald Reagan. In that politicized left-leaning subculture, he was seen as the ultimate status-quo authority figure. Bands like the Dead Kennedys, Minutemen and Black Flag constantly criticized Reagan and what he represented. Conformity was rampant and Reagan was seen as the head of it. There was even a band named Reagan Youth, equating him to Adolf Hitler.
The idea of art making sense of chaos and destruction isn’t an American standard. Most major art movements in history come on the heels of something terrible. Surrealism, for example, sprang from France in the aftermath of World War I. Modernism did the same and postmodernism came about after World War II.
Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have any bad things to make art out of. But this isn’t a perfect world and art is a reflection of the imperfections. It helps us deal with the terrible things that happen. Everything from war to a president you don’t like. People, including artists, hate Donald Trump more than any public figure I can remember. If he becomes president, nobody knows what will happen. Hopefully, the imagination of creative people can help alleviate whatever happens.