It may feel like the end of the world – it may well be the end of the world – but Donald Trump's campaign of idiocy has sure made for some great TV. The scandalous sound bites. The outrageous attacks. The insults. The quips. The screaming, often misspelled, tweets. The offhand lines that become instant memes.
"I love the poorly educated!"
With Mr. Trump at the podium, it's always a good show. If the stakes weren't so high, you might even call it a comedy – no laugh track required.
Then again, if you wrote this script, you'd be laughed out of the boardroom. A clown like this? Taken seriously? Actually in reach of the U.S. presidency? Nobody's gonna buy a premise like that, kid. You're fired.
Donald Trump's exaggerated, self-satisfied, not-always-metaphorical chest-beating has made for great television. It's like some hot new reality-TV concept – complete with the dramatic, over-the-top back-stabbing and meanness.
But this is reality; not reality TV. And this is horror, not comedy. Imagine if this man – rash, unpredictable, maniacal – were elected to lead the world's most influential superpower. Imagine if it were Mr. Trump responsible for dictating foreign policy. Imagine if it were his privileged finger on the button.
In trying to wrap your head around the unthinkable, that this man with his bullying buffoonery could be the U.S. president, it's impossible to discount the power of celebrity and how it has helped elevate him to this truly unbelievable position.
Mr. Trump has taken the business he knows so well – show business – and made it work for him on the campaign trail, so that even when he's making vile comments or making no sense, he ends up winning, winning, winning.
Mr. Obama promised hope; Mr. Trump offers hate. And everybody's talking about it.
There is an entertainment factor to Mr. Trump's rise – the crazed speeches, the loud debate domination, the Twitter wars. Maybe it seemed kind of funny at first, but there is absolutely nothing laughable about a guy who has suggested Mexicans are rapists bringing drugs and crime to America or that Muslims be barred from the United States. And yet we joke. We can't help it; what else are we to do? It's a power trainwreck unlike anything U.S. politics has seen before.
"Saturday Night Live couldn't make up material this good," celebrity gossip magazine US Weekly wrote.
And from Yahoo News after Thursday's debate: "The 10th Republican presidential debate was a good show, as it always is with Donald Trump on the stage."
It's a show, a spectacle; to appropriate a term from one of Mr. Trump's lines of business, it's an ugly pageant.
Mr. Trump's rise is about more than name recognition and viral video clips, but his celebrity-fuelled head start and ability to command attention have surely been a factor. Somehow, with his offensive, out-there one-liners he has managed to dominate the conversation in this all-important race.
During Thursday night's debate, as one of the moderators began to address Mr. Trump, he protested, "Every single question comes to me? I know I'm here for the ratings, but it's a little bit ridiculous."
You want ridiculous? The fact that, oh my God, this guy could be president. Or at least the Republican nominee – especially now with New Jersey Governor and former candidate Chris Christie's endorsement.
Mr. Trump may be a joke, but this isn't.
This is the age of the celebrity. We are bombarded with the most banal information about people who perform for a living. The Kim Kardashianizing of our culture is not inconsistent with Mr. Trump's elevation.
Andy Warhol, fascinated with celebrity worship, promised (famously) that in the future, everybody would be famous for 15 minutes. Oh, if it were only 15 minutes of fame for Mr. Trump. Wouldn't it be fantastic if they were just about up?
This Sunday, people will gather round their televisions to listen to inane red-carpet chit chat between entertainment journalists and movie stars wearing borrowed jewels during the Academy Awards pre-show. Then, during the Oscar ceremony, we'll hear the winning actors speak with great gravity about their craft, the bravery of what they do. Perhaps it will be Brie Larson going to the darkest places for her remarkable performance in Room, or Leonardo DiCaprio weathering harsh conditions in Alberta while filming The Revenant.
I love the Oscars, but I can think of a long list of things that take more courage than being a movie star.
Celebrities can use their powers for good. And many do – bringing awareness and a certain glamour to causes that are close to their hearts and might otherwise fall under the radar. Sure, we roll our eyes at this sometimes, but I think there is a real benefit to bringing these messages to the masses.
Perhaps on Sunday, ahead of Super Tuesday, these celebrities can do some grandstanding for the greater good and talk some sense into America. Thank their agent and makeup artist, sure, but before they get played off, maybe show some acceptance-speech bravery and put a word in for the future of their country (and the world, dare I add). If celebrity culture can contribute to the rise of a Donald Trump, perhaps it can help take him out too.