Author: By Alyssa Rosenberg

‘The Trump Show’ Season 2, Episode 13: ‘I always like remaining flexible’

Images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea are shown on a TV screen at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. (Ahn Young-joon/AP) A common reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency has been a sense that reality has outstripped even the most feverish fiction. The only thing to do when the world has come to feel like the implausible output of a genre-hopping television show is to cover it that way. Welcome to our recaps of “The Trump Show.” It’s going to be truly wild if, after everything the series has...

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The Trump team’s embarrassing defense of fraudulence

Monica Crowley in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via European Pressphoto Agency) President-elect Donald Trump’s ability to inhabit his own private, convenient reality is a firmly established part of his style right now. And one of the many insidious things about his coming presidency is his attempt to force the rest of us to live in this chaotic, unmoored realm along with him. His team’s latest attempt to disorient the public came in response to a CNN investigation that found more than 50 plagiarized passages in a 2012 book by Trump’s choice to be deputy national security adviser, Monica Crowley. The Trump transition team’s response? “Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.” The statement is a wonderful example of how Trump’s private universe works: If it’s beneficial to him, or flattering to people in his circle, then it’s true. If it’s unflattering, then it’s not merely false, it’s the result of malicious political motivations. And this particular attempt to push back against criticism suggests just how little is stable, unchanging and unerringly true in Trumpland. Whether or not Crowley plagiarized large sections of her book is a factual question, not a partisan one. There is no sensible world in which copying someone else’s words is literary theft...

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In 2016’s politics and pop culture, women came up against limits created by men

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) embraces her identity in the finale of the first season of “Westworld.” (John P. Johnson/HBO) This year, rather than making best-of lists, which I always regret as soon as I make them, I’ll be writing about the art that helped me understand 2016. You can find the previous parts of this series here. The biggest question of Hillary Clinton’s second campaign for the presidency was whether the former first lady and secretary of state could persuade Americans to see her in a new way, escaping decades of narratives that portrayed her as a phony on a quest for power she didn’t deserve. When the results came through on Nov. 8, the verdict seemed clear and bitter: Even with a looser style and more progressive message, Clinton couldn’t escape the image that had hardened around her. But if the poll results failed to prepare Clinton and her supporters for this result, and for the disappointment of failing to break a centuries-old gender barrier in American politics, maybe pop culture should have. Some of the biggest television shows of 2016 followed women who tried to take power — or had power thrust upon them — but who found themselves constrained, knowingly or not, by the traditions and means of exercising that power proscribed by the men who came before them. Rather than ushering in transformational ages, these queens and rebels were...

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Kathleen Kennedy doesn’t think women are ready to direct ‘Star Wars.’ She can fix that.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” (Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) When Kathleen Kennedy took over the “Star Wars” franchise last year, she became an important test case in an industry with few female executives. A major assumption undergirding conversations about diversity and inclusion not just in Hollywood, but in business more broadly, is that putting women and people of color in positions of power will change who gets hired and who gets opportunities for promotion. But though Kennedy said last year that she was eager to hire a female director to helm an installment of the franchise, even after hiring a whole raft of men, it’s proving complicated. Kennedy’s now taking fire for a Variety interview about “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” movie, in which she told Brent Lang she was struggling to fulfill that particular ambition. “We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do “Star Wars,” they’re set up for success,” she said. “They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience. … We want to really start to focus in on people we would love to work with and see what kinds of things they’re doing to progress up that ladder now, and then pull them in when the time is right.” The idea that there are no women, or...

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Trump thinks artists owe him respect. They don’t.

Hamilton LLC via ASSOCIATED PRESS The “Hamilton” cast’s address to Vice President-elect Mike Pence at Friday’s performance is likely to be the first of many artists’ dissents to the Trump-Pence administration’s stated values and priorities. And it’s inevitable that artists who speak out in the future will be attacked, and perhaps even marginalized, as the Dixie Chicks were after Natalie Maines’s criticisms of President George W. Bush on the eve of  the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We can debate whether or not President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter tantrum in response to the plea from the stage of the Richard Rogers theater is a distraction from more important issues, like Trump’s extremist Cabinet choices and his immediate disregard for the basic ethics standards that govern the position that will soon be his. But a moment like this one offers us an opportunity to think in a clearer and more sophisticated way about the relationship between art and artists and politics and policy. There’s a tendency to treat artists, as well as professional athletes, as immune from the vicissitudes of politics. Because they’re wealthy, that reasoning goes, reversals of policy won’t really affect them. They’ll always be able to pay lawyers who can secure their legal status in the country, or afford birth control, or they live in atmospheres so rarified that they’re protected from the everyday grind of racial discrimination. And even if artists do feel...

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Sorry, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton isn’t just another ex-wife for you to trash

A group of Hofstra University students stand in front of a CNN trailer with images of Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate at Hofstra University. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) Gennifer Flowers is probably not coming to the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight, but that’s not really the point. When Clinton invited Mark Cuban, a businessman and sharp critic of Trump, to the debate, Trump responded (whatever his campaign says now) not by inviting someone who questions Clinton’s credentials to be president, like Patricia Smith, whose son died in Benghazi, to join him. Instead, he suggested that he might bring along a woman who had an affair with Clinton’s husband. The point wasn’t to debate Clinton but to reduce her, yet again, to being nothing more than Bill Clinton’s wife. There’s no question that Hillary Clinton’s marriage is an important part of her biography and resume, or that the Clintons themselves made their relationship a selling point during the 1992. I found Bill Clinton’s rendition of the fractured fairy tale that is their marriage at the Democratic convention this summer to be touching. But it’s maddening to watch the conversation about Clinton narrow, time and time again, to her marriage. Witness the fuss over what Bill Clinton will be called should his wife become the president,...

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Leslie Jones proves why we’ll never get the version of Twitter we really want

“Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones is shown in April at an event in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File) The racist, sexist harassment of “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones on Twitter, and Twitter’s corresponding decision to permanently ban one of the provocateurs who set an Internet mob on her, are only the latest chapter in the troubled social media service’s attempts to become something other than a permanent cesspool. But reading Jesse Singal’s typically smart analysis of how Twitter responds to harassment based on users’ relative celebrity, rather than developing clear, transparent principles that it’s capable of applying to all users, made me wonder if the only version of Twitter that many of us actually want is a purely fantastical one — or at least one that’s impossible to achieve given the present, fallen state of humanity. An obvious, if time- and capital-consuming solution to Twitter’s harassment problem would be for Twitter to hire sufficient staff to review reports of abuse and harassment in a timely manner. I’m not sure how many people that would require, what you’d have to pay people to read racist, sexist ugliness all day for months or even years at a time, and what kind of burnout and turnover those employees would experience. But there’s no question that the human capital costs would be considerable, and Twitter, despite its influence in culture and policy, isn’t exactly drowning in money. However...

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Laugh at Trump’s convention lineup all you want. Reality TV is coming for you.

Willie Robertson speaks during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Monday. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) It’s true that the speakers’ lineup at the Republican National Convention proves, as it has proved in years past, that there are not a lot of A-list Hollywood celebrities who are terribly eager to show up and endorse Republican candidates on a national stage. Given Clint Eastwood’s bout of performance art in 2012, that may be a blessing this time around. But the Hollywood speakers Donald Trump was able to draw to Cleveland illustrate an interesting, if under-discussed element of Hollywood’s supposed apathy towards conservatives. Even before Trump broke out as the front-runner, in part thanks to the boost to his name recognition he got from “The Apprentice” — and frankly, even before Trump’s latest stint as a Republican or his embrace of political incorrectness as a brand — reality programming has been a relatively friendly genre for conservatives. Willie Robertson, of “Duck Dynasty” fame and luxurious beard, may have been the most prominent reality television star on stage other than the presumptive nominee himself on Wednesday night, but he’s not the only veteran of the genre in the Republican National Convention lineup. Scott Baio has been cast in actual scripted programming throughout his career, but he’s also turned to reality to bolster his visibility in projects like “Scott Baio Is 45 … And Single,” where he tried to...

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