A conman named Trump promises only he can save the world–by building a giant wall. That’s the premise of the last 20 months or so of our lives, but it’s also an episode of a Western TV show originally broadcast in 1958.
The character Walter Trump emerges mysteriously during the first season of Trackdown, claiming that “a cosmic explosion will rain fire on the town and that he is the only one that can save them from death.” It’s not exactly evil immigrants and radical Islamic terrorism, but close enough. Aside from building a wall, this fictitious Trump sells special force propelling umbrellas to deflect meteorites, which the town people snap up while the ranger tries to prove Trump’s lying to them. (No word on whether that Trump had also recently settled a class action fraud lawsuit for $25 million.)
The dialogue may be a little on-the-nose–“I am the only one. Trust me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing can penetrate”–but the show didn’t get reality exactly right. In the end, Walter Trump is arrested for stealing, while the Trump in our universe is currently teetering on the precipice of a great kleptocracy. In the months since winning the election, Trump’s behavior has become easier to predict. A recent Doonesbury cartoon by Gary Trudeau predicted this week’s press conference debacle almost exactly, and earlier in the week, half of Twitter knew what language Trump would use to describe Meryl Streep following her impassioned speech at the Golden Globes.
While being a Trump prognosticator is a little easier now that we’re more familiar with his pattern, some filmmakers and TV writers had a vision of his presidency way back when. Have a look below at some more unsettling insight from pop culture Nostradamuses.
Idiocracy and Infinite Jest
The cult classic Mike Judge film and the mindfuck David Foster Wallace novel don’t have much in common. However, they do feature dystopian depictions of a future in which entertainment, advertising, and politics have all blended together. Infinite Jest’s Johnny Gentle and Idiocracy’s Comacho are both populist presidents and former entertainers with short fuses and a penchant for self-marketing. Whether their creators had Trump in mind or not, they certainly set the stage for him.
There is no such ambiguity in the Simpsons episode from 2000 in which Lisa receives a vision of the future. As Lisa learns she will one day rise to the rank of America’s chief executive, she also finds out one Donald Trump got there first, and really mucked things up for everybody. The episode’s writer, Dan Greaney, has even stated, point blank, that he wrote this detail in as a “warning to America.”
John Oliver on The Daily Show
In the season finale of Last Week Tonight last December, John Oliver raked himself over the coals for something he once said on television. He then pulls up a clip from his former life back at The Daily Show, with an unkempt street urchin’s haircut, begging Donald Trump to run for president in 2016. Oliver wasn’t the media figure who actually prompted Trump to run–that would be McKay Coppins, maybe–but he justifiably regrets it all the same.
Back to the Future II
Bob Gale, one of the writers behind the Back to the Future movies, has gone on record that he had Trump on the brain when they were devising the character Biff’s trajectory in Back to the Future II. Biff is a bully who amasses a great wealth through un-kosher means and then uses that wealth for political influence before getting into politics himself. It’s enough to make one wonder whether Bob Gale had a time traveling Delorean he took to our current present before writing the movie.
Sheriff Callie’s Wild West
One of the most spot-on predictions of Trump’s victory in the election came from that most unlikely of places: the Disney Channel. As Pajiba reports, an episode of Sheriff Callie’s Wild West that aired before election day involved an experienced, qualified female candidate who is thwarted in her candidacy for Sheriff by an ill-tempered dog with awful hair. The Trumpian dog wins through shady means and then proceeds to lock her up. Although the savage unconstitutionality that breaks out in this fictional town sort of resembles where we are now in real life, in the cartoon there is a happy ending. Sheriff Callie breaks out of jail and sets everything right. Perhaps our own happy ending is just around the corner. (But probably not.)