For many this election cycle, the only convincing argument that Hillary Clinton has had going for her is that she’s not Donald Trump. Throughout this entire campaign season, she has made the news for all the wrong reasons. For one brief moment, though, that changed, as she was interviewed in a genuinely funny episode of Between Two Ferns, the popular Web series hosted by Zach Galifianakis. Zach* is the star, of course, but Hillary played a fantastic comic foil, absorbing just enough heat to let us know that she can take a joke, but not so much that she looked like a doormat for the subversively hostile interviewer. (The hostility was mostly in jest, but substantive enough that it could potentially make her look bad, had she not known how to handle it.) The interview humanized her in a way that would not have seemed possible to many of us, making it easy for one to consider that she may not be so bad, after all- even for those of us who long ago came to the conclusion that she is. Ultimately, that’s what makes effective political propaganda- an image strong enough to convince people to reconsider their own strongly held beliefs, without beating them over the head with it.
This is where Joss Wheedon- the otherwise brilliant director and writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers, and other national treasures- completely missed the boat with his star-studded anti-Trump screed, appropriately and overtly titled Save the Day. Starting out the commercial by mocking the self-importance of Hollywood, Wheedon and his stars tried to inoculate themselves from accusations of it. In reality, they merely drew attention to it, as evidenced by the mediocre (at best) Like:Dislike ratio, compared to the stellar one of the Between Two Ferns clip. Next time Wheedon wants to do a political commercial with humor, he ought to give Zach a call.
Regrettably, though, in the aftermath of the phenomenal Hillary interview, Zach proved every bit as unoriginally “Hollywood” about his partisan approach to politics as the rest of them, explaining how he could never have a “mentally challenged” person like Trump on his show. To be fair, he’s probably right that this wouldn’t be the best format for Trump, but the idea that he wouldn’t have Trump on because of that is as far-fetched as the idea that Hillary really was diagnosed with pneumonia the day she went on his show. I mean, come on- this is a top-rate professional who would have no issues spinning a narcissist like Trump into comedic gold- he did it for Justin Bieber, for crying out loud! Plus, Trump would be great for ratings, and however arrogant and insufferable the man might be, he has shown that he usually knows how to take a joke. (To the extent that he doesn’t, Zach could make the interview even better!)
Far more likely for the Between Two Ferns “blackout” of Trump is pressure from the entertainment industry. This isn’t to say that anyone is making threatening 3 AM phone calls to Zach…well, besides Hillary’s people, perhaps. But consciously or not, surely Zach and his people recognize the intense criticism that even someone as popular as Jimmy Fallon is taking, for daring to treat Donald Trump like any other celebrity guest. (Collectively, Saturday Night Live received the same criticism last year.) The message from Tinseltown is clear- Trump is a danger for which there is no precedent in modern American life, and any attempt to humanize him will be met swiftly and mercilessly.
Even if the outside pressure has nothing to do with this, there is plenty of evidence that many Trump detractors hope that it does. We have seen and heard, from many in the media, that Donald Trump cannot be treated as a “normal” candidate. In other words, those who attempt to shine the slightest bit of light on Trump’s more “human” qualities are aiding and abetting this dangerous monster. The reality is that this attitude says far more about the critics than it does about Trump. Everyone should have a fair opportunity to show who they really are, particularly those running for President. If Trump is truly is a threat to the republic, then let the people decide that for themselves. There is plenty of evidence going around of what kind of person he is overall, without having to “protect” people from seeing him in an occasional moment of levity. The same goes for Hillary Clinton.
Finally, to liberals smugly convinced that they are better at taking a joke than conservatives (see the comment section of the Huffington Post link)- get back to us when you don’t get so worked up about Donald Trump’s hair being rumpled.
*I’m not trying to pretend that I’m on a first name basis with Zach Galifianakis- I just hate typing out his last name!