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When the Reality Show Becomes Reality

By Dino 

On Nov. 8, we were all preparing ourselves for another huge surreal change. I had a feeling that Donald Trump would win the U.S. presidential elections, but deep down in my mind I retained some hope and logic. It was the same feeling I had during Brexit; you don't expect something so big to happen, but then it does, and everything seems possible.  

As an artist, I typically don't pick sides or have favorites—especially regarding politics. If I’m to be a better judge of the facts, my mind needs to be clear and neutral. You could call me a non-political human being, but with a strong political opinion. 

As a cartoonist, I’m not here to find solutions by supporting a “good” leader, but to present the problem by drawing a “good” cartoon. You could imagine a “good” cartoon to be like a Trojan horse—a  messenger of fact. A cartoon tries to tell you something significant but in such a way that you will still have to locate its meaning for yourself. 

Donald Trump looks like a goldmine to a cartoonist. There are countless ways to capture him and his persona. I can still come up with a couple more of them while I’m finishing this sentence. But the question remains: How did he become America’s choice? 

By combining media and marketing, Donald Trump was sold as president to the world. We have been raised to believe that everything on TV sells and has a clear view of success. We see happy-looking people lead successful and active lives across a variety of commercial visual mediums. Because we idealize what is seen on our screens, we make the pursuit of it our goals in life. This way, marketers can pull out our weaknesses in order to create imagined needs. (Remember those old telemarketing commercials that tried to sell plastic books because paper caught fire?) These types of needs keep us insecure and full of self-doubt in order to fill a fictional void we didn't even have in the first place. Look at fashion magazines, for example. The models and actresses that fill their pages typically don’t resemble the “average” woman. As this lowers the consumer’s self-esteem, they are more likely to purchase the goods being sold. Knowing that the exploitation of mood has a clear correlation with product consumption, it becomes clear how Donald Trump’s capitalization on his voter’s anger and frustration paved his way to the presidency.    

Imagine growing up in a place where TV celebrities and movie stars are idolized. Then, one day, someone offers you a chance to put your face and private life on screen where everybody can see it. Would you deny that? You might not. People have fallen in love with TV exposure, publicity, and now with the social media phenomenon. We operate on a currency of virtual “likes.” There is no doubt that this trend played a vital role in the success of Donald Trump’s campaign. He used his TV persona to re-introduce himself to the world. People wanted to see how far this “out of the box” billionaire candidate could go, and he gave them just that. Trump’s character should have been no surprise, as we had seen it for years on TV. During his campaign, people still felt as though they were watching a TV show where the star makes silly jokes about minorities. Were they aware, though, that this becoming their actual reality? Did they realize that Donald Trump wasn't just a TV personality, but the next man to become the most powerful politician in the world? 

Donald Trump was like a red button people were tempted to push, if only to see what happened next. Even though the majority of the population voted against Trump, as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, in the Electoral College system enough people pushed that button to seal America’s fate. American people seemed to have voted the same way they would vote in a reality show. Reality shows are designed to quench boredom and pander to the lurid or unexpected, not what is safe or even logical. 

It is difficult for me to digest that a politician could convince an entire nation to follow and support him by showcasing his negative side. How could the public be persuaded or, even worse, amused by believing in someone telling them who he will not help, instead of who he could help? What he dislikes, instead of what he likes? We expect all problems to be solved by others, not ourselves. I’ve come to the sad conclusion that we can be lured onto the paths of fear, hatred, greed, and racism. But amid this darkness, people can use their unique skills to highlight opportunities for change. I make cartoons because that’s the only way I know to spot a problem. Cartoons don’t intend to change the world, but to remind you that the place you live in isn't perfect. It is up to you to interpret them and to fight the issues they raise.

*****

*****

Dino is a Greek cartoonist and illustrator. His work has been published in Knack magazine, Politico Europe, The Cartoon Movement, and various European exhibitions.

[Images courtesy of Dino]

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