There’s a prevailing and hopeful theory that art is better when Republicans are in power. It makes some sense: Creative expression is a wonderful way to heal, make a statement against, and commiserate with others after a traumatic event. Trump’s win last month was a serious blow to human rights, freedom, and equality, which could inspire some passionate artistic responses.
Not everyone sees such an upside to a Trump presidency. Jessica Hopper at MTV News took issue with this sentiment, calling it the “Silver-Lining Myth” and decrying that music “isn’t going to get any better under Trump.”
"stop kidding yourself. music isn't going to get better under trump." - @jesshopp https://t.co/SQ1mLjQiDs— MTV News (@MTVNews) November 11, 2016
Regardless of whether artistic output improves or not, culture will change under Trump. His authoritarian views and his divisive “Make America Great Again” ideology are a stark and terrifying contrast to Obama. In the book Culture Moves: Ideas, Activism, and Changing Values, scholar Thomas R. Rochon asserts that culture is dictated by changing values. When values are converted, connected, or created, drastic cultural change can occur.
Some may argue that culture is more fractured than it was in previous periods of social change (like the ’60s), due to the overwhelming choices we have for TV, movies, music, video games, and other entertainment in the digital age. Subcultures thrive. Just think of all the different “cons” there are—IndieCon, WonderCon, and DragCon, to name a few. But, it could also be argued that a monoculture that loves light denim jeans, the “simple life,” Duck Dynasty, and xenophobia, is what got Trump elected in the first place. Republicans have a homogenous political life just as much as they have a homogenous cultural life, now fueled even more with the help of the Internet.
So yes, culture will change. Here are predictions, based on past historical trends for leaders like Trump, for how his presidency will affect culture, for better and for worse.
TV and Film
There’s more TV than ever, channels for nearly every interest, every type of viewer. Culturally, that is one of the greatest achievements of the Obama era. It’s likely, then, that television will reflect the current divide in media that plagued the 2016 election. Trump supporters will stick to network TV that’s comfortable for them. Take, for instance, Kevin Can Wait, a comedy about a middle aged retired white man whose rough one-liners and jokes about his wife are followed by a laugh track. There’s nothing about it that challenges the old norm. Amazon will most likely continue to produce revolutionary new comedies like Transparent, but network TV will also create Millennial-bashing programs like The Great Indoors for those averse to change.
As for film, expect more movies like American Sniper and Saving Private Ryan—big-budget war fantasy movies that idealize battle, patriotism, and create a MAGA-like history. There’s also the China issue. Currently, Hollywood depends on Chinese investors to develop and fund American movies. If Trump damages ties with China, there could be a disruption in this constant flow of financial support.
Some early, post-election comments expressed wishful thinking about the return of punk and metal as mainstream genres. Pop-punk band Green Day did lead the AMAs in an anti-Trump chant, but it seemed more like a fun, liberal uncle’s jam band than of-the-moment expression.
In a 2003 interview with the Believer, Questlove described music under a conservative president: “My theory is that nine times out of 10, if there’s a depression, more a social depression than anything, it brings out the best art in black people. The best example is, Reagan and Bush gave us the best years of hip-hop. I think had Carter and then Mondale won, or if Jesse [Jackson] were president from ’84 to ’88, hip-hop wouldn’t have been the same.”
Though pop music during the Obama administration was largely EDM-derivative or inspired, rap music made enormous strides. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was not only one of the greatest albums of the era, his songs became protest cries of the Black Lives Matter movement. We can only expect that more counter-cultural or anti-monoculture albums that reflect this new era of unrest from other disenfranchised groups will be produced. As for EDM, it will be interesting to see if this lyric-less, trancelike genre will prevail where other genres with more passion and direct connection with listeners is created.
Remember how it seemed like every woman cut off their hair freely, even if it was kind of a ’90s lob thing during Obama’s second term? Paris Hilton, Britney, Kim K, and Lindsay Lohan popularized the fake tan, chunky highlight, hair extension aesthetic. Now that our president also endorses fake tanning and hair extensions, expect some version of that to come back (probably not for men, though). Let’s just hope we get to keep our thick eyebrows. I worked for eight years on those things.
There’s a paradox that happens during conservative times: A female silhouette re-emerges. The 1950s, the 1980s, and the Bush 2000s definitely support this theory—remember when you had the undying urge to “belt” every dress?
Where normcore, mom-jeans, the boxy long T-shirt dresses of Yeezy’s collections, and pantsuits prevailed during Obama’s years, Trump’s will likely be the opposite. Just look to the pinnacle of ’00s conservative-era fashion: Sex and the City. By the end, Carrie was obsessed with stiletto shoes, Louboutins in particular. Don’t forget: Christian Louboutin said that shoes “have to please men” and stilettos were created to “immobilize women.” Charlotte, who began funkier, as an art dealer, later embodied a 1950s housewife with her pearls, knee-length hemlines, and crinoline skirts.
Above all, it is likely we will go back to label-ism—another SATC value that was nice to forget about under Obama. With a prez whose narcissism is all about status, gold, and designer apparel, the masses will likely become equally obsessed. Remember when you’d kill for a Coach mini-bag covered in tiny Cs, even if it was a fake from Chinatown? That. We’ll all be doing that again. SIGH.
And about Trump, the person who seems to be perpetually stuck in a straight-to-DVD version of Wall Street. His ’80s-ness: his oversize ill-fitting suits and his preppy golf looks will likely make a big impact on men’s fashion. Dubya and his preppy supporters’ polos no doubt kept Lacoste and J.Crew in business throughout the ’00s. I almost had the pleasure of forgetting about Tommy Hilfiger and his country club aesthetic, until he offered to dress Melania last month when many other designers refused to.