Political aspirations - Shawn Loughlin editorial
While I was alive during Ronald Reagan’s presidency (I was actually born during his first term), I don’t exactly remember much about it, being the age that I was. A look back through popular culture that has come since, however, shows that the world was a bit surprised that an actor had made a successful bid for the White House.
The reference I always remember is in Back to the Future when Doc Brown (in 1955) asks Marty McFly (from 1985) who the President of the United States is in 1985. McFly’s answer of Reagan causes Brown to mock him. “Ronald Reagan? The actor?” He then throws in that Jerry Lewis must be the Vice-President.
This seemed to be a bit of a new concept at the time, having someone from the world of popular culture breaking through as a serious politician, ascending to be one of the most powerful people in the world. Now, it seems like it’s no big deal; commonplace, in fact.
Recently, I was listening to a podcast reviewing the 1987 action movie Predator (which could be the most questionable decision of the column), and the hosts pointed out that the movie boasts two future United States Governors: Arnold Schwarzenegger in California from 2003 to 2011 and Jesse Ventura in Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.
The point, of course, is to ponder who would have ever thought that, sitting in a movie theatre in 1987 (during Reagan’s second term, though I swear this isn’t a column on Ronald Reagan), you were watching two future high-level politicians hunt an alien in the jungle?
Schwarzenegger was best known to us as a bodybuilder and actor, from hits like Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator. For me, I can never say Jesse Ventura without squeezing “The Body” in the middle of his first and last name; that was how I knew him as part of what was then the World Wrestling Federation.
Fast-forward to today and this kind of crossover is really no big deal. The most obvious one, of course, is former U.S. President Donald Trump, who made a name for himself by driving his businesses into bankruptcy over and over again, but then came back with a vengeance in The Apprentice.
While the show began as straight-ahead as a reality show can be, it would quickly evolve to the absurd with The Celebrity Apprentice, which saw Trump “firing” everyone from Jose Canseco to Gary Busey to La Toya Jackson. Oddly enough, to allow Trump to focus on his presidential run, Schwarzenegger would take over hosting duties for the final season of the show, though poor ratings and continued spats with Trump, according to Schwarzenegger, led to Schwarzenegger leaving in 2017.
Though not a politician, one of the world’s most influential people is now Joe Rogan, former sitcom star, Fear Factor host and Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator. With one of the most popular podcasts in the world and millions of Twitter followers, Rogan and his anti-vaccine nonsense has far more of an impact than many leaders, journalists, doctors or scientists.
Now, everyone from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Kanye West to Matthew McConaughey has talked about their political aspirations. Those conversations always get normal, sane people whipped up into a frenzy for one simple reason: on any given day, any of these celebrities could win.
I know people get tired of career politicians with sometimes-dubious moral compasses, but they may just be more qualified to lead a city, a state or a country than a guy who fed people bugs on television for a living.