At this time of year, we’re reminded that the entertainment industry is like youth sports–everyone gets an award.
Awards season includes the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, GRAMMYs, BAFTA Awards, Film Independent Spirit Awards, and the big kahuna, the Oscars.
Besides hogging hours of TV programming, marketers for each award show have learned to maximize publicity. They generate controversy and buzz beforehand over the nominees, hosts or contrived issues. Afterward, red-carpet preening and provocative acceptance speeches dominate media for days. Critics keep arguments running for years about why the wrong nominees won.
Sounds a lot like politics, no?
Two branches of our national government have been converted into a full-time reality show, led by a reality show veteran. An unprecedented number of officials serve in “acting” roles. Affairs of state—domestic and foreign, momentous to mundane—air like cliffhanger episodes, teased on Twitter and billed as apocalyptic battles between heroes and villains. Firings, resignations and shutdown threats are as common and transient as the deaths of Star Wars characters.
How is it that we have no award to recognize the big-budget spectacles and standout performances of Washington, DC, political theatre?
I propose a new award, the Donald, named for the maestro behind the fusion of statecraft and professional wrestling.
Lacking a nominating committee, I will supply the categories and nominees. As for choosing the winners, the selection criteria for should be self-evident: Who Would Donald Choose?
Let’s start by streamlining the categories. That means cutting those that bloat most award ceremonies and sticking with the most pertinent.
Makeup and Hairstyling
Donald Trump’s orange skin and unique hair have long sparked speculation. Since he entered politics, several unheralded crew members have found the spotlight—his quack doctor, his creative accountant, his take-a-bullet fixer, undocumented landscapers. But no one has been credited for (or leaked about) his makeup or hairstyle regimen. These unknown staffers must be the best-kept secret of the Trump show. Or not. Remember, Trump’s philosophy is, “I alone can fix it.” If you look at enough pictures of Trump in public settings, it’s obvious he is not getting or accepting professional grooming advice.
Who Would Donald Choose? The Donald goes to … Donald.
Amid a glut of cabinet secretaries, there are three directors. Gina Haspel is director of the CIA, but she has kept a low profile. Joseph Maguire is acting director of National Intelligence, which should give him an edge. But Mick Mulvaney, director of OMB, pulls double duty as acting Chief of Staff and delivered a spirited on-camera admission of an impeachable offense. However, nobody smirks and cops to wrongdoing publicly like the big man himself. It’s hard to compete with a producer who decides to star in and direct his own show.
Who Would Donald Choose? The Donald goes to … Donald.
Public Self-Humiliation in a Supplicant Role
In a presidency of one, particularly this one, the cast of supplicant characters is vast. Public self-humiliation is a requirement—part of the blind loyalty demanded to remain on the show. Many have failed their screen tests and left the cast. Three stand out for their longsuffering: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo manages to keep grinning as the boss denigrates his department and employees. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, belittled mercilessly before leaving his post as Attorney General, went before cameras to announce a bid for his old Senate seat and praised his tormentor like a chastened puppy. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), never a member of the administration and ostensibly his own man, has delivered arguably the strongest performance. No one has displayed more dramatic range or endured more side-by side comparisons of his days as a critic, when he called Trump “a kook,” to his Kavanaugh hearing poutburst, where he channeled Trump’s primal man-boy rage.
Who Would Donald Choose? The Donald goes to … Lindsey Graham.
Actress in a Leading Role
This is a tough category, since using female gendered words and “leading” in the same sentence does not come naturally to Donald Trump. Female appointees more often have been utilitarian, than merit-based, choices—say, to reward a donor or subvert an agency. Nevertheless, several women are more prominent than others. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is a controversial nominee, in that Trump did not pick her to star in his show. However, her scene-stealing cameos have earned his grudging respect. Kellyanne Conway, the pollster and durable Trump whisperer, is another required but problematic contender. Her inability to control her husband’s public pronouncements could overshadow her top-drawer insouciant mendacity. Melania Trump would seem the obvious costar and winner, but despite reliable fashion statements, she is, after all, a third wife competing against a second-born flesh and blood daughter.
Who Would Donald Choose? The Donald goes to … Ivanka.
For years, Donald Trump bought portraits of himself using money other people donated to the Trump Foundation. Alas, New York State shut down his phony charity in 2018, and a judge later fined him $2 million for misusing funds. On the bright side, choosing his favorite picture for the Donald award costs only the time required to gaze at himself. It’s a task he’s good at and enjoys. The first nominee is a reflecting pool, just like Narcissus used. It used to shimmer, but increasingly has grown cloudy and foul smelling—the scent of deregulation. Next is a mirror. It is irresistible but truthful to a fault. Then, there is the TIME magazine cover. It captures the best moments for all time and can be seen by many. Finally, there is TV, a medium easily manipulated and easy to scale to the masses.
Who Would Donald Choose? The Donald goes to … Donald on TV.
Actor in a Leading Role
These were perhaps the most vexing nominations, given the multiplicity of roles played by the preordained winner. To simplify, let’s confine ourselves to the main ones. First, there is Donald the Standup Comedian, the adoration-starved rally rouser. Next, there’s Donald the Victim, the whiner everyone treats unfairly. Then, there is Donald the Victor, the winner of business and military conquests. And finally, Donald the Divine, unmatched in wisdom, a ruler for life, who has locked up every foe, controls reality with a Sharpie, and spends every day doing absolutely whatever he pleases.
Who Would Donald Choose? The Donald goes to … Donald the Divine.
Readers note: Some may complain that this roundup does not include incredible performances turned in during the season finale, Trumpeachment. Please note that nominations are based on full episodes presented in calendar year 2019. Trumpeachment Part 1, the House vote, will be combined with Part 2, the Senate trial, when considering nominees for the Donald awards in January 2021. Performances during the summer/fall campaign, which are forecast to be largely re-runs from 2016, and the election night speech, which is not, will also be eligible.