It's Time to Stop Freaking Out About Art That Portrays Donald Trump

It's Time to Stop Freaking Out About Art That Portrays Donald Trump

From the Julius Caesar recreation to the Kathy Griffin controversy, let's collectively get over it.

From the Julius Caesar recreation to the Kathy Griffin controversy, let's collectively get over it.

Text: E.R. Pulgar

The New York Public Theater's latest production of Julius Caesar had its opening night yesterday at Central Park's Delacorte Theater. A part of the company's annual Shakespeare in the Park program, the play began previews on May 23 and was already starting to raise eyebrows because of the way that it was staged: by portraying an administration eerily similar to the current government administration, with the infamous Roman dictator portrayed as a certain blond man with a bad coif and a penchant for Twitter. It doesn't take much to see the resemblances to the 45th President of the United States.

If you're familiar with the original play, you know how it ends. As expected, conservatives and liberals alike lost their minds at the prospect.

Right-wing news sites such as Breitbart and FOX ran appall-inducing coverage with click-bait worthy titles like "Trump Stabbed to Death in Central Park." The media storm this created led to several companies pulling funding from the production, including Delta Airlines and American Express. Director Oskar Eustis then released an open letter on the Public Theater's official website where he refused to apologize for the production, speaking about Julius Caesar's message about the fragility of democracy.

Of course, it didn't take long for a member of The President's inner circle to respond on their preferred platform.

It brings to mind the recent Kathy Griffin controversy, where the fire-starter comedian held a prop meant to resemble Trump's bloody head. After being fired from CNN, the Internet was rife with debate about freedom of speech, about whether the comedian had crossed the line, and about whether art or comedy with such a slant merits an apology from those who create it. As the younger Donald pointed out, when does art become political speech? Does that change things?

While there is some debate when it comes to what is "clear and present danger," in asking these questions, one of art's greatest functions is overlooked: commentary of the times.

When a politician is brought into a work of art, it's symbolic of what they represent. In other words, when Trump is stabbed, beheaded, or drawn as a belligerent child in political cartoons, it works in two ways: he's being mocked, and he's being held accountable for the things he represents. At this point, a president who stays up too late tweeting covfefe and watching television when he's not busy being a racist, homophobe or embarrassing the U.S. on the world stage should be fair game.

On that note, it's not like Trump hasn't been imagined as Julius Caesar prior to the Public Theater's production. Never Caesar, a comedy channel on Youtube, beat them to the punch.

If we're getting so worked up about art that displays the President in a position of harm, away from the very terrifying power we're all aware he holds, why don't we get worked up about the very real consequences of this power? Getting worked up about art that serves as a marker and critic of the times is only a means to distract us from those consequences.

Art, beautiful or not, is meant to start a conversation, and whether that conversation is written in real or fake blood is determined by what the art itself is talking about.


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