By Ben Stoneley
‘Humiliating’ can only describe President Donald J. Trump’s past few months: a lost election, a failed attempt at insurgency upon the Capitol, the international backlash and his second impeachment (the most of any US president). But for Trump, his recent exit from The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) marks a new phase of his attack on the Hollywood establishment.
After the Guild’s Board voted “overwhelmingly” to find that the former US president had likely violated their membership guidelines, they promptly called for a disciplinary committee to investigate. The Guild asserted that his Presidency had seen, “a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.”
The Guild also specified his role in stoking the flames of enraged Republicans through groundless claims of widespread election fraud and inciting them to storm the US Capitol on 6 January, a riot which led to the deaths of five Americans, including Capitol policeman Brian Sicknick.
“I no longer wish to be associated with your union”, Trump retorted in a letter to SAG-AFTRA on 4 February, bluntly expressing his apathy towards such an investigation with a simple, “Who cares!”. He then goes on to express his pride in taking part in numerous films and television shows as well as “creating thousands of jobs” in “fake news” network media.
Although Mr. Trump claims the union has “done nothing” for him, his role in Hollywood certainly has. With his early beginnings in the New York real estate business, his prominence as an extravagant businessman soon gave way to a desire for acting fame, and his emergence on the silver screen. Christmas film-enthusiasts will certainly remember his cameo in ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ and fans of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’, his appearance expressing interest in purchasing the Bank’s LA house.
But it was his pride and joy, the US reality television programme ‘The Apprentice’, that really cemented Donald Trump as a household name across America. Over fifteen series, Trump mastered the figure of a TV personality, something which he used most certainly to his advantage during his meteoric rise through the Republican primaries and later as their official nominee. Even as President, he treated politics as his stage, playing the same charismatic businessman as he had done for the last three decades.
Trump today finds himself at a crossroads. After his role in the Capitol riots left him cut off from his existing social network accounts, he is now spending his time quietly lying low at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort in Florida. But nevertheless, the fact of the matter remains that Trump still holds a considerable Republican following and as such, a powerful influence on the GOP’s agenda.
With many left to question his future role in government, perhaps we may see a return to his former friend, big network television, for a new role as a vocal and outspoken political commentator, or as a cameo in an outdated sitcom.
But, his rejection of Hollywood and traditional forms of media supported by SAG-AFTRA is apparent and follows the lines of the anti-establishment narrative he rose to the presidency on.
Perhaps then instead, Trump will carry on in his endeavours to forge a new ‘post-truth’ narrative based on ‘alternative-facts’ and continuing to indulge his support base in his own version of events. Trump’s time on the presidential stage may be over, but his role on the political stage isn’t just yet.
Illustration by Amber Conway