by Shelton Bumgarner
When Jimmy Fallon tussled Donald Trump’s hair in 2016, it marked the fall of a late night ratings empire that everyone expected to last for decades. This example of “Falloning” was one of many during the course of the 2016 campaign. It took a lot longer than it should have for people to take Trump, the demagogue, seriously.
Flash forward to 2017, and we live in a weird world where Stephen Colbert is now the late night campaign. Apparently it comes from time-shifting viewers, but still.
With the rise of Colbert Nation in the wake of Trumplandia, it raises some interesting questions. I know, at least from personal experience, that I only watch The Late Show for the monologue. It’s nice to have a place one a day where you get help processing how insane recent events have been. Colbert’s monologue serves a great purpose for American society as a whole and should Trumplandia prosper for a full eight years, it could produce some pretty high ratings for Colbert for years to come.
As I have mentioned before, comedians are at the forefront of American civil society’s reaction to Trumplandia. That, right now at least, is the primary method through which we process the existence of Trumplandia in the first place.
Some observers, however, see the rise of Colbert Nation — and similar popular anti-Trumplandia comics — to have a dark side. They think by being “too mean” to Trump, it causes people who are conservative, but not Trump supporters, to make the conscious decision to throw their lot in with Trump. I don’t know how much to read into this to be true.
Trumplandia is such a cancer on American civil society, that there has to be a point when eventually such arguments will be see as bullshit. It doesn’t work being nice to Trumplandia, to normalize it and they definitely don’t mind people being assholes, so why can’t we give them a taste of their own medicine?
A lot of this has to do with how “serious” commentators simply don’t know what to do with Trumplandia. They want things to go back to the way they were. Vanity Fair, for instance, at one point all but begged the ratings gods to make Jimmy Fallon number 1 again. This revolution caused by the rise of Trumplandia is something we’re going to have to get used to.
What will be interesting to see is what happens should the Tsar-a-Largo scandal grind on for years and finally produce some sort of result that no one can deny. (Yes, that may still be possible despite tribal politics.) When will we run out of jokes and begin to take Trump a lot more seriously than we have in days past.
I think give the earnest edge of Colbert’s monologue we’re about reaching that point. It seems as though people are beginning to wake up to how serious all of this is and soon enough we’ll stop laughing and get down to the serious business of The Resistance.