Trump's Oscars rant? He just wants Hollywood to see he's a star

Steve Rose
Photograph: Ronald Grant

The only real surprise was what took him so long. Nearly two weeks after Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win the Oscar for best picture, Donald Trump lashed out at a rally in Colorado on Thursday night. “How bad were the Academy Awards this year?” He asked, a propos of nothing. “The winner is a movie from South Korea, what the hell was that all about?”

Trump admitted he hadn’t actually seen Parasite: “Was it good? I don’t know.” Clearly he is less concerned about the movie’s quality than its provenance. Here he is, trying to make America great again, and a foreign movie takes Hollywood’s top prize, on his watch. “We got enough problems with South Korea with trade and on top of it, they give them the best movie of the year,” he complained. Let’s hope he doesn’t find out about any other foreigners winning Oscars. In the past decade, best director has been won by directors from Britain, France, Taiwan and, on five occasions, Mexico.

Playing to the partisan crowd in Colorado, Trump then asked: “Can we get like Gone With the Wind back please?” Cue loud applause at a movie with 100% name recognition and a narrative of white Americans losing their privilege as a result of the civil war. Even at the time of its release, Gone With the Wind was recognised as racist nonsense that glorified slavery and stereotyped African Americans. Trump threw another movie title in: “Sunset Boulevard” – Billy Wilder’s seminal 1950 noir on faded Hollywood grandeur, which was subsequently embraced by the gay community. That didn’t go down nearly so well.

Now at least, we know the precise date of the “again” in Trump’s catchphrase. And he was right in at least one sense: Gone With the Wind signified the peak of Hollywood greatness. Adjusted for inflation, it remains the highest grossing movie of all time, and the most watched at the cinema. It enabled Hattie McDaniel to become the first actor of colour to win an Oscar. But for the Maga crowd, Gone With the Wind is a double dose of nostalgia. It harks back to a Hollywood golden age where issues of representation, racism, diversity and sexism were never discussed, and its story harks back to an even earlier age where slavery existed. Those were the days.

Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Colorado, at which he lambasted Hollywood for giving the best picture award to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

But as well as blaring the identity politics klaxon one more time, this is really about Trump’s ongoing beef with the entertainment industry. Trump hates Hollywood, because Hollywood hates him. As a narcissistic celebrity with a need for attention and approval, Trump knows he would fit right in, but Tinseltown’s denizens have never accepted him as one of their own. So now he condemns them as “liberal movie people”. It is no coincidence Trump also singled out Brad Pitt in his Colorado speech, criticising the (5’ 11”/1.8-metre) actor as “a little wise guy”. On Oscar night, where he won best supporting actor, Pitt made a jibe about having more time for his acceptance speech than John Bolton got at the recent Senate impeachment hearings. Condemning Trump is practically a formality at awards ceremonies now, like thanking your agent. Remember when Meryl Streep did it at the Golden Globes in 2017? Trump responded by calling her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood”.

We all know who he considers the most underrated performer in Hollywood: Donald J Trump. He’s probably still smarting from the fact that the pinnacle of his movie career was his five-second cameo in Home Alone 2 (“down the hall and to the left”). And he only landed that role because they were shooting at his property and he gatecrashed the set to demand they put him in the movie. He constantly complained about The Apprentice being overlooked for Emmy awards, even interrupting his onstage debate with Hillary Clinton to insist he should have won. And the only awards gracing his trophy cabinet are his Golden Raspberry Awards: worst supporting actor, 1990, for Ghosts Can’t Do It (don’t even bother looking on YouTube), and two more from 2019, including “worst screen combo” for “Donald Trump and his self-perpetuating pettiness”. The only place Trump gets genuine approval for his performances is at his rallies – at least until he references Sunset Boulevard.

Related: Donald Trump jabs at Parasite's Oscar win because film is 'from South Korea'

Parasite’s US studio Neon gave the perfect riposte to Trump’s rant: “Understandable, he can’t read.” But if Trump ever did sit down and watch Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece (perhaps with a minion by his side to read the subtitles out loud), he might not like what he saw. A movie about the poor underclass infiltrating society’s upper echelons through a combination of deception, smarts and hard work. A critique of class inequality and the capitalist system that perpetuates it. With no white people in it. It’s his worst nightmare. But in the interests of reconciliation, there is a way to resolve this dispute. For the sake of world peace, Bong Joon-ho needs to direct a remake of Gone With the Wind, with Donald Trump as Rhett Butler.

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