Trump, television, and the "new camp" Event as iCalendar

(Media and Communication, Sociology)

23 March 2018

1 - 2pm

Venue: Pat Hanan Room, Arts 2 Building (207-501)

Associate Professor Misha Kavka | Media and Communication

One month after the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, Time magazine announced in a headline, ‘Donald Trump Is the First True Reality TV President’ (9 Dec 2016). While prescient, the insight wasn’t exactly new; the phrase ‘reality TV candidate’ had been circulating since well before the election, almost always in the context of belittling Trump by associating him with what we all ‘know’ to be the lowest genre of television: reality TV. But if Trump’s surprise election has proven anything, it is that we cannot afford to dismiss reality TV as ‘not real’ nor to grandly assume that the ‘reality TV president’ has infected politics with fiction. On the contrary, television is the thing that has made Trump very real – and real in a particular way, as a medium of feeling – for a large portion of the American public, precisely through his experience with and exposure on reality TV. If reality television makes claims to the real via constructed fictions, then Trump, we might say, is one of its most real effects – or, better, one of its most real affects.

In this talk, I will offer a framework for conceiving of the way that Trump-as-medium interlaces reality TV and politics by introducing a mode of transgressive presidential behaviour that we might call ‘new camp’, a campily dramatic mode whose thrill arises not from queerly exuberant irony but rather from anger embraced as the new currency of authenticity in the theatre of affect.

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