I've Seen This All Before: Trump is Playing Out the Plot to Nightmare Before Christmas
Let me make one thing clear; I HATE Nightmare Before Christmas. I stand apart from others in my generation and those that came after in adoring this movie. I've seen it multiple times, as is obligatory for people my age; I know the songs and tried so hard to get into it. I just can't. While this movie enjoys a hallowed spot in the pantheon of animated children's fables, to me, this isn't the story of a well-intentioned knave who accidentally steps too far out of bounds. I see a more ominous tale of what happens when one person, dissatisfied with their situation, strong arms themselves into someone else's lane, appropriates their culture with no deep understanding of the meaning behind it and unleashes all sorts of unintended consequences because of their ill-conceived desire to have more than they already have. It smacks of the moral lesson that America is about to learn, bigly.
The United States of America has elected it's very own Pumpkin King, a man who looked out from the macabre world of shady international real estate and the dim hovels of the Conservative Right and marveled at the bright and shiny domain of civil society. Donald Trump was attracted by the trappings of the presidency much like Jack Skellington of Halloween Town marvels at the wonder of snow and dazzle of sparkling lights upon discovering Christmas Town. The comedy of errors that follows Jack Skellington as he perpetrates his version of "Christmas" is noteworthy in that he is hardly aware of the chaos he wreaks, lacking a grasp of the meaning and intention behind the ritual of Christmas. His attempt to replace Sandy Claws is limited by his cursory understanding of the role he hoped to play. The Dunning-Kruger Effect would suggest Jack's inability to understand why he failed at Christmas is because he doesn't understand Christmas in the first place, so can't know that his facile efforts aren't anything like the genuine article. Jack self-assuredly proceeds from house to house, unwittingly spreading terror to children, and creating havoc for the police of Christmas Town. Trump seems to lack a fundamental grasp for (or any regard for) the basic tenets of American democracy or in the freedoms outlined in the Constitution or the constraints to his authority as President. In his hands, his governing has been chaotic, his proclamations, twisted, the ramifications to society, nightmarish.
In my allegory, Sandy Claws would be a stand in for Obama and the liberal elite. Perhaps it's not a perfect casting, but still, the regard our 44th President earned from America's civil society, which we'll call Christmas Town, is highly coveted by Trump, who plainly desired the same acclaim. We can consider Trump's campaign to delegitimize Obama by questioning his birth effectively his kidnapping. Obama's presidency was hamstrung by doubts about his birth, religion, and race, lead by Trump, and that contributed to the overall intractability of Obama's agenda; Trump's ascendancy proceeds from here.
Of course, the denizens of Halloween Town are the Republican voting base, who admire Trump's perceived wealth and regard him as a strongman. They aspire to be like him. In the movie, the cretins of Halloween Town were easily manipulated to overtake Christmas and gleefully engaged in the industry of creating horror, being inured to it.
Ruling Halloween Town is the Two-Faced Mayor, clearly Paul Ryan and the rest of the GOP Congress who are prone to hypocritically reversing their positions on principled stands whenever it suits them, concerned first and foremost with maintaining their power and, apparently, little else.
Trump's "gifts" to the people of Christmas Town are his cabinet picks; each their unique kind of horror. Giant Snake? Jeff Session. Murderous Teddy Bear? Betsy DeVos. Duck with Fangs? Ryan Zinke. Shrunken Head? Ben Carson. Carnivorous Jack-in-the-Box? Scott Pruitt. Each appointed with what seems like the express motivation of dismantling their respective departments from the inside, like gifts delivered by a clueless Santa-substitute, right into the homes of Christmas Town.
Lock, Shock, and Barrel are Jack Skellington's Deplorables, spreading mayhem and disorder, but they aren't exactly under Jack's control. The likes of Richard Spencer, Alex Jones, and Milo Yiannopoulos aren't Trump's lackeys but were happy to destabilize the institution of democracy as it suited their desires. These creeps reveled in the vacuum of chaos created by Trump and gladly carried off the body of civil society in a satchel.
Unbeknownst to Jack, the Deplorables deliver their catch to Oogie Boogie, who is clearly Steve Bannon. The boogieman of American politics has always been White Supremacy and the specter of Fascism. Much like in the movie, Jack Skellington is an unwitting accomplice, a useful idiot in endangering the world he inhabits. Steve Bannon isn't interested in governing, he has designs to dismantle the state, and Trump's incuriosity suits his purposes. It remains to be seen that Trump understands the ramifications of allowing a man like Steve Bannon to affect policy or appreciates the optics of Bannon's proximity to power or if Trump can apprehend the intentions of the agents that are operating in the shade cast by his shadow. Oddly enough, the real life Steve Bannon probably is a bunch of insects and rodents inhabiting a burlap sack, too.
I acknowledge it's an imperfect analogy but The Mad Scientist, Dr Finkelstein, is our Vladimir Putin. It's clear that he's been pulling strings and fashioned the skeletal reindeer that carried Trump's sleigh aloft, but it's unlikely that Putin created our Sally...
Sally is the American Media. The media is clearly in love with Trump. Since day one, they have enabled his every action, amplified his every word, reflected his love of self, and legitimized his candidacy. They gave him permission to become a monster and broadcast every moment of it. The media has the foresight to predict everything that Trump will bring about, like Sally's nightmare, but, like Sally, it is apparently powerless to stop him. Despite every attempt to warn Jack and thwart his plan, Sally can't bring herself to stand up to him, and whenever she tries, Jack dazzles her with his dizzying rhetoric and dancing, much like Trump can derail the media and send it scrambling with a single baseless Tweet.
The movie lacks redeeming moral value; I hate what this implies about the future of America. Jack Skellington does nothing to redeem himself other than attempt to save his devoted girlfriend, Sally, from Oogie Boogie, a circumstance he created himself. His freeing of Sandy Claws is the unintentional result of Oogie's demise. It's unclear that Jack ever understands what he did wrong, only upset that the people of Christmas Town tried to shoot him out of the sky. It's unrealistic to hope that America will get such a tidy ending. Obama isn't going to set everything right magically. Trump, like Jack, probably isn't going to suffer any consequences nor learn any lessons. The supposedly sympathetic Sally, instead of leaving Jack for being such a tool, loves him all the more. (Just as the media has been fawning all over George W. Bush as of late)
What a fantasy. As a forty-something geek, I'm supposed to love this movie. I'm supposed to think Jack Skellington's a hero; I'm expected to be charmed by all the cutesy macabre. It all just plays like self-indulgent wish-fulfillment for those who long to change their circumstances but are too naive and incurious to understand what it takes to step outside of themselves. In Jack Skellington, I see a covetous Trump who desires all the respect and admiration that Obama commanded but doesn't understand the deep values that instilled our 44th president with the grace and dignity he brought to the office. Nor can he grasp the long-standing intellectual foundation of Progressivism and the Enlightenment that has created the society he so desperately seeks approval from. I don't know that Santa has a trick in his bag that is going to make this nightmare go away. The citizens of Halloween Town and Christmas Town are going to need to start demanding some accountability from their leaders and yank out the thread of hate holds the burlap sack of Steve Bannon together.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that happy soul who gleefully leads Trump's sleigh across the sky: