DeSantis Has Been Aguilera’d by Trump

Like many pundits I have come to the conclusion that Ron DeSantis cannot defeat Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination.  But unlike the run of the mill political handicappers, I came to this conclusion not by polls and chit chat among power brokers and donors, but with a Jon Meachem-esque historical analysis of the last two divas with ties to Florida tangled: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

By 2001 Britney Spears has established herself as both socially acceptable jail bait and the queen of pop.  But nipping at her heels was the much more vocally talented, but not as popular Christina Aguilera.  In the life cycle of any young, female pop star there are distinct phases: 1. cute, asexual Disney talent, 2. forbidden fruit starlet, 3. I’m a (legal) woman now and boy do I want to have sex with you, 4. trainwreck, 5. redemption story.  Well, by 2001 Britney Spears was fully emersed in the third phase and released “I’m a Slave for You” (which would now have to be the less catchy “I’m an Enslaved Person for You”).  It was a masterclass in tasteful sex appeal. She showed off her flat, sweaty abs while dancing with a snake – the most phallic of reptiles – and for good measure, banged the video choreographer Wade Robson (molested by Michael Jackson, sleeping with Britney Spears (which inspired Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”) the only thing left for Robson to be the ultimate pop music Forrest Gump would be if either Elvis or Madonna were his parent). It was a hit song and established Spears as the limit of tasteful, youthful sex appear. But one artist did not seem to think it was the limit: Christina Aguilera.

The next year, Aguilera raised the bar and released the single and video, Dirty.  In the video, Aguilera decided that the only way to defeat Spears in a nuclear ass race was to literally show her ass.  In a video where she grinds in a boxing ring wearing assless chaps, Aguilera seemed to be saying “I see your abs Ms. Spears and I raise you butt cheeks!” If Spears was the teen movie sex dream, Aguilera seemed to be saying, “You know what men like more than hot chicks in movies?  Hot chicks in porn!  Take that Britney!” By today’s standards both videos feel tame (the same way the “Rump Shaker” video felt scandalous when I was a young teen, but now just looks like a fun party) but at the time it became clear that Aguilera had overstepped.  The pop starlet war of 1998-2002 was over. Britney had won.

Now don’t get me wrong, 23 year old me LOVED “Dirty.”  I liked the song and the video.  But if you trust the judgement and libido of 23 year old J-L Cauvin you would have had President Demi Moore, VP Mariah Carey and Surgeon General my medical school-attending girlfriend.  It was clear that Britney, by taking it right to the line forced Aguilera into an impossible position: concede or go too far. Either way, she would lose.

So with that insightful trip down memory lane, it should be clear how this applies to Trump and DeSantis.  Trump, a fake blonde with some raw talent in his field, who should not be on social media and probably should have a conservator, is Britney Spears. DeSantis is the more talented (at governing), less well-liked competitor trying to establish himself as number 1.  Unlike America, the Trump Republican party is not America of 2002. It is a group so morally compromised and hypocritical that you would think there would be no bottom, but alas I believe there might be.  For the MAGA folks Trump’s charisma-infused hate is just the right amount.  He makes jokes, he claims credit for a surging economy and he tells the people they hate to fu*k off.  He has set the standard for how much lack of decency MAGA will accept.

DeSantis, like Aguilera, seems to have made the wrong calculation. Aguilera, as the more talented singer, could have pivoted to more serious music and engaged a broader range of music fans, even if she had to concede the pop star crown.  DeSantis, instead decided to bypass “Dirty,” which would have been a mistake already, and go straight to Filthy.  He is trying to out-Trump Trump in a culture and party defined by Trump.  Trump is the exact package of immoral feces that the MAGA crowd is willing to ingest. If you go crueler, especially without the charisma or personal connection of a Trump, you are toast.  To modify the characterizations of Al Gore and Bill Clinton from the 90s, “When DeSantis hates, you feel he’s the most hateful man in the room; when Trump hates, you feel like your hate is the most important hate in the room.”

DeSantis has instituted a 6 week abortion ban, non-unanimous capital punishment, concealed carry without a permit and a host of anti LGTBQ bills, all with the intention of out-Trumping Trump. But his political assless chaps are showing and while losing the moderates that could have made him competitive against Trump, he is also proving to be a less fun version of Trump.  MAGA people want their hate to be fun and Trump does that for them. DeSantis just makes hate feel like hate and the key to the MAGAts is that they want to hate, but still delude themselves into thinking they’re the good guys.  They are slaves for Trump, but just are not going to get dirty with DeSantis.


Another Michael Jackson Is Impossible

Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, The Pope, Michael Jordan, Bill Clinton.  This is the group of people’s whose deaths could rival or exceed Michael Jackson’s in terms of worldwide newsworthiness and cultural impact (and Jordan is very iffy).  That is really it in my opinion.  (And it happened a few hours after I was complaining that Farrah Fawcett’s death, though sad for her family and friends of course, did not warrant huge media attention.  Jackson’s did and does. )  And notice there are no music people on the list.  Sorry Justin Timberlake, Usher, Ne-Yo and any other people who they are already trying to figure out who could take the mantle.  That sounds like a bad joke.

There is no “next” Michael Jackson.  There are a few reasons for this:

The Cultural Gap

Michael Jackson had an incredible talent and an abusive parent willing to beat it out of him (I had parents willing to do the latter, but quickly persuaded them against hitting me a lot with my “I don’t have much talent” defense).   Acrucible this toxic, but which generates such prodigious, one-of-a-kind genius could never occur in today’s over-exposed culture, where every other as-hole can actually become a star.  He’d either be scooped up by a reality show or taken away from his parents (unlikely if he’s famous since we revel in the exploitation of children every day on shows like Jon and Kate plus 8).  So there’s no sense talking about a “next” MJ because it is not really possible given our cultural landscape of low standards and quick fix need for new celebs.

The Innovation Gap

There is nobody with his talent for innovation in the music business.  His closest musical counterpart is Madonna and she’s not really close.  Today there is more imitation than anything else.  Not to draw a comparison, but that is one of the reasons Adam Lambert was so good on American Idol – he seemed to be somewhat original, but still he lived in the shadow of men like Steven Tyler and Freddie Mercury.  The best analogy I can come up with is sports related. The shadow Michael Jordan cast on basketball is so great that players like Kobe and LeBron are trying to be free of it today and cast their own legacy.  Now imagine Michael Jordan were put in a time machine and played in the 1960s instead of the 1980s and 90s.  Now imagine how much more incredible and awe-inspiring he would have been if he was in that era.  That is what Michael Jackson did for music.  And his breaking of major racial barriers goes without saying.

The Class Gap

As ironic as it may sound Michael Jackson is lucky to have lived until 50 with the media pressure and voyeuristic celebrity hunting that now goes on.  He was fortunate enough to be a fully grown man by the time people were really going psycho for him.  Nowadays with this exponentially growing blood lust we have for celebrities wouldn’t he be more likely to suffer a fate like Britney Spears?  Breaking down right before or after Thriller, thus denying the public of several years of quality music afterwards?  I even like You Rock My World, which he released 19 years after Thriller.

The child molestation charges and odd behavior of Michael Jackson will forever be linked to his legacy.  I have a friend who believes child molesters should be castrated.  I am one of those people that hopes that Michael was just strange and never did anything sexual to the children, but that feels unlikely.  But I look at a guy who was abused by his father, and lived a public life for 40 years that no one besides Obama over the last 2 years can even relate to I think.  I feel bad for him.  People feel bad for victims of abuse when it occurs, but when they turn into monsters themselves, no one cares anymore.  This is not a defense for his actions, if he did abuse children, but just maybe a moment of compassion is warranted, even if you do find him despicable.  When you look at pictures of this cute talented kid and then at the recluse alien he became you have to know this was a deeply troubled person not in full control of what he became – his family exploited him and society smothered him.

So I am happy to own a bunch of Michael Jackson records and in a show of class I only told one Michael Jackson joke (it was the entertainment elephant in the room) last night (at one of the most difficult shows of my career – nothing compared to the massacre at Medgar Evers College a few years ago, but bad):

With Ray Charles, James Brown and Michael Jackson dead I’d be scared sh-tless if I was Stevie Wonder.  If diabetes doesn’t get his chubby ass, then apparently the ghost from Final Destination will.

I will write some funnier stuff on Sunday or Monday about my Florida trip (let’s hope the worst is behind me), but I wanted to write something about the biggest entertainer in the world.   And at least “kids these days” can see that there was something just a tad bigger than The Jonas Brothers and Lady Gaga.  After all, even I had a Michael Jackson figure – I believe it was the Billie Jean one (modeled on the 1983 Motown Special).  Music didn’t just lose a giant.  It lost THE giant.


Another Sense Of Decency Bites The Dust

Tonight on Bravo, one of the many channels quickly destroying art, taste and the soiled remnants of American culture will debut a show called NYC Prep.  The show is supposed to be the “real” compliment to the popular show Gossip Girl, which shows what a bunch of horny and spoiled teenagers attend New York City private schools, or at least lets high school kids know that if they aren’t spoiled or having sex they are probably doing something wrong.  As Oscar Wilde said (and I often quote): Life imitates art.

I have a theory on the degredation of pop culture over the last 10 years.  Much like how Thomas Friedman has written that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the creation of the Internet were two of the main factors in creating a “flat world”, I proposethat the rise of Britney Spears and the cancellation of Sex and the City have created an irreversible and negative trend in television.  Sort of like the force that keeps getting Kal Penn work in Hollywood.

Britney Spears may idolize Madonna, but I think it was her pimp parents who allowed her to have the far more influential role on pop culture and be a sex object for men worldwide at 16 years old.   I may risk sounding like the Christian Right here, but teenagers are the most susceptible group to peer pressure and cultural influence, from smoking to violence to sex.  The question of whether shows are reflecting current behavior or influencing it is not so important when speaking of soda choices , but is important when it comes to other matters like drug use and sexual activity.  The problem is that these shows create an irreversible trend.  Just like guys of my generation could not go back to watching Charles in Charge once they saw Nicole Eggert get railed by the Coreys in Full Blown, you cannot expect young teens to go back to to the days of Happy Days once the kids on WB are getting happy endings.   Parents still have the big responsibility for sure, but I think that experiment has failed. Parenthood, I mean.  Parenthood is like the Robin to Home Ownership’s Batman in the American delusion that has been propagated.  If you can’t afford a home you should not be brainwashed into trying to buy one; if you don’t have the time or desire to raise kids you should try not to have them.

Then there was the elimination of Sex and the City.  The most popular show not named The Sopranos in cable television history is a landmark.  Regardless of whether you like it or not it is a defining show for modern women.  But then it was off the air and has been followed by Desperate Housewives, Real Housewives, Kardashians, etc.  It is as if Sex and the City was the Saddam Hussein of television – a necessary evil (that I watched) that kept ridiculous show concepts that focused on four to six women, with “really different personalities” on the shelf or in the level of hell they were stored in because there was no market for them.  Now, with Sex and the City leaving a huge void it has been filled by a cornucopia of loud-mouth failed actresses.  Not to mention the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker had to go back to fronting for Twisted Sister.

And somehow born of this perfect storm of voyeuristically-exposed, unrestrained teenage libido and talentless skanks is NYC Prep.  Now I went to a New York City private school and attended the school with many wealthy kids (the kind of school where your friend with a Park Avenue apartment marvels at how rich the other kids are), but I don’t think I had an experience akin to NYC Prep.   For one I think my parents had me because they wanted me, not because they needed an accessory to complete their social profile.  As exhibited by one girl on NYC Prep, she and her brother have free reign of their Manhattan apartment because their parents live in the Hamptons and only come into the city one day a week.  Wow – that is the metaphorical equivalent of having your kid at the prom, but leaving the baby in a Gucci bag instead of a trash bag.

But we can’t sterilize people, poor or rich, no matter how terrible they will be as parents, but do we have to put these kids on television?  If my future/possible sons want to act as kids I will let them do school plays, right after I ask them if they are gay.  But they will not be on shows as kids.  End of story.  I mean when is there going to be legislation criminalizing putting your minor kids on reality television?  (Or the death penalty for all of those kids who were on My Super Sweet 16?)  It’s per se bad parenting.  Like a parent who buys their daughter breast implants because her self esteem is low – how can her self esteem improve if her Dad is buying them?

“What’s wrong honey?”

“Well, Dad, with my small boobs guys just don’t want to fu-k me…”

“Well let’s turn that frown upside down sugar tits!”

But I think my main question is why are we watching this stuff?  Are we really that stupid and shallow as a people?  Or have we just lost our sense of shame?  Greg Giraldo has a great bit about people on shows like Jerry Springer having no sense of shame, in fact being proud of having made objectively terrible decisions in life.  But we are predisposed to laugh when the people are white or black trash, but not when they come from the upper crust of society.  Oh well,  I guess I do not have an answers to theses question, so I will leave them open to comment.  But hopefully this trend stops before we get to Bravo’s eventual reality show: My First Period.  And no, it’s not about early classes at school.