In the age of TRUMPological Episodic Drama, performance is reality, and reality is performance. We have lost all notion of the real in the impeachment saga. We are now deep in the cinematic spectacle. The Trial of the Century has been rendered as a mini-series with a cast of colorful, sordid characters that grips our attention daily, hourly!, with the most lurid details. This is pure XTreme TRUMPological scripting of the media spectacle. TRUMP declared so presciently when he entered the White House and directed the staff that they should “treat each day of the presidency as an episode of a Reality TV show in which he vanquishes his enemies.”
The latest episode is the fall & re-emergence of Lev Parnas, a wannabe player who stepped out into the spotlight by crashing the party of the so-called Corruption Buster Rudy Giuliani. Apparently, a desperate-for prime-time, Russian speaking, TRUMP-loving, Ukrianian born, Brooklynite with ties to oligarchs and visions of mob-style grandeur was just what the former NYC Mayor was looking for. Neither Coppola nor Scorcese could have invented such an ideal bad-guy character sketch for the Ukraine plot. Parnas was the hit-man assigned to the front lines of the operation, ordered to get the dirt on Joe & Hunter Biden and smear the reputation, no let us say, scare the living daylights out of Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch.
Parnas loved TRUMP, he entered deeply under the SPELL of the TRUMP Cult (as he called it), willing to do the President’s bidding no matter what, no matter how, whether illegal, corrupt, or morally offensive. That is, until Parnas got caught laundering money to Republican political campaigns. After his arrest, in his grand, oversized naivete, Parnas had a come to Jesus realization upon being ruthlessly dumped by The Bosses, when he became, essentially, damaged goods, to use the appropriate mafioso parlance.
So what did Parnas do? He delivered a massive iPhone dump to Capitol Hill, and a new episode of the saga unfolded. Suddenly, revealing, tantalizing photos and documents began to appear in the media. Every time TRUMP exclaimed he “didn’t know the guy,” a new photograph of smiles and thumbs up appeared across the news spreads. Parnas went on The Rachel Maddow Show for a two-day marathon interview, where in his thick Brooklyn-Ukrainian-Mobster inflections told his sad story of being jilted, of being tricked and cajoled into conducting heavy-handed pressure tactics against the Ukranians. Yes, he squealed, as all drowned rats do eventually. And of course the Republicans can conveniently deny every word because Parnas is basically a con man, exactly the kind of character TRUMP hires, because when the heat is on, no one believes them. How perfect is that!
The impeachment saga is a real-time movie that has extruded from the theatrical screen, projecting into real life, or perhaps more appropriately, the post real life as we know it today. In these TRUMPological times of mediated fervor, nothing is real, everything is performance, all is scripted and episodically conceived, a situational comedy, a daily serial drama unfolding in front of our satiated eyes. Who needs movies when you have a quotidian plot that exceeds the expectation for raw entertainment beyond our wildest imagination? Except, unfortunately, it’s a destructive test of the national sanity, of democracy itself, when cinema is pushed to the limit, an expanded cinema, that spills over the edge of the suspension of disbelief into the astonishment of belief.