My World of Flops Case File #116/My Year of Flops II #13 The Trump Prophecy (2018)
When I discovered that a movie entitled The Trump Prophecy was being made based on the book of the same name I was fascinated by the seeming incongruity of making a serious, non-ironic movie about how the Lord, in all of His wisdom, personally chose old Cadet “Grab em by the pussy” Bone Spurs to be the leader of the free world.
After all, Trump isn’t just a flawed human being: he’s pretty much sin personified. That debauched motherfucker commits the 7 Deadly Sins by lunch and still has plenty of Diet Coke-fueled energy left to single-handedly make the world a worse, uglier, less Godly place. If God genuinely wants Trump to be the most powerful man in the world, He is a terrible judge of character.
At the same time, it makes all the sense in the world to make a movie about the divine plan behind Trump’s election because his popularity and appeal are inextricably rooted in a fierce, quasi-religious faith in Trump and his abilities that has nothing to do with the appalling insult of a man Trump is in reality and everything to do with the fantasy image he has created in his own mind and the minds of his followers of a strapping alpha-male who will restore a sullied, corrupted, excessively diverse nation to its White, Christian greatness.
It’s easier to believe that Jesus personally put Trump in the White House to heal a wounded nation than it is that the American people genuinely felt that Donald Trump, based on his demeanor, temperament and history was a better, more qualified candidate for our highest office than Hillary Clinton, who began preparing to be our first female president while still in the womb.
The cult of Donald Trump is just that: a fucking cult. It’s immune to reason, to logic, to facts of the non-alternative variety. When Trump famously said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any votes he wasn’t making a tasteless joke or engaging in some of his trademark crazed hyperbole so much as he was making a sober, reasoned statement of fact regarding his followers’ delusional faith in his ability, character and intelligence.
Besides, it did not take long for the Evangelical community to march in lockstep behind a mega-sinner whose hobbies including cheating on his wife with porn stars, cheating on his wife with Playboy Playmates and insulting veterans, the parents of veterans and the disabled. The Christian establishment happily entered into a Faustian bargain with the thrice-married beauty pageant operator and sham university proprietor: In exchange for pretending to be a Christian, and committing to evangelicals’ legislative agenda, Trump enjoys the fierce, seemingly unanimous support of the Christian Right despite being the biggest, least repentant sinner this side of Caligula.
I went into The Trump Prophecy assuming it was a documentary. I was surprised to discover that I was wrong. I was even more surprised to discover that I was right as well. How is that possible? Well, for its first eighty minutes or so The Trump Prophecy is a plodding, earnest, narrative drama of faith about a fiercely religious firefighter Mark Taylor (Chris Nelson) who experiences intense PTSD after being unable to save a child from a fire. The firefighter turned makeshift prophet then has a series of supernatural visions that ultimately lead him to help kickstart a national and International prayer movement to get Trump elected president.
After Trump’s election, we’re treated to a hilariously over the top montage of nostalgic footage of our boys in World War II saving the world for democracy and kicking Hitler’s ass as well as citizens standing proudly with framed photographs of veteran grandparents and folded-up American flags.
If you love American flags, bald eagles and/or inspirational shots of Mount Rushmore or the Washington Monument, you’ll want to whip out your dick and go at it or start pawing relentlessly at yourself in an erotic fervor, because this is nothing short of patriotism porn, full of money shots of flags waving elegantly in the breeze and American soldiers giving all so that Democracy may survive.
The unrelenting emphasis on sacrifice in this montage can’t help but highlight Trump’s deplorable, lifelong selfishness and narcissism. The adoring shots of veterans of our various wars underlines Trump’s lack of sacrifice, the way he has given up almost nothing in exchange for pretty much everything.
After the big, messy, patriorgastic “Isn’t America Great?” montage we switch very confusingly and unsatisfactorily to documentary as Taylor’s story is forgotten so that we can hear the unconvincing arguments of talking heads like Michelle Bachman about God’s love of free-market capitalism, strong militaries and desire for a return to Constitutional democracy following eight years of Obama-led Communism and Sharia Law.
Bachman captures the vibe of the talking heads when, full of Christian humility, she brags, “Because of our system of free market enterprise, we’ve been able to create wealth in this nation. And you can’t help other people unless you have wealth. And so we should never apologize for the fact that in this country, we know how to create wealth and we know how to use it wisely.”
We can learn much from Trump in that respect. He has the wisdom to know how much of his wealth should be earmarked for hush money to porn stars, how much of his wealth should be earmarked for Playboy Playmates for hush money and how much of his wealth should be hidden illegally in various tax scams.
Bachman’s assertion seems to go against the Bible passage reading, “Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” but I’m guessing Bachman knows just a little bit more about Jesus’ teachings than Jesus Himself. Would Jesus have made Trump president if this was not, in fact, His internal monologue, perpetually?
Like Trump, Jesus likes winners. That’s why he famously said, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a poor man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to enter the kingdom of God. The absurdly wealthy get in automatically but broke motherfuckers better enjoy the party downstairs, if you catch My drift.”
Ah, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves because for much of its sadistic, 110 minute runtime The Trump Prophecy is a shudderingly earnest drama that doesn’t get around to even mentioning Trump’s name until a good forty minutes in. Even after his introduction, Trump is felt rather than seen or even heard: he’s onscreen in archival footage for maybe a minute during the narrative part of the film, droning on about China in a way that the film tries adorably to pass off as divinely inspired, not an awful man bloviating about shit he knows nothing about.
The Trump Prophecy takes a long fucking time to be about Donald Trump but it wastes no time getting to the prophecy part. The first words we see or hear are “The spirit of God told me I have chosen this man for a time such as this for as Benjamin Netanyahu is to Israel, so shall this man be to the United States of America.”
Talk like Yoda this prophecy does. Backwards it feels but also biblical-like. Sure enough, when Mary Colbert (Paullette Todd), the woman who will take Taylor’s message about Trump being God’s surprising personal choice (I personally would have suspected someone less evil but what do I know?) and make a movement out of, first reads Taylor’s prophetic scribblings, she tells him, “This is good. It has that rhythm to it when the Holy Spirit is bearing witness to the truth.” Later she says “All I know is that it has that rhythm of truth to me.”
That Taylor’s prophecy feels biblical and true seems to be all that matters to Colbert. That’s enough to get her to spread the Taylor gospel to others who don’t even like Trump personally as a person but who could not deny the profound Biblical Truth of Taylor’s words. After all, he had his prophecy in 2011, when Trump wasn’t even a candidate, just a massively famous person constantly attacking the legitimacy of our first black president. Who could have possibly foreseen that a crazed narcissist with a personal grudge against the president of the United States might consider a run for office himself?
We’re introduced to Taylor in the most flattering possible way. He’s reading the Bible his grandmother gave him when he’s called to fight a fire started by a meth-smoking harlot, undoubtedly a Sanders voter or Clinton super-fan. Mark saves a child’s life but when he goes back in he’s unable to save their sibling.
Mark Taylor isn’t just a better Christian than Donald Trump, although that’s setting the bar so low that even Jim Jones would qualify. At least we know that evil motherfucker read the bible. No, Taylor actually comes off as a better Christian than Jesus Himself.
Mark is haunted by the child’s death, as well as profound PTSD, as well as an actual fucking demon. As the title perhaps conveys, The Trump Prophecy is not an overly subtle film so en route to his big discovery Mark spends a fair amount of time getting scared by an actual demon who is supposed to be a figure of visceral horror but instead comes off like a Tenacious D parody of a badass heavy metal D&D demon.
It makes more sense to me that a demon would be the one trying to get Trump elected president but that’s apparently not the case here.
Mark Taylor is overcome with nightmares and visions of an actual fucking demon. He clearly should talk to someone and go on medication. Instead, he decides to go off of his mood stabilizers and ends up having a vision that God wants Donald Trump to be President.
I tell you, saviors and prophets both come cheap these days.
How does The Trump Prophecy deal with Jesus’ hand-picked choice to restore our country to its previous, Christian greatness being taped talking about grabbing women by the pussy? Unsurprisingly, it chooses not to deal with that or any of the literally thousands of things Trump has said and done over the years that should get him exiled from polite society permanently, not just render him unelectable for a position of supreme importance he could not be less qualified for.
The closest The Trump Prophecy comes to acknowledging that Trump was not just a flawed man but an angry, racist, profane, belligerent, narcissistic monster is a brief sequence of the faithful watching a Republican debate in horror and being appalled at the lengths the demonic likes of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will go to in order to fight God’s will.
In this moment, Trump is treated like David taking on the Goliath of evil machine politics, not a bully who behaves like a cross between a mob boss and a four year old throwing a tantrum.
To actually address Trump as a human being rather than an unlikely but obviously legitimate savior sent by God to heal a divided land would destroy The Trump Prophecy’s message. So we see almost nothing of Trump, we hear almost nothing of Trump and even in the documentary segments of the film, the talking heads discuss the need for a strong army, booming economy and close U.S-Israeli bonds while almost never mentioning Trump by name.
The Trump Prophecy is, by definition, preaching to the converted. It’s an instant piece of Trump kitsch, on par with Steven Seagal’s The Way of the Shadow Wolves. It’s a movie for people who want a biblical, Christian, spiritual rationale for their support of an evil uber-sinner, and don’t care how lame or half-assed the case might be. It’s a film for believers, not people who wrestle with doubt.
Watching The Trump Prophecy I found myself wondering what an actual secular auteur could do with this material. There’s both a scathing satirical comedy and a haunting exploration of the complexities and intensity of faith and doubt in the story of a man with a devastating PTSD who goes off his medication and has disturbing delusions that God is talking to him personally and wants a thrice-married con artist and sexual predator to be president. I would love to see that story told by someone like Jody Hill or Paul Schrader or Paul Thomas Anderson. Instead we get a tribute to Trump as earnest as it is delusional.
Actually Paul Thomas Anderson already told this story with The Master, another drama about a shattered man suffering from an intense case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who channels his ragged energy and punishing intensity into evangelizing on behalf of a narcissistic con artist he sees as the savior of mankind. Only The Master, unlike The Trump Prophecy didn’t expect audiences to come out of the theater thinking that its L. Ron Hubbard figure was the real deal and they should follow him and his teachings.
I’m writing about The Trump Prophecy because I feel that it did NOT in fact lead to a widespread consensus that Trump’s presidency was divinely ordained but also because it received a fair amount of criticism from within the evangelical Christian community. At Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University, which helped make the film, students created a petition entitled “Cancel the Liberty University Film Program's Heretical Film Project”, arguing, among other things, “This movie could reflect very poorly on all Liberty students and Liberty University as a whole. Mark Taylor claims to have received prophecies directly from God that do not align with the Bible's message. Please support this petition if you think Liberty University should focus on reflecting God’s message rather than Mark Taylor's message” that got over 2300 signers.
I’m just a secular Jew but even I know enough about the bible and Christian theology to know that The Trump Prophecy is appalling from a scriptural, religious as well as narrative, political and ideological level.
The Trump Prophecy is ultimately about ninety-seven percent earnest biblical prophecy and three percent hilariously selective Donald Trump hagiography. That’s still three percent more than I could bear.
Failure, Fiasco or Secret Success: Fiasco
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