A tall male figure stands in front of a large crowd and preaches about the necessary changes this mostly-dead society must make to survive. This man wants a job. He wants this job so badly, even though he really hasn’t had the much necessary experience the position requires. His sycophantic zombie audience seems ready to send him their wailing support after each line delivered, even though they don’t fully comprehend it’s consequences. Sound like any number of short video clips you might have encountered in the news lately? It also sounds like a sequence during the cult Halloween classic The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993). Considering the never-ending media coverage shoved down our throats, you might be inclined to assume it is the former. Every political rally shown during this cycle looks quite reminiscent of this scene. As I was revisiting The Nightmare Before Christmas, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to circumstances in our election cycle. Almost like a dream, I came to realize that Jack Skellington and the GOP nominee for President have quite a few things in common. Now, I know what you’re thinking…. Jack’s hands are bigger. And yes, he certainly is a bit thinner, but in terms of situation and circumstance, I don’t think these sometimes orange-faced leaders are too different from one another.
Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is the ruler of his own domain. And when we see him at the very beginning of the film, he’s a bit forlorn. Jack rules over Halloween Town unchallenged and yet, there is a part of him that is still unfulfilled. He longs for a new purpose and a new job: being Santa. But this is already filled by a guy who has held the post for the past eight (plus) years. In terms of holiday spirit, Christmas seems to have taken the cake quite easily, leaving all the other holidays to serve as nice mile-markers along the way. In the world of The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s easy to see the appeal to being Santa: everything seems bright and fun. Snow, toys and universal admiration all come along with the job, which is a bit different from Jack’s more niche gig. The universal admiration thing is huge, because there’s something validating in knowing that everyone believes in you and adore you. Jack Skellington feels like he has conquered his own realm and wants to continue to expand his influence into Christmas, but as we soon find out, believing that you’ll be good at something doesn’t always translate into becoming good at something. That’s about where we are with one of this years Presidential candidates.
The GOP nominee, despite all of his jarring press, still shares a common goal with Mr. Skellington: to conquer a realm other than his own. In this election, we’ve seen the rise of a man with a burning desire to rule the free world. Initially, he too was the king of his own realm – a man who was widely respected as a great in the real estate industry. But he seemed to have a burning desire for more and he zeroed in on the world of politics decades ago, looking for an opportunity to helm one of (if not the) most powerful posts in the world. This job also looks like the dream job from the outside: far-reaching power and influence, infamy which will carry your name for generations after you leave this earth, a seat at the most elevated table on earth – what’s not to love? But the problem is that it’s very, very hard to get the job and once you get it, it’s no walk in the park. He dove in headfirst when he threw his name in the Presidential hat last year and ever since, it’s been a crash course in “Presidentiality”, emphasis on the ‘crash’. I imagine his foray into the political realm felt a lot like this.
It’s incredibly appealing to want to be President, just as it is to be Santa, but ultimately it takes a very specific type of individual to be able to handle the job. As Jack discovered, he just wasn’t cut out for all the gift giving and Christmas cheer. He had a vague idea of how the job worked after he spent a little time in Christmas Town. But he missed a lot; from the outside, you can only get impressions. Of course, it didn’t help that his endlessly loyal fanbase in Halloween Town blindly supports him in his venture, despite their complete lack of understanding Christmas. All this localized excitement propels Skellington to do whatever it takes, no matter how ridiculous, to become the symbol of the most celebrated holiday in the land. Unfortunately, once he becomes Santa, he is faced with huge reality check. It turns out that running a holiday is much more complicated than it appeared from the outside and Skellington’s new career comes to a literal fiery crash as Santa’s sleigh is shot out of the sky. I have a feeling Trump’s career trajectory might follow a similar pattern.
The rise an fall of Mr. Trump has been an exciting exercise in the taming of an ego. Followed by his own fanbase of blind followers, he has risen to the proscenium of the world’s stage and come ever so close to occupying that position for which he so clumsily vies. It was only a little over a month ago that this Presidential race would cause many a brow to gather sweat. But as soon as Trump had his moment, an opportunity to don his own red suit and go for a test run, he failed miserably. He had been living in his own world and exposed only to the endless praise and fervor which surrounded him, which is why the exposure to the outside world caused his merry reign to come crashing down in a spectacle of fire.
Now, there’s still a few weeks left before the election for Trump to turn things around, but as of now, his downward momentum seems difficult to stop. The spectacle is almost over (finally). In a way, this whole election season has been a true “Nightmare Before Christmas”, in that it is a complete and total shitshow and it keeps reminding us Christmas couldn’t come any sooner. But the nature of nightmares are ephemeral, eventually you wake up and it becomes fading memory. As horrible as it seems now, by Christmas this year, it will seem like nothing more than just a nightmare, soon to fade into the back of our minds. That is assuming, of course, that enough people wake up.