The Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer famously stated recently that the presidency of Donald Trump would “make punk rock great again” (#MPRGA) and the proof is in the pudding with many others saying it would also make comedy great again, with now legendary appearances by Melissa McCarthy and Alex Baldwin on Saturday Night Live.
Regardless that countless numbers of American minorities more likely have other priorities on their minds at the moment than the quality of underground music, is this sentiment even true?
Several punk musicians have already voiced their opinions on the new administration. On Inauguration Day the group the Three Grams organized Punks Against Trump, a concert of collective punk artists in Denver, a day before the Women’s March on Washington.
Meanwhile, famed Russian feminist punk outfit Pussy Riot are provocative in their video for their song “Make America Great Again”, eliciting fascist and Nazi-type imagery in their portrayal of Trump and his policies as violently xenophobic.
The Juliana Hatfield Three has already announced a blatant anti-Trump album titled Pussycat featuring such track titles as “Kellyanne”, “Heartless” and “Short-Fingered Man”; not subtle perhaps, but then again it is Trump.
Punk music has always been a movement against the establishment; be it anti-authority, anti-mainstream, or even anti-musician. The fiery milestones of punk such as the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” took shots at a heretofore seemingly untouchable institution as the British monarchy.
Similarly the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 70s brought the U.S. presidency down to a touchable, satirical level. Presidents from Nixon to Clinton to Bush have been harshly lampooned by a society free to question authority and poke fun at its leaders. George W. had a frosty reception to Stephen Colbert’s infamous performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner where his jokes perhaps cut too close to the bone.
What makes the Trump administration different is they’re the first in an internet/social media-age to actively react to these jokes, without the filter of a press secretary or spokesperson but from the President himself. Trump’s infamous Twitter handle means he can spout his reaction to Meryl Streep at a thumb’s notice, minutes after seeing it on TV.
This means that, theoretically, it should be easier to directly bait the famously thin-skinned Trump with provocation, particularly through the media. Colbert’s been doing it every night since the election.
But while the Sex Pistols were literally something new in a musical landscape, punk music now is just one genre awash with several others within the online ocean. It can be much harder for punks to make a name for themselves, let alone make national news.
Regardless, the more material there is for punks and comedians to fight against, the more entertaining it is for the rest of us. For real action, call a local senator, participate in rallies, sign petitions; but never give up rocking out.
That attitude makes America great.