A Sideways Glance: A hyperbolic script we simply can’t accept

  • President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside the White House about a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., Saturday April 27, 2019, as he leaves Washington en route to Wisconsin. AP PHOTO/Jacquelyn Martin

Friday, May 03, 2019

To Professor Harvey Q. Fotheringay, Department of Current Affairs, Elite Ivy League University:


Dear Professor Fotheringay: On behalf of my company, Movies From Sages For The Ages, I wish to thank you for thinking of us and submitting your script for a proposed documentary on the election and first two years or so of Donald Trump’s presidency.

I should begin by informing you that as a movie mogul, I, together with my Acquisitions Committee members, work an extraordinarily busy schedule, having virtually no time for attending to the kinds of current affairs that are your specialty. Nevertheless, after we looked at your script it was obvious that it would be a waste of time and energy to fact check it because of it’s obvious satirical, impossibly hyperbolic nature.

Despite your seemingly sincere claim that you submitted a documentary, we concluded this claim is a satirical device to further the production of a feature film with virtually entirely fictional content, perhaps in the spirit of Orwell’s “1984” to warn us of what could happen if we were not so alert as we are to threats to our democracy.

As things now stand, audiences will find the content of your script so unbelievable they will walk out. The only possibility of holding them would have been a comedy built around these extreme ideas, and you certainly have not done that.

Consider, you are asking the audience to believe that Christian evangelist churches, with their roots in morality and honesty, will abandon these values to support a president who has lied or made false statements more than 8,000 times in his first two years in office, and that almost 40 percent of the electorate will support such a liar. Preposterous! An audience would never believe it.

You also expect an audience to believe that a president of the United States would alienate our traditional allies and fawn over enemy dictators, while at home he would refuse to condemn white supremacists and, instead, declare that there were good people on both sides in the demonstrations in Charlottesville, where the people on one side chanted “The Jews will not replace us.”

Consider, Professor Fotheringay, what you are asking the audience to believe about the Republican party. You ask them to accept that the same GOP that has stood for patriotism and democracy would support a tyrant wannabe. Altogether too farfetched. The Republicans have always been friends of the FBI and now you want us to believe they would support the firing of its director to obstruct justice. That would never happen.

Finally, think about the long list of incidents you ascribe to the president. You have him persist in declaring that the previous president was not a citizen, ridicule a judge, attempt to ban all Muslims from the U.S., declare that “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election,” claim that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” that his IQ is one of the highest ever and then disprove that claim by claiming that “Obama is the worst ever president,” and you also expect an audience to believe your claims about his treatment of Americans citizens living in Puerto Rico.

You dream that audiences will believe a special counsel’s investigation described 10 instances of obstruction of justice by this president and the Republican party would not be clamoring for impeachment, and yet, more bizarre, you suggest that many of the Democrats (the Democrats!) are reluctant to begin an impeachment process. You show us an administration that systematically defies the law of the land, imprisons asylum-seekers and kidnaps and loses their children. In short, you present a picture of the president as a thug.

And finally, from the standpoint of my industry the most absurd claim of all: you want us to believe that this ignoramus of a president who finds reading a book too challenging would declare that Meryl Streep is one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood. That line stretches credibility beyond the breaking point.

So, Professor Fotheringay, I commend your creativity and imagination, but our company must pass on your submission, and respectfully suggest that you either make profound changes in your script or expect reluctance on the part of other movie companies to undertake your project, either as a straight documentary or a satirical feature film.


Melvin Kerfunkle, Highest Mogul, Movies From Sages For The Ages , Burbank, California.

Richard S. Bogartz is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.