Head of Richard Nixon, Body of Donald Trump
A prescient 1999 episode of Futurama predicted the rise of the absurd populist liar. It was funny at the time.
Yup, Futurama anticipated the unprecedented rise, the constant media circus, and the unbearable fervor surrounding current Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Matt Groening’s second opus posited a world where an unconscionable blowhard could weasel his way up the political ladder despite having a lot of personal baggage and no body. It seemed funny at the time!
The 1999 episode “A Head in the Polls” is spot-on political satire featuring the show’s favorite target, the still-very-much-alive head of President Richard Nixon.
In the episode, out-of-time delivery boy Fry, one-eyed alien Leela, and foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking robot Bender argue over whether Fry should register to vote. “Like one vote ever made a difference” he says before focusing on the TV.
This all eventually leads Bender to pawning off his 40 percent titanium body, bringing him into contact with the head of Richard Nixon when Fry and Leela take the bottomless robot to the Hall of Presidents in New York’s Head Museum. Seeing an opportunity to get back into politics, Tricky Dick buys Bender’s body and promptly announces his candidacy for President under the constitutional provision that “nobody can be elected more than twice”.
Throughout the episode, Nixon is the obvious Trump surrogate: A seemingly washed-up outsider suddenly entering the political arena amidst a collection of bland alternative candidates by being a controversial firebrand. He then proceeds to bloviate in immature ways reminiscent of how the current Republican nominee breaks every social taboo known to man.
“I like to kick ‘em when they’re down,” the Nixon head tells Bender at the museum. “You women’s lib-ers really know how to party,” he says while dreaming in a later scene. “Hey Betty Friedan, send a little bit of that lotion my way,” he continues, referencing the prominent feminist activist and author of The Feminine Mystique.
Later, in a maniacal tirade before actually winning the election, the Nixon head unleashes a torrent of campaign promises that, while outlandish, are sadly in line with the kind of absurdly off-the-cuff comments we expect Trump to make. “I’m gonna sell children’s organs to zoos for meat!” the Nixon head yells. Continuing, “Go into people’s houses at night and wreck up the place!”
But, the Nixon head/Trump comparison goes beyond mere similarities in the way they mindlessly vociferate.
According to the New York Times, Trump’s mantra at the recent Republican National Convention evoked Nixon’s own message at the equally controversial 1968 convention as an “heir to the disgraced former president’s law-and-order message, his mastery of political self-reinvention and his rebukes of overreaching liberal government.”
Trump’s own campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, admitted that speech is pretty much in line with a lot of issues that are going on today, referencing Nixon’s ‘68 convention address. Trump specifically aligned himself with Nixon’s fear mongering, saying “I think what Nixon understood is that when the world is falling apart, people want a strong leader whose highest priority is protecting America first.” Continuing, “The ’60s were bad, really bad. And it’s really bad now. Americans feel like it’s chaos again.”
The chaos of that Futurama episode — which ends with the Nixon head stomping through Washington D.C. in a gigantic missile-firing bionic body, screaming “Who’s kicking who around know!? — probably won’t happen in real life if Trump gets elected. But who knows, at the rate we’re going we can’t really count it out. One vote does make a difference. You don’t want Nixon’s head being elected President a third time, do you?