What Orwell got right, and wrong, about power in the Age of Trump

The prescience of George Orwell’s 1984 is near-universally acknowledged across America. In this 1948 dystopian sci-fi novel that exhaustively details the workings and philosophies of a terrifyingly successful totalitarian government of the future, we find an analogue for seemingly every act of deception, repression and cruelty perpetrated by modern governments. Vocabulary from the novel like “doublethink” and “newspeak” have long been incorporated into the general lexicon.

Orwell’s genius (or perhaps just his highly effective observations of how oppressive regimes functioned) is unimpeachable, but Orwell’s book was fundamentally…

Liberals baffled about the President’s appeal to so many Americans might learn something from reading comic books

For the past four years, liberals have struggled to understand Donald J. Trump’s consistently strong appeal to (if polls are accurate) about a third of Americans. The actions President Trump takes that seem most despicable and dangerous to many on the “cultured Left” — the lies, the insults, the violations of both law and decorum — not only fail to evoke condemnation from his conservative supporters, but often evoke cheers. How does a veritable cliché of supervillainy to some read as superheroic to others?

Superheroes have always served as something of a cultural barometer; the Batman of the 1950s upheld…

The answer may have to do, not with atoms, but with stories

It may seem surprising that the Trumpian “war on science” has gained so much traction, and that empirical, rational thought continues to lose ground to charismatic snake oil salesmen all over the world. Even during a global pandemic, when science is more important than ever, a perplexing number of people are willing to tolerate, even to cheer on, a President who sidelines, berates and defunds the very scientists and health experts upon whom our lives depend. How can we explain this?

The problem isn’t that science is too…

Thoughts on the season finale of Star Trek: Picard

(spoilers galore, read onward at your peril)

Loved the Picard season finale. This series has truly been the most well-written and engaging thing I’ve watched since Season 1 of Stranger Things, or Season 1 of Westworld…the ethos, of course, is different for Picard than for either of these shows, but the way it both honored and redefined Star Trek, with superb writing and acting, remained consistent all season long.

Picard the character maintains his fervent belief in the idealized values of an adventure show hero from the era before we started…

(Number One, go to Yellow Alert — there are spoilers throughout this review)

Well, it only took 20 years since the conclusion of Deep Space Nine, but finally, FINALLY, we’ve got a worthy successor to the Star Trek line.

Ok, maybe you could count Voyager (which ran until 2001), which was decent Trek, although I found the many plotholes, technobabble that pushed even Trek’s suspension of disbelief and general lack of character evolution frustrating.

But what did we get since then? First Contact aside, the NextGen movies ranged from uninspiring (Generations, Insurrection) to terrible (Nemesis). The series Enterprise, with the…

(aka Star Wars: Rise of the Jump Cuts)

(I sense great SPOILERS in this review…spoilers lead to anger, anger leads to hate, etc…)

I’m not sure what I was expecting in a movie that aimed to finish off a story I’d been waiting some 40 years to see conclude, but sadly, Rise of the Skywalker didn’t deliver much except for pretty visuals, set piece after set piece, and lots of stuff blowing up. …

Boris Johnson’s sweeping victory in England made me think, hardly for the first time, that the only purpose in being a liberal/globalist these days is to keep the companies that manufacture antidepressants in business.

It’s depressing because I think I have come to understand the appeal of Johnson, of Trump, of Bolsonaro and Duterte and all of the populists that democracies around the world have not only elected but continue to keep in power. Their endurance, despite (or even because) of their blatant disregard for civility and/or honesty, is not simply attributable to the support of racists and ignorant hicks.

In this modern age of curated media, one of the few surviving realms of monoculture is Disney. Specifically in this case, any parent raising a daughter during this decade has found FROZEN occupying a central place in the pantheon of their child’s media life. We’ve raised our two children in a nearly screen-free home (no TV, no smartphones for anyone) and Frozen still wormed its way, like creeping frost, past our home’s insulation and into our kids’ hearts…and I’m totally okay with that. Disney, for a long time the bane of feminism, has long ago realized the money that can…

“Stranger Things” in a Strange Land : Review of Season 3

(beware demodogs and spoilers)

Like the corrupting tentacles of the Mind Flayer, Season 3 took a little while to grow on me, but it eventually happened. Here’s how and why.

Context: Season One of Stranger Things was some of the best television I have ever, ever seen, hitting all the right notes in my perfect-target-audience-mind and soul: 80s culture, particularly nerd culture (calling oneself a “geek” in the 1980s would be anachronistic), and 80s movies in particular. …

Review of Avengers: Endgame (Spoilers, assemble!)

One of the things I loved about devotedly following every month’s adventures in dozens of different comic books which, thanks to a shared universe (generally Marvel or DC), had interrelating or at least tangentially connected plots, was becoming attached to characters and watching them grow and develop and change over time (part of why I so dislike reboots, that erase such evolution)…and every so often there would be a giant summating moment. DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths was really the first (and arguably still the best) of such grand convergence moments, but Marvel really…

David Nurenberg

Educator, consultant and author. His latest book is entitled, “What Does Injustice Have to Do With Me? Engaging Privileged White Students with Social Justice.”

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