Popular culture recommendations for the time of Trump
April 14, 2017 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I am utterly failing to find popular culture that works for me in the time of Trump, and I would love recommendations. Dark is baseline. Darkly funny would help. Good themes might include grit, determination, resilience, overcoming bad odds, long slogs to better. Note though that I'm looking for escapism, not stuff that is too on the nose -- and so, I probably don't want documentaries, or anything that's literally about Trump or Nazis or the Stasi.

My general orientation is darkish, left wing and feminist. I like Jessica Jones, Black Mirror, The Babadook, Children of Men. Get Out. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Gillian Flynn. Louis C.K. I used to also like stuff like Girls and Master of None, but these days that kind of thing feels trite/irrelevant.

(Want to be sure to add that yes, I am in touch with my representatives, am protesting, following the news and reading some history. This is additional to that, not instead of it.)

Thank you!
posted by Susan PG to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
The Americans
posted by gwint at 5:26 PM on April 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2017

Mariana Enriquez's Things We Lost in the Fire is a brilliant collection of ghost stories mixed with political horror that recently came out, her first collection translated into English.
posted by dysh at 5:30 PM on April 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Orphan Black
posted by BoscosMom at 5:31 PM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

This might not be your thing at all - and is an outlier among my own interests! - but I LOVE the Resident Evil films and can't get enough; I always watch them when I come across them on night TV, which is pretty regularly. Grit, determination, resilience, slogs, and my girl crush Milla Jovovich in ridiculous costumes, along with (in some of the films) my badder-ass girl crush Michelle Rodriguez and Dude I Enjoy Kevin Durand. They're not GOOD - but I LOVE them. Nonsensical 'science,' big evil corporations, zombie killing, enjoyably bad dialogue, and inconsistent plotting FTW.
posted by Occula at 5:44 PM on April 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Expanse (either the tv series or the book series), if you enjoy science fiction. It takes place far in the future so it doesn't feel like it's about current events. It's dark and humans still treat each other badly, but there is hope, too. The tv show has one the most diverse cast of characters out there and some really awesome female characters. The books are even better when it comes to the female characters.
posted by MsMartian at 5:46 PM on April 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

Bojack Horseman
posted by telegraph at 5:52 PM on April 14, 2017 [9 favorites]

Colossal, starting Anne Hathaway, is expanding to 100 theaters this weekend. It's feminist, dark, hilarious, and really satisfying. The logline is "alcoholic woman discovers she's inadvertently controlling a kaiju destroying Seoul" but that's barely scratching the surface; the movie gets SO REAL in a way that I'd better not spoil (but I'll link to a review if you want to find out a bit more).
posted by acidic at 6:04 PM on April 14, 2017

If you play video games at all, play Undertale. It hits on all your themes. How it hits on them will depend on how you play it.

Your first playthrough will probably take about ten hours.
posted by brett at 6:25 PM on April 14, 2017

Fleabag, on Amazon Prime, is pretty much the definition of escapist yet super dark yet funny feminist comedy/tragedy/drama. And it's genius to boot.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 7:43 PM on April 14, 2017

Luke Cage. Hap and Leonard is dark, but there are moments of light.
posted by epj at 7:51 PM on April 14, 2017

I'm a fan of pretty much everything you listed. Seconding The Americans and Orphan Black.

Some other dark shows I like:
The Killing
The Fall
True Detective (I've only seen the first season)
Better Call Saul
Young Doctor's Notebook (Jon Hamm)

Justin Cronin's The Passage trilogy
Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games (young adult, but meets the dark and overcoming the odds requirements)

These are more comedies with some dark humor, so may still feel too trite, but just in case:
Dead Like Me
Better off Ted
Thick of it (it's about a low level British politician, so while political is hopefully far enough removed)
Blackadder (specifically WWI series)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
posted by ghost phoneme at 8:18 PM on April 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe the browser interactive fiction game Fallen London?
posted by paduasoy at 2:16 AM on April 15, 2017

I'm not sure if the genre/franchise works for you, but Rogue One felt quite relevant. Definitely hits "grit, determination, resilience, overcoming bad odds", and has a diverse cast and a strong female lead.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:10 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Better Call Saul and The Americans.

Haven't seen anyone suggest Fargo yet - I would recommend the 2nd season over the 1st given your preferences (more strong women, although there is a great cop in the 1st), and a new season starts this week.
posted by the primroses were over at 6:06 AM on April 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I came back to add Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, starting with Shards of Honor, also published in a two-book edition as Cordelia's Honor. Yes to dark, though the amount varies by book, yes to pretty much all the themes you mention, yes to humour, though again the amount varies by book, yes to escapism, yes to feminist and probably yes to left-wing, depending a bit how you define it (some of the societies depicted are less free than others and some characters more authoritarian than others).
posted by paduasoy at 6:18 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Escape into the batshit crazy universe of Pretty Little Liars! It's dark, it's scary, it has mysteries, it has kidnapping and murder and arson, it has confused vengeance, it has a gigantic conflicted fan base.

The first six seasons are on Netflix, and the series is about to come to a probably dissatisfying and surely polarizing end over the next ten weeks.

In more adult-oriented programming, I thought the first couple of seasons of Revenge were kinda dark and interesting but I stopped watching because I was too confused but maybe binging on Netflix makes it easier to follow.
posted by danabanana at 6:45 AM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the weeks after the election, Ash vs. the Evil Dead was the only show I could watch. Dumb characters in a smart show, STUPID violent in a very cathartic way (for me at the time), and hilarious. Also, Bruce Campbell.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:47 AM on April 15, 2017

Oh and books - The Luckiest Girl Alive was interesting, as was Miranda July's first novel, The First Bad Man.
posted by danabanana at 6:50 AM on April 15, 2017

I loved The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. Not the Amazon pilot which sucked but the novel. I also loved several of the things you listed and feel like it meets your requirements. Also maybe Transparent (the TV show).
posted by hazyjane at 6:59 AM on April 15, 2017

I don't know if you are only asking for recently produced pop culture, but since the election I've been going back and watching a bunch of George Carlin videos, and the ones from the Bush administration in particular hold up very well. It's exceedingly cathartic.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:06 AM on April 15, 2017

I'm in love with iZombie. It has a strong female main character, great writing and acting, balances dark and funny really well, and is a story about struggling against long odds.. There are two finished seasons and the third one just started; the two are on Netflix if that helps.
posted by Fister Roboto at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2017

Luckily, it's been kind of a golden age for dark comedies. Like the aforementioned Louis and Bojack Horseman, I can suggest the absolutely perfect Better Things, the holy-sh*t revelation that is You're The Worst, Atlanta, Flaked, Baskets, Transparent, Rick and Morty, Veep (and its predecessor The Thick of It). Also, not that dark, per se, but if you're not watching Black-ish, I recommend fixing that. I'm sure there are even more that I'm not thinking of, but it's a good start.
posted by General Malaise at 12:00 PM on April 15, 2017

I really enjoyed the shows Timeless and Person of Interest, but they might be too on the nose for you - literal Nazis and retired Stasi agents, respectively, appear in episodes of these shows.

Timeless centers on a historian, an engineer, and a soldier who travel through American history; the major villains are fictional but they also interact with real historic villains. I really appreciate that the show doesn't fall prey to nostalgic, dishonest "good ol' days" whitewashing of history and is honest about how awful life was for people without privilege. The engineer/ time machine pilot is a Black man and the historian/ team leader is a woman.

Person of Interest starts off as a gritty version of Early Edition and evolves into a show about the surveillance state and a David vs Goliath fight between a small, devoted resistance and a larger, resource rich evil entity. It is such a good show, and was cathartic to watch despite being dark and incredibly sad at points.
posted by photoelectric at 12:03 PM on April 15, 2017

Baskets. Get past the first two or three epiosdes and watch Louie Anderson steal the entire show as Chriatine Baskets. (He just won the Comedy Best supporting actor Emmy.) And while he's playing a woman, that is not played for laughs, at all. By season two Christine is an integral part of the show, with many storylines. She's actually my favorite TV character at the moment, and at least top five of all time.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:04 PM on April 15, 2017

Response by poster: Oh wow, thank you all so much: these recommendations are awesome and exactly what I was looking for. So far I've watched the pilots of Fleabag, Orphan Black and The Americans, and they are all great. (I am already a big fan of Rogue One, Transparent, Veep, and especially In the Thick of It.) And I'll go see Colossal next week.

Thank you so much and please give more recs if you have them; these are super useful :)
posted by Susan PG at 4:25 PM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think NK Jemesin's The Fifth Season might fit the bill. I've also enjoyed Nnedi Okorafor's Binti stories recently, but they're for a younger audience I think.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:36 PM on April 15, 2017

The Man in the High Castle - dark, a little testosterone-y but some strong females
posted by scorpia22 at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2017

This Is England, both the movie and the series, are great. Both the movie and the series are devastating though, and the movie is centered around the National Front takeover of the English skinhead subculture in the 80s, so it might be a bit too close for comfort.
posted by dysh at 2:47 PM on April 16, 2017

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