Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

If Donald Trump doesn't know shit about Apocalypse Now, what other pop culture doesn't he get?

Illustration for article titled If Donald Trump doesn't know shit about Apocalypse Now, what other pop culture doesn't he get?
Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images)

Look, there’s plenty of stupid garbage nonsense Donald Trump spews everyday that has nothing to do with pop culture, which is why we don’t comment on it. But when the man who increasingly resembles a puffier and more cartoonish version of Anger from Pixar’s Inside Out weighs in on a classic, that’s our turf.


Trump has confusing thoughts on a number of pop-culture topics, including Elton John, Citizen Kane, and Roseanne, among others. So today, we can add Apocalypse Now to the lengthy list of Things Our Current President Doesn’t Remember Or Understand. And in classic Trump fashion, he made this clear in the clumsiest and most obnoxious manner imaginable—by getting into a fight with veterans about it. “It was really fucking weird,” says one attendee about a meeting between Trump and leaders of various veterans organizations back in March of last year, according to a new report by The Daily Beast.

The meeting was arranged in part by his then-head of veterans’ issues for the White House, none other than reality-TV stalwart and newly relevant secret recorder of conversations, Omarosa Manigault-Newman. The veterans were already pretty annoyed by the fact that someone so clearly unqualified to handle their business with the government had been tapped to run the show, but Trump, with his finely honed business acumen and talent for making everything ten times worse, quickly sent matters into a nosedive. As the president began going around the room, asking each representative about their key issues and how his administration could assist, things hit a wall when Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Of America, brought up the issue of expanding access to benefits for vets said to have been poisoned by Agent Orange during the conflict. President Trump, sensing an opportunity to turn a situation into a fiasco (or “Trumping things up,” as they should really start saying), offered this response:

That’s taken care of.

His response was confusing, not least of which for the main reason that there hadn’t really been any progress on the issue. But as people began trying to explain that to him, the president interrupted by asking if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie.” After a bit of classic Trump word salad, attendees eventually realized he was referencing the famous scene from Apocalypse Now in which a helicopter attack set to Wagner’s “Ride Of The Valkyries” showcases the use of napalm. Unfortunately, when this was pointed out to the president, he responded in the usual way: By doubling down on his ignorance. Again, from The Daily Beast:

Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and proceeded to say things like, “no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.”

Apocalypse Now is a beloved classic, and everyone who’s seen it knows they’re using napalm in that scene. For fuck’s sake, the most famous line from the film is, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Yet rather than accept it, shrug, and move on to the critical issues facing veterans in this country, Trump then went from person to person, polling them to see if they thought it was actually napalm or Agent Orange being shown in the scene. He eventually came back to Weidman, who assured him it was napalm, adding that he didn’t actually like the film and thought it did a bit of a disservice to Vietnam vets. “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie,” Trump replied, as though Weidman hadn’t literally just said that. The meeting ran out of time and concluded before the president could get to everyone in the room, for reasons surely passing understanding—to him, anyway.

The Trump administration has unsurprisingly failed to do much to help veterans (roughly a month later Omarosa would stop being involved in veterans’ affairs—not because anyone else took on the job, but because she just “lost interest,” according to a current White House official), but this display of pop-culture stupidity has us worried about what other things Donald Trump may have failed to understand from film, TV, and music. As a result, we’ve put together a helpful list of key pop-culture touchstones, along with some easy mnemonic devices to help him retain a childlike, oversimplified takeaway from each:

Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Simplistic takeaway: War is bad, not good.
How he can remember it: “STRANGELOVE,” as in, “It’s strange how much I love swindling people who work for me out of their paychecks, also war is bad, not good.”

Simplistic takeaway: Gay people deserve equal rights, no matter what your vice president says.
How he can remember it: “Philadelphia is a place Mike Pence would hate, because it could remind him homosexuality doesn’t lead to societal collapse.”

Mother Night
Simplistic takeaway: Don’t act like a Nazi for political gain, because people will just see you as a Nazi forevermore.
How he can remember it: Mother Night—my mother would weep all night if she saw what I’ve become.”


Katy Perry, “Roar”
Simplistic takeaway: If you treat women like shit, they’re going to come back at you big time.
How he can remember it: This one is easy, he can just open the paper pretty much any day he wants, though that would require him doing something he hates: reading.

Simplistic takeaway: Robots will eventually supplant us all.
How he can remember it: “The West Wing is creating a nightmare world, maybe robots could do better.”


Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.