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

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver contemplates the coming paradox of Mexican Donald Trump

Illustration for article titled On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver contemplates the coming paradox of Mexican Donald Trump
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver only spent a few minutes at the top talking about the never-ending racist clownshow that is the Trump administration (where “putting children in fucking cages” is yet another over-the-top evil milestone reached), to talk about Mexico. You know, America’s neighbor, trading partner, and go-to Trump boogeyman for frightening white Americans into rationalizing children being thrown in fucking cages. With what Oliver is calling “the biggest election in Mexico’s history” coming up next Sunday, the very real problems faced by our southern neighbor (as opposed to Trump’s “Brown people! Lock their kids in fucking cages!” scare tactics) formed the bulk of the episode. With only a few brief onstage digressions in the form of a screaming, confetti-ejaculating six-foot penis and Bobby Moynihan as a gleefully onanistic Santa Claus getting things off track.

Except, as Oliver notes, the political situation leading up to next week’s nationwide elections has created only slightly less outrageous TV than that. There’s the major presidential candidate nicknamed “El Bronco” who regularly rails against Santa (even of the non-masturbatory variety) when not publicly calling for thieving politicians to have their hands lopped off. And another attempting to overcome his stultifyingly nerdy policy wonk persona with ill-advisedly unconvincing tough-guy TV spots and impromptu, recorder-heavy musical performances that have, as Oliver notes, set off “a tsunami of memes.” An then there’s frontrunner and likely next Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose habit of going by his initials (“AMLO”) is by far the least weird thing about him.


There was the time, after his last failed presidential bid, where AMLO threw himself an “alternative inauguration” where supporters occupied Mexico City’s central square for months. And the fact that AMLO—described by Oliver as “Bernie Sanders with a better haircut and significantly better Spanish”—is so vague in his populist campaign promises that both left-wing groups and an anti-abortion, anti-gay evangelical conservative party have run ads supporting him. (The fact that the ads from the former are weirdly sexually explicit, while those of the latter feature a menacing, tiger-headed Almo avatar puts Oliver’s Santa and penis shenanigans in context.)

As Oliver goes deeper into the specifics of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s appeal—stoking populist anger at the status quo, an adviser-baffling tendency to change his broadly undefined policy initiatives seemingly on a whim—he proposes that Mexico is on the verge of electing its own Donald Trump. Which, considering the actual Donald Trump’s from-the-jump use of Mexicans as racist scapegoat, is, according to Oliver, about as sensical as “Orthodox Hitler” or “jacked Gandhi.” Still, as Oliver shows, voter dissatisfaction at corruption and violence against journalists and reform-mined politicians is such in the country that the popular rallying cry against current President Enrique Peña Nieto is literally “Nieto, fuck your mother.” Which makes it appear that Mexico is about to be led by a sloganeering egotist with no concrete policies, swept into power by a tide of rage and resentment. What could go wrong?

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.