On Sunday night, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (2014–present) returned for its fourth season while its host laughingly acknowledged everything that he had to cover in the premiere’s 30 minutes — the late-night comedy news show had been on break since Nov. 13, just after the election of President Donald Trump. John Oliver chose to focus the first episode on the relationship between Trump and the truth, or more specifically the lack thereof in his preferred sources for news media.
To combat Trump’s startling contempt for the free press, facts and journalistic ethics, Oliver ended the episode by revealing a very real campaign of TV ads, which will be running on cable news networks in the Washington, D.C. area. These ads aim to educate Trump in a variety of areas where his knowledge seems lacking, from the nuclear triad to the location of female sex organs.
While Trump could certainly learn something from Oliver’s targeted ads, he could also stand to broaden his television horizons beyond cable news. Considering the amount of time he reportedly spends watching TV and responding to criticism from “Saturday Night Live” (1975-present) and Hollywood award shows, why not dabble in some streaming service original programming? Netflix’s “The Crown” (2016-present) could be a great addition to his repertoire.
“The Crown,” which debuted to critical acclaim just four days before Election Day in November, follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding to Prince Phillip in 1947 to the present day. The first season of the mostly-nonfiction biographical drama features the death of King George VI, Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, the re-election of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the detonation of the Soviet Union’s first hydrogen bomb, all in the midst of various personal conflicts in a new postwar world. It’s a stunning portrait of mid-century royalty and politics that is a must-watch for Trump, as he could surely learn the following few lessons from a quick binge-watch.
A woman can lead just as well as a man.
Throughout the series’ first season, Claire Foy’s Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth transforms from a practical but timid young woman into a powerful and composed leader who holds her own against the men that surround her and attempt to oversee her decisions. With the weight of the crown thrust upon her at age 26 after the untimely death of her father, Elizabeth quickly learns the gravity of her duty to the United Kingdom and strives to make ethical decisions and balance her family life. In episode seven, she even hires a private tutor to improve her practical education in science and world history in order to make her a better leader, granting her the confidence to confront the men in politics who had been doubting her abilities. This would probably sound entirely foreign to Trump, as would the queen’s ability to lead even with “blood coming out of her wherever.” Enlightening!
Pride and vanity can warp your perception of reality.
In the penultimate episode of the series’ first season, Winston Churchill sits for a portrait by artist Graham Sutherland as a gift from Parliament for his 80th birthday. Churchill boasts of his own painting abilities and his commitment to truth, but is horrified to see his portrait upon its completion. He insists that it’s an inaccurate caricature, but even Churchill’s wife agrees that it looks like him. Churchill is clearly insecure about his age and frailty as portrayed in the painting. “If you’re engaged in a fight with something, then it’s not with me,” Sutherland tells Churchill. “It’s with your own blindness.” This is a classic lesson that could have been learned in a 10th grade reading of “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890), but Trump seems to have skipped that day. Maybe Churchill’s realization that there are more important things than vanity for a rounded, rapidly-aging man to worry about would help the president as well.
Diplomacy and respect will get you far.
Because Trump hates reading, “The Crown” might be a fun way for him to learn a quick history lesson about mid-century Europe and the art of diplomacy. For example, after the Soviet Union tested its first hydrogen bomb in 1953, Churchill arranged an intentional summit and invited U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to speak with him in the United Kingdom. Even though Churchill suffered from a stroke before the planned summit, he worked to ensure that his foreign visitors would not be disappointed and that the international crisis would be handled with urgency and care. Although multiple foreign leaders have already cancelled their meetings with Trump or had awkward encounters with him less than one month into his presidency, maybe Churchill’s example could show him how to handle these situations. After all, Trump admired Churchill enough to bring his bust back into the Oval Office.
Your duty to the public is more important than your pride.
Lastly, if there’s one thing a leader can take from “The Crown,” it’s that their duty to the public means everything. Although Queen Elizabeth is obviously part of a constitutional monarchy and not a democratically-elected government, one of her roles is to set a tone of calm order and stability in the United Kingdom. Despite her family troubles, governing issues and personal struggles, Elizabeth continues to put her best self forward as the queen. Though she envied her sister Margaret for stealing her spotlight when Elizabeth toured the Commonwealth of Nations, she stuck to her work and visited every nation that was expecting a visit, thereby putting her duty before her pride. Even Churchill learns to put his pride behind him in order to handle the Great Smog of 1952 in episode four.
Of course, Trump shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) be inspired by monarchy itself but rather the intricacies and faults of modern leadership. Nonetheless, maybe stepping out of his cable news bubble to watch “The Crown” would help Trump better understand what it takes to be an effective leader.