As Donald Trump’s presidency spirals out of control in a deepening gyre of surrealism and absurdity, it brings to mind one of the great comic characters of all time – Rufus T. Firefly, the leader of Freedonia in the classic Marx Brothers movie, Duck Soup. Interestingly, Duck Soup – a satire on nationalism and warmongering was released in 1933, the year that Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Nazi party came to power Germany.
Roger Ebert, one of the United States’ most celebrated film critics wrote that to describe the plot of a Marx Brothers movie “would be an exercise in futility, since a Marx Brothers movie exists in moments, bits, sequences, business and dialogue, not comprehensible stories.”
Sound disturbingly familiar? He could have been describing the Trump administration.
In Time’s list of the top ten memorable movie characters, Rufus T. Firefly played by Groucho Marx is described as the man “who becomes leader of the nation of Freedonia at the behest of the rich Mrs. Teasdale, who will fund the bankrupt nation if they install her man. Why? Who knows. He’s clearly not meant for the job, if any job. He’s actually probably insane. His name’s pretty wacky too. Hewing to the common knowledge that using the letters T or J as a middle initial automatically makes any moniker at least sound vaguely funny, Duck Soup‘s writers use the repetition of the f sound in the first and last names as the cherry on top.”
While there are no “f”s in Donald Trump (at least not formally), his middle name is John – which of course starts with the initial J, and Rufus means red or rust coloured, from the Latin. Appropriate for the red-headed president.
You know you’re in trouble when the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is behaving like a character from a Marx Brothers movie, especially when that character is Rufus T. Firefly.
At least Groucho Marx had better script writers and he was only joking.