Watch Richard Linklater’s Anti-Ted Cruz Political Ads: The Texas Director Versus the Texas Senator

If you think of Texas filmmakers, Richard Linklater surely comes to mind right away. Despite the success and acclaim he has steadily garnered over the past three decades, the director of Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, and the Before trilogy remains resolutely based in Austin, and even continues to set many of his movies in his home state. If you think of Texas politicians, can you possibly keep Ted Cruz from coming to mind? The state's junior senator has remained a fixture on the highest-profile American political scene since at least his candidacy in the Republican presidential primaries of 2016. Linklater and Cruz's fan bases might not overlap much, and given Texas' famously enormous size, the men themselves may never have run into each other before. But now, in the form of political advertisements, their worlds have collided.

Since his rise to prominence, Cruz has suffered something of an image problem. ("Cruz may be unique among politicians anywhere in that every mention of his name is always accompanied by remarks on his loathesomeness," as essayist Eliot Weinberger puts it.) His campaign in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections has attempted to correct that problem with the slogan "Tough as Texas," but not every Texan has accepted its portrayal of the candidate as a macho, no-nonsense son of the Lone Star State.

Certainly Linklater seems to have had trouble swallowing it, seeing as he's directed a couple of video ads for the unambiguously named political action committee Fire Ted Cruz. Both feature actor Sonny Carl Davis, seemingly staying in the character he played in Bernie, one of Linklater's most thoroughly Texan pictures. In them he airs the kind of criticisms of Cruz one might imagine coming from the mouth of the straight-talking and somewhat ornery Texas everyman.

In Linklater's first anti-Cruz spot, Davis questions whether someone who so publicly allies himself with a president who insulted him so viciously during the last election has truly demonstrated a Texas-grade toughness (not that he puts it quite that way). The second moves on to a territory even more suited to fightin' words: cheeseburgers. It seems that Cruz recently called his election rival Beto O'Rourke a "Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who is out of touch with Texas values." But to the mind of Davis' character, such a tone-deaf insult to as beloved a Texas institution as Whataburger — especially from a man who has also praised the "little burgers" of White Castle — cannot stand. Can the power of such ridicule, harnessed to the power of cinema, unseat a senator? We'll have to wait until November to find out, but if I were Cruz, I wouldn't exactly be looking forward to what Linklater comes up with next.

Related Content:

How Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Boyhood) Tells Stories with Time: Six Video Essays

Scenes from Waking Life, Richard Linklater’s Philosophical, Feature-Length Animated Film (2001)

Archive of 35,000 TV Political Ads Launched, Creating a Badly Needed Way to Hold Politicians Accountable

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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  • Bill W. says:

    To be clear, I don’t like Ted Cruz, whom I actually threw-off my front-lawn once. That being said, I don’t like Beto either; he’s all style, and no substance. In last night’s debate, the BEST the fake-Mexican could do, was by calling Cruz a name by directly quoting Trump (Lying Ted). Beto says one thing, but does the opposite, as his past political history demonstrates. He bulldozed a historic El Paso barrio so his in-laws could redevelop and gentrify the area, for example…but that’s ok, he rides skateboards into political rallies, so to low-information Leftists, that by itself makes him worthy of their vote!

  • Gerald says:

    “Cruz may be unique among politicians anywhere in that every mention of his name is always accompanied by remarks on his loathesomeness”

    Not really. Perhaps that is the case among leftists, but not elsewhere. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain Cruz’s consistent polling lead in the upcoming election.

  • Ben says:

    Here’s what some well know liberals have to say about Ted Cruz:
    George W. Bush: “I just don’t like the guy.”

    Bob Dole: “I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress. Nobody likes him.”

    John Boehner: “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

    Lindsey Graham: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

    Peter King: “I hate Ted Cruz, and I think I’ll take cyanide if he ever got the nomination.”

    Donald Trump: “He’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.”

    Marco Rubio: “Ted has had a tough week because what’s happening now is people are learning more about him.”

    Rand Paul: “He is pretty much done for and stifled, and it’s really because of personal relationships, or lack of personal relationships, and it is a problem.”

    Chris Christie: “For him to somehow be implying that certain values are more appropriate, more American, depending upon what region of the country you’re from, is to me just asinine.”

    Carly Fiorina (aka, Cruz’s hypothetical running mate, as of this week): “Ted Cruz is just like any other politician. … He says whatever he needs to say to get elected, and then he’s going to do as he pleases.”

    Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer: “Everybody who knows him in the Senate hates him. And I think hate is not an exaggeration.”

    Conservative columnist Ann Coulter: “Cruz is a sleazy, Rovian liar.”

  • Fred says:

    You know I can’t think of one thing Ted has done for Texas or the nation for that matter. Oh and those are the best campaign ads I’ve seen this year.

  • TexasHoldEm says:

    You know I can’t think of one thing Robert Francis O’Rourke has done for Texas or the nation for that matter, with the possible exception of disbanding his punk rock band (that was a blessing). How the media can anoint this guy “Skateboard Jesus” is beyond me. He’s just another hit and run politician.

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