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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