On this slow news day, The Guardian is giving big play to a fun piece that attempts to explain the appeal of Donald Trump by way of various popular fictional antiheroes:
Last week millions of Americans tuned into a cable program featuring a wealthy white male narcissist with anger management issues, a history of viciousness towards women, and a pervading sense that there’s something amiss in his homeland. But this time the character in question wasn’t Walter White, Don Draper, Tyrion Lannister or Tony Soprano, but instead a real – if strangely orange – human man named Donald Trump. The program Americans so eagerly watched him plow through wasn’t an acclaimed drama, but a presidential debate….
Think about all they have in common – Tyrion’s cynicism and cunning, Don’s scorn for weakness, Tony’s rage, Walter White’s limitless ego. They’re all scoundrels who move through the world with an inordinate amount of swagger, and Americans, going back to 1773, love scoundrels with swagger. We love people who challenge authority and convention and get away with it. Thursday night, when Chris Wallace asked Trump if he thought a man who has declared bankruptcy multiple times was well suited to running the economy of an entire country, Trump’s response was to basically blow a raspberry and brag that he simply exploited the law….
No, I didn’t understand the 1773 reference, either (why not ’75, or ’76?). But never mind.
Interesting. And fun, since I have really, really enjoyed most of those shows.
But here’s the flaw in the idea… I respect all of those fictional characters more than I do Donald Trump. Unlike him, they all have appealing characteristics (WARNING! MULTIPLE-SPOILER ALERT):
Walter White at least started out wanting to take care of his family after he was diagnosed with cancer. And he truly, honestly grieved when Hank was killed. So he had some actual human qualities. And he was, you know, smart — his ego was based in something.
Don Draper has that characteristic that Trump seems to value, although it completely eludes him: class. At least, class as style if not as a moral quality. And occasionally, he is moved to do the right thing, if it doesn’t inconvenience him. He can be virtuous — not all over, but in spots.
Tyrion may be the most virtuous, admirable continuing character on “Game of Thrones,” with the possible exception of Lady Brienne. Admittedly, that’s not a high bar, but he was born into a singularly seamy fictional universe. He is even capable of wit, which distinguishes him rather dramatically from The Donald.
Tony Soprano, being a brutal, blustering bully, comes closest to Trump. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he demanded that Trump cough up some tribute money for running gambling operations in New Jersey. But Tony is a family man, who cares about his kids and sometimes his wife. He has a human, likable quality — think about it: Would you want to sit and watch Trump’s visits with his shrink (even if she was Dr. Melfi)? I hope not.
No, if you want to find a fictional character who is as thoroughly off-putting as Donald Trump, you have to think Frank Underwood. No, wait: Frank at least is clever, and occasionally borders on being amusing.
I’m afraid the theory doesn’t hold up…