SPOILERS for ALL fictional works mentioned below.
Okay, folks. We are one month away from the election that could save or damn the United States’ soul. We just had the presidential debates. I did not watch them, though I saw some clips from it on social media. Instead, I read Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump, Ph.D. She’s Donald Trump’s niece, and she’s a psychologist who specializes in trauma, so she has a lot of fascinating insights about her awful uncle and her family at large. (To sum up: Donald Trump and his siblings are very strange people who were raised by a sociopath and his emotionally needy wife. They don’t trust or even like each other.) Between reading this book and just paying any attention to Trump’s antics over the past four years, I realized he reminds me of several prominent fictional characters.
Before I begin, I want to point out that these character are similar to Trump, but they are not exactly like him. In fact, I plan to point out the differences between Trump and these characters as well as the similarities.
Okay, let’s start the comparisons:
In recent months, whenever I’ve heard about Trump being buddies with Vladimir Putin or appeasing Kim-Jong Un or Reycip Erdogan (the “president”/dictator of Turkey), I can only think of Darth Vader and the Emperor or Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. You see, I think a lot of people see Darth Vader as a big, powerful badass because he’s a gifted Force user, hotshot pilot, and proficient combatant. But Darth Vader is incredibly limited in the power he actually wields. Vader is never the Big Bad of the Star Wars universe; he’s the Heavy and the Dragon, a mad dog on a leash, and more powerful and cunning men hold that leash and let him loose when necessary. Darth Vader helps enact the Emperor’s plans and Grand Moff Tarkin’s plans, but he has no grand plans of his own. He’s a tool that the Emperor crafted to use and loan out to more powerful men, and the same is true for Donald Trump. His father, Fred Trump, Sr., molded him into a bully that he could put forward as a public face for his real estate empire. And indeed, Donald Trump became the public face associated with the name “Trump,” just as his father wanted. When you think about it, Darth Vader, too, is the public face of the Galactic Empire much more than Emperor Palpatine. For example, Vader’s helmet appears on Star Wars merchandise much more than the Emperor’s face does. Both Donald Trump and Darth Vader were molded by more powerful father figures to serve their ends and the ends of more powerful men. Oh, and Fred Trump was a sociopath, and I’m pretty sure the Emperor is one, too. Mary L. Trump writes, “After the election, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, and Mitch McConnell, all of whom bear more than a passing psychological resemblance to Fred, recognized in a way others should have but did not that Donald’s checkered personal history and his unique personality flaws make him extremely vulnerable to manipulation by smarter, more powerful men.” The same is definitely true for Darth Vader.
You see, both Trump and Vader are shaped by childhood trauma and the need for an approving father figure. Trump was born into wealth, but he was emotionally neglected by his mother, and he watched his father emotionally and verbally abuse his other brother, Freddy, all the time. So he turned himself into a shallow, superficial bully who embodied the “killer instincts” Fred, Sr. wanted in his sons. Unfortunately, Donald had none of his father’s intelligence or business acumen, so he has nothing to back up his bullying swagger. On the other hand, Anakin Skywalker (the Boy Who Would Be Vader) was born into slavery on Tattooine, but his mother, Shmi, loved him very much. Any goodness Vader had left in him by the end of his life was probably a testament to her. Unfortunately, Anakin had no father at all, and Shmi entrusted him to Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn when little Ani was just nine. She thought that decision might grant him a better life. Sadly, it left him in the hands of the emotionless Jedi Council after Qui-Gon died, leaving a father-figure void in Anakin’s life that even Obi-Wan Kenobi couldn’t fill. Obi-Wan could only be Anakin’s brother. So Chancellor (later Emperor) Palpatine stepped in and cultivated a friendship with Anakin, and at least to me, he comes across as a manipulative father figure in the Star Wars prequels. Once Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader is complete, however, he serves yet also sort of loathes the Emperor. He bows to his master’s will, but he doesn’t necessarily need that father-figure relationship anymore the way he did before his transformation. Donald Trump on the other hand, is still searching for his own Emperor to replace Fred, Sr., who died in 1999. Both Trump and Vader became themselves due to unresolved trauma, but it manifests in different ways.
Of all the characters listed here, Draco Malfoy probably has the most in common with Donald Trump. For example, both Malfoy and Trump were born into wealthy families with intolerant belief systems. The Trump family’s intolerance was less in-your-face than the Malfoys’ fanaticism about blood purity in the Wizarding World. Until Donald Trump ran for president, that is. He put all his horrid beliefs out in the open, and thousands, if not millions, of people are currently paying for it in so many ways. However, the rest of the Trump family also harbored (and most likely still harbors) racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and homophobic beliefs. Additionally, Malfoy and Trump are both unrepentant bullies with abusive fathers, and their families’ wealth allows them to get away with pretty much everything but murder. Also, they both have first names that start with D. However, Draco suffers from a Villainous Breakdown in the sixth book and film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. At this point, Draco begins to buckle emotionally because his parents have made him join the Death Eaters and carry out missions like smuggling Death Eaters into Hogwarts and murdering Albus Dumbledore. (He succeeds in doing the first task, but can’t bring himself to complete the second one.) Unlike Draco Malfoy, Trump hasn’t developed enough as a person to have a breakdown over the horrible things he’s done and had done to people (like separating families at the border and gassing peaceful protesters to get a photo-op). Too Much and Never Enough states that he’s the same today in terms of emotional development as he was at three years old. He doesn’t have the capacity to question the morality of the things he’s doing or be afraid of what the people around him (like Stephen Miller, architect of the family separation policy) want to do. So basically, Draco Malfoy* is a better person than Donald Trump. And he’s not even real.
*I don’t say this out of love for the character. I can’t stand Draco Malfoy. I met WAY too many real-life Dracos in my school days to see him as a sympathetic character. But he’s still better than Trump.
Ego, the Living Planet
Ego is Peter Quill/Star Lord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, and he’s [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER] the main villain of that film. We learn in GOTG2 that Ego has spent centuries, if not millennia, running around the universe fathering children on different women and planting seeds of himself on each planet he visits. You see, when he first met intelligent life out in the universe, he was disappointed, so he decided to turn every planet into himself. He started doing that with the seeds from his own planet, but he needed a child to inherit his Celestial energy and help him channel it into creating an all-Ego universe. (In the MCU, the Celestials are the closest thing we’ve met to deities, even moreso than Asgardians like Thor and Loki.) TL;DR: Ego is extremely narcissistic, he sired a bunch of kids on different women, and he’s obsessed with creating real estate that reflects his own self-image. Sound familiar?
For the record, I don’t think Ego is a direct parody of Trump. I think James Gunn wanted to tell a story about people dealing with abusive fathers and accidentally created an uncanny parallel to the Mango in Chief. Once I first saw GOTG2, I could not unsee the parallels between Ego and Trump, and I will always find them hilarious.
Faramir, Son of Denethor
Before I get started here, I want to make one thing clear: I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings live-action films. This section involves film-canon, not book-canon. Why? Because I like the films better, since they tell a clearer story and involve character arcs and detailed relationships and stuff.
In the Lord of the Rings films, Faramir is the younger brother of Fellowship of the Ring member Boromir, who [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER] dies at the end of the first film. Faramir doesn’t show up until late in the second film, The Two Towers, when he’s dealing with his own emotions after learning of his brother’s death. For anyone who doesn’t know, Lord of the Rings had a theatrical cut and an extended cut of all three films, and the extended cut of the the Two Towers gives us a beautifully done flashback sequence where we see Boromir and Faramir right before Boromir leaves for Rivendell (an Elvish community that my mother once called “The Pretty Place”) and joins the Fellowship. In this sequence, we see Faramir and Boromir being adorable together after winning a critical battle against the Orc armies of Mordor. Then their abusive father, Denethor, Steward of Gondor*, shows up and gives all the credit for the victory to Boromir, insults Faramir, and then tells Boromir to go to Rivendell and take the One Ring of Power for Gondor.
*Gondor used to have a King, but now they have a line of Stewards, who are sort of like landlords who run things in the absence of a King. Also, Gondor is right next door to Mordor. To quote John Mulaney: “That doesn’t matter at all, but it’s important to me that you know this.”
What does any of this high fantasy mumbo jumbo have to do with Donald Trump or his family? Well, I don’t think any of the Trumps have ever gotten their hands on a Ring of Power. Yet. However, the dynamics between Faramir, Boromir, and Denethor are both very similar and very different to those between Donald Trump, his older brother Freddy Trump, and Fred Trump, Sr. Both Denethor and Fred Sr. put way too much pressure on their oldest son (Boromir and Freddy, respectively) to be this ideal heir and conform to their father’s ideas of manhood. The fathers put so much pressure on their oldest sons that it drives both Boromir and Freddy into early graves. Boromir is tempted by the One Ring, and ends up sacrificing himself for his two Hobbit friends, Merry and Pippin. Freddy tried to break away from the family business and become and airline pilot, but Fred Sr. verbally abused him so much about it (saying things like, “You’re just a glorified bus driver”) that he turned to alcoholism and drank himself to death at age 42. Then Faramir and Donald are the spares, the younger sons who want to earn their fathers’ approval, but will never receive it.
While those are some sharp similarities, there are also some key differences between these two father-sons relationship triads. Denethor only seems to put positive pressure on Boromir, though it’s still toxic pressure that leads Boromir to his death. Fred Sr., on the other hand, tended to negative pressure, like the insult mentioned above, to get Freddy to do what he wanted. Fred Sr. saw Freddy as never good enough, while Denethor views Boromir as the best of men, no matter what. Similarly, Denethor never has a good word to say about Faramir, while Fred Sr. started to boost Donald Trump’s ego when he saw how much of a “killer” his younger son was. Additionally, Fred Sr. divided his children and pitted Freddy and Donald against each other, while Boromir appears to support Faramir against Denethor’s insults. Overall, Boromir and Faramir are the best-case scenario for people raised by a wealthy, powerful, abusive father, while Freddy and Donald Trump are probably one of the worst-case scenarios.
One last point about Faramir and Donald Trump: Of all the characters listed here, Faramir is the least like Trump in terms of personality. Faramir is a mensch who briefly falls under the spell of the One Ring’s temptation, which preys on his need to please his father. However, he eventually snaps out of it and goes back to serving his father and his country as he normally would. If Donald Trump got the One Ring, he’d either keep it for himself or hand it over to the likes of Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-Un.
Okay, I was going to list a few other characters, but my brain is tired, and I want to finish this blog before Election Day. Remember to vote, and please consider these comparisons as you head to the polls. Notice how similar Trump’s personality is to those of iconic villains and bullies. Consider whether you want four more years of constant bullying, abuse, and terror, or whether you want a release from all that. I know which side I’m on. How about you?