|The exact origin of the God Emperor Trump character is unclear. On June 16th, 2015, an image of Trump's face photoshopped on to a Warhammer 40,000 soldier was submitted to 4chan's /pol/ board |
The Donald Show
Remember “The Truman Show,” the hit movie starring Jim Carrey about “a man who grew up living an ordinary life that—unbeknownst to him—takes place on a large set populated by actors for a television show about him.”1
Everybody knew the truth except Truman, who was tricked into thinking it was real. We now have the opposite situation with our current blockbuster, “The Donald Show:” The star knows it is fake, but he has duped the rest of us into believing it is real.
Trump, the canny sideshow hustler, understands what the talking heads don’t: You dazzle your audience with a good story, not learned treatises or artful commentary.
As David Loy, a professor and Zen teacher, explains in his book, “The World is Made of Stories2,” we make sense of the world through stories: they “teach us what is real, what is valuable, and what is possible.” In a word, it is by stories we make sense of the world.
Telling stories is the life blood of Donald Trump.
Trump’s master story is that he is an outsider who doesn’t get the respect he deserves. It is a tale that can take you a long way. Just ask Rodney Dangerfield: it was the essence of his schtick.
It’s easy to be taken in by this particular story. Whether we admit it or not, we all feel like Rodney or Donald to one degree or another. Thump has built his whole political career on it, empowering not only himself but giving voice to millions across the country who feel victimized and under-appreciated.
Donald has become their maestro, the master storyteller they tune into each night to discover the latest chapter in his saga – and theirs.
While Rodney provoked laughter in his audience at our foibles, Donald ignites anger and fear: Anger at the faceless “deep state” which has brought them to their knees and fear of the “godless, communist democrats,” who are lying in ambush, ready to finish them off.
It is the classic plot of fairy tales and comic strips. The people cry out in their distress for a super hero, that one person who can save them by doing battle with their enemies. In westerns films, that is when Clint Eastwood rides into town.
In Donald’s fairytale world, the super hero is, of course, himself, something he has regally proclaimed since descending his golden escalator in 2016, vowing to solve all of America’s alleged problems. How? Because of who he is: “I am your voice. I alone can fix it.”
Of course, the idea that “one person could solve the myriad troubles we face today is absurd and deeply undemocratic, but one can understand the temptation to buy into that fantasy. It is a soothing fiction that someone will swoop in to save the day3, says Alison Danes, a professor of political science.
Danes talks about Donald’s fantasies while I talk about his fairytales. We are not alone.
A professor emeritus and fairy tale expert, Jack Zipes, agrees, “There is a fairy tale-like aspect to all his talk and presentation, because he wants to take charge of the narrative. Most fairy tales are stories about hope. Whether he does it consciously or not, Trump has found a way to narrate a story in which he is the star.”
But nothing lasts forever.
All shows have to come to an end, and “The Donald Show” is no exception. America has become exhausted by his nonstop bluster and litany of endless grievances. I predict he will soon get his just deserts, precisely as Hans Christian Anderson predicted in his fairytale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
While Trump, running for president again, is strutting around in his “perfect,” new-look finery – which is actually the same as his old – some brave Republican will summon the courage to finally blurt out the truth: The emperor is wearing nothing at all.
2 2David Loy, “The World is Made of Stories, page 3.