Last December, a campaign video superimposed Donald Trump’s face on the body of Thanos, the Avengers villain who sought to kill half of all life. In May, Trump’s then campaign manager aligned his re-election effort with the Death Star. Among Trump’s opponents, such moments sparked consternation: does the president see it as his mission to do harm?
On Thursday, the Trump campaign added a new wrinkle to the story, adviser Mercedes Schlapp attacking Joe Biden by … comparing him to Mr Rogers, the beloved children’s TV host who loves you just the way you are.
— Mercedes Schlapp (@mercedesschlapp) October 16, 2020
From anyone else, anywhere else, it would have been a compliment. But in Trumpworld, where down is up and left is right, bad is good and good is, apparently, bad.
What is it like to watch a movie with this man? Does he think Sauron is the protagonist of the Lord of the Rings? Does he root for Voldemort throughout Harry Potter? Does he think Disney movies invariably end in tragedy?
What’s so remarkable is that the Trump team is essentially, and gleefully, confirming that their opponents are correct. In the immortal words of Mitchell and Webb, they are indeed the baddies.
The conflict isn’t over the means to achieve a better world. If Trump’s own comparisons and those of his advisers accurately represent his mindset and theirs, the conflict is simpler, and straight out of such works of cinematic fiction: a question of good versus evil.
Why would Trumpworld embrace this position? It’s difficult to fathom the workings of the president’s mind. But if we consider Darth Vader instead, a simple lust for power might explain it.
The president and his allies, as Derek Robertson has written in Politico, are fueled by the simple drive to win. And for the first two acts of most “good v bad” movies, that drive gives the bad guys the upper hand, thanks to their disregard for the rules and comfort with destruction.
The trouble for Trump is that about two hours into such films, the bad guys lose. Mr Rogers is held up as a multigenerational icon. The Death Star, as many pointed out on Twitter when Brad Parscale bragged about it, blows up.
But plenty of people still love Darth Vader – and he has a way of sucking attention from Luke Skywalker. As election day approaches, the question is whether the forces of good can be as effective in real life as they are in the movies.