This thought occurred to me as I was driving home the other night. I was listening to the soundtrack to Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, and “The Mob Song” was playing, in which Gaston stirs up the crowd with the imaginary fear that the Beast is coming to kill their children. At one point, the mob sings:
“We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us…”
I thought “huh, sounds like Trump voters.” And then it hit me.
For eighty years, Disney tried to teach us in detail all about villains; how they operate, what their character traits are, what they sound like, how they justify themselves, and how to defeat them. We’ve seen it over and over, from Snow White’s evil Queen whose vanity is rivaled only by her cruelty to Frozen’s creepy social-climber Hans, Disney introduced us to dozens of malignant narcissists who will do anything to get what they want. We all saw them; Cruella DeVil, Stromboli, Jafar, Ursula, Captain Hook, Gaston, Hades, Frollo, Scar, and many more. We know them all. We ought to be able to recognize them when we see them.
And yet. A guy comes along who exactly matches the stereotypical Disney villain profile in every way, and what did we do? We elected him.
Seriously, can you think of a single Disney villain who doesn’t remind you in some way of Donald Trump?
I mentioned this thought to a friend of mine, a terrific cartoonist named Daniel Boris, and he went to town on it.
So, how about Cruella DeVil?
She thinks she can buy anyone or anything, she routinely abuses those she considers beneath her (and she considers everyone to be beneath her), and is eager to inflict cruelty on innocents in order to satisfy her vanity. She has moronic underlings to do her dirty work, and tries to pretend to be dignified and classy until her rage comes out.
How about Ursula?
She’s a social-climbing con artist who wants to be important; she tries to convince the naive to give up what they most need in trade for an ineffective solution to a nonexistent problem. She uses the now-entrapped victim as a bargaining chip to advance her own position. She gets what she wants through lies, manipulation, threats, deception, and ultimately, violence. She acts as if her predatory actions are a public service.
Here’s a fast-talking wheeler-dealer looking to scam people, take advantage and exploit them. He lies and traps people in deceptive deals to advance his own interests.
And how about Captain Hook?
He flip-flops between murderous rage and infantile tantrums. He’s willing to abuse and murder children to further his goals. He mistreats his staff. He acts like a child. He’s loud and threatening, but ultimately a coward.
There are so many more we could have included. Scar, the fascist who turns his homeland into a nightmarescape; Maleficent, who is so petty she curses a child and then waits 16 years to exact her revenge; Stomboli, a bullying money-grubber who enslaves children; Gaston, who combines narcissism with staggering ignorance; Frollo, a judgmental authoritarian who punishes others for his own weakness and sexual predator who blames his victim; and so on, all the way back to the the hunters who shot Bambi’s mom.
It’s not just Disney movies either; there are hundreds of films showing us what petty, vain, temperamental, vulgar, self-serving, greedy, mendacious con men looked like. They should have taught us to distrust crooked businessmen, self-righteous moralizers, and shifty politicians, the foul-tempered, corrupt, sexual predator who abuses power and betrays his friends. Over and over, Hollywood showed us what to look out for:
Kevin McCarthy in UHF as a power-hungry TV executive with a violent temper…
Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen in Back to the Future II...
Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in Superman….
Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles….
Miguel Ferrer in Robocop…
Christopher Walken in Batman Returns…
Alex Rocco in That Thing You Do! as a crass record producer; is there one single second of his performance that doesn’t scream “Trump”?
Not to mention every villain in every lowbrow comedy from the ’80s and ’90s. Remember all those terrible late-night movies on the USA Network, where a bunch of slackers have to pull together to stop a slimy developer/businessman/government official/mobster from shutting down the ski resort/school/car wash/bikini shop/whatever? How did voters not immediately recognize Donald J. Trump as that guy? And who wants that guy running anything?
We were warned. We knew better.