BREAKING: Trump Nothing Like Batman
The other day, Newsmax host Benny Johnson spent an entire segment of his show, “The Benny Report," comparing Donald Trump to Batman. Obviously, the two are nothing alike. Batman is a hero. Trump is an over-the-top villain from the 1960s Adam West series. But please, Mr. Johnson, favor us with your hypothesis.
JOHNSON: Batman's an outsider looking in; the corrupt political law enforcement establishment of Gotham hate him because they cannot control him. Outsiders tendency to see and solve problems that insiders cannot. They are by nature against the system, against the corruption of the establishment. This is what makes Batman iconic. He fights the corrupt establishment. Kind of reminds me of someone.
Yes, he actually thinks this describes Donald Trump, who is the epitome of corruption. Neither Batman nor Trump are in any way “outsiders." Both men are scions of wealth and privilege. While it's true that Bruce Wayne often pretended that he was an entitled, useless rich asshole so that people wouldn't suspect he was secretly Batman, Trump isn't method acting. That's all he is.
JOHNSON: Both Trump and Batman are rich, mysterious, unpredictable guys. They own skyscrapers in Gotham. They have a cult-like hero status for throwing their privileged lives away and getting their hands dirty. Both have a helicopter and a plane. But it's their outsider status that make them work. They have not been part of the corrupt system, so they can see the problems. They can break the machine when it needs to be broken.
Trump traded his reality TV-hosting duties for the presidency of the United States. This absurd idea that he sacrificed anything in service of the nation he destroyed is less believable than anything Batman's done on the page or screen. Besides, if Johnson is the comic-book fan he claims, he should know Trump is more like Superman's arch-enemy Lex Luthor. They're both self-obsessed megalomaniacs so it's a more seamless fit for Trump than the bat suit. Comics creator John Byrne has confirmed that he based his version of Luthor from the 1980s after Trump.
BYRNE: I built the character as a cross between Donald Trump, Ted Turner, Howard Hughes and maybe Satan himself!
Luthor in the comics was a successful businessman, as well as an asshole, so that's probably the part that Ted Turner inspired.
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Notice the very 1980s-Trump-like hairline Byrne gave Luthor in his first appearance. After Lois Lane says he's starting to look like Fred Mertz from “I Love Lucy," Lex shaves his head. Poor baby.
Luthor thinks he owns Metropolis and plasters his name on big buildings to feed his massive ego. He resents Superman because he's an honest man he can't control. He once famously dismissed conclusive evidence that Clark Kent was Superman because he couldn't imagine someone so powerful would waste his time pretending he was a normal person. Trump shares the “evil doesn't understand good" blindspot, as he demonstrated when he reportedly called the American war dead “losers and suckers."
Trump famously holds grudges like a common supervillain. During a 1992 interview with Charlie Rose, he swore vengeance against the people he believed weren't loyal to him when his dumb ass went bankrupt (that time). He couldn't wait to “wipe the floor" with them and boasted that he “loved getting even with people." He repeated this sick sentiment in his 2009 book Think Big:
I love getting even when I get screwed by someone. … Always get even. When you are in business you need to get even with people who screw you. You need to screw them back 15 times harder. You do it not only to get the person who messed with you but also to show the others who are watching what will happen to them if they mess with you. If someone attacks you, do not hesitate. Go for the jugular.
Not even Frank Miller's "goddamn Batman" at his crazy fascist worst talked like this. Batman's primary motivation is helping others, a concept thoroughly alien to both Luthor and Trump. Batman has repeatedly saved his enemies (including Luthor) when he could've left them to die.
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When the Joker even wondered why Batman didn't just kill him, our hero responded: "No. Oh, I want to. I've never wanted anything so much. But I won't. Because if I did, I'd be violating the belief that has sustained me all these years. I believe in the absolute sacredness of human life. Sometimes I think it's the only thing I believe in."
Trump, however, is driven completely by his darkest thoughts and desires. Alfred doesn't have to patiently explain to Batman why he can't shoot Gotham City protesters in the leg. Bruce Wayne also doesn't use his charitable enterprises as a giant tax dodge.
But conservatives like Johnson probably just see Batman as a rich white guy who beats up poor people who live in the wrong neighborhood. The Dirty Harry version of the character interests me the least. That's why I'll leave you with one of my favorite Batman moments. He doesn't crack skulls. He comforts an enemy during her tragic, last moments. Batman's super power isn't his wealth. It's his compassion.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."