August 14, 2019

"Divining the 'real' Trump, if there is one, may be an interesting project someday for a biographer, or St. Peter. But for most of us, the Trump who matters..."

"... the one who’s rage-tweeting, fulminating, running the world—is 'Donald Trump,' the brazen character he workshopped for decades in the New York City tabloids, on talk shows, in sitcom cameos. And, most influentially, on The Apprentice. Trump was reality TV before the genre had a name. He knew it was more important to seem like a thing than to be that thing. People would become invested in you—banks, TV producers, voters—and do the work of maintaining your illusion themselves. The Apprentice didn’t need a businessman. It needed the idea of a businessman. That was the entire point of Donald Trump. He brought his own props. He opened the first episode in his helicopter, his name plastered on the side. He showed off his jet and his model girlfriend and his Trump Tower triplex.... The Apprentice needed Trump to be credible so the show would be credible. It built him a “boardroom” based on Ned Beatty’s corporate lair in Network. It imposed logic on his capricious firing decisions in the editing room. It punched up the rough draft he created, with better production values. TV’s Mr. Trump—it was always 'Mr. Trump'—was decisive. He was feared, his approval craved. He was saucy and shrewd and glamorous and generous. He was a serious businessman. But he was fun! 'Where else do you get a good time like with Trump?' he asked a female lawyer whom he’d just introduced to America with 'There’s Miss Universe, right there!' He was shot gliding imperiously down gleaming escalators, the same way he would one day announce his campaign at Trump Tower."

From Slate — "The 25 Most Important Characters of the Past 25 Years...2. Donald Trump, from The Apprentice (2004)" (#1 is Carmela Soprano... #3 is Pikachu....)


David Begley said...

I didn’t recognize 12 out of 25. Slate readers must know all 25.

Mr. Forward said...

Gliding down the escalator
Hardly a promotion
Could have made
5 billion more
If he had the notion.

rhhardin said...

Also throws sand in the gears of the entrenched news media. Zingers are not mentioned, and how it depends on and displays media stupidity.

rhhardin said...

Nobody fears or craves the approval of Trump that I know of. Craving and fearing might be deep state things.

Rory said...

Julian Assange said during the 2016 campaign that Trump was unique. He had asked for dirt on Trump and all that came in was stuff that was already public knowledge.

I Callahan said...

This has to be one of the most pretentious millennial-friendly lists I've seen yet. These people really don't have any clue what happens outside their little bubble.

buwaya said...

It’s a subculture.
What’s important to them is what they notice.
We all have our subcultures where otherwise trivial phenomena command more attention than makes sense out of it.

h said...

THis was an insightful article, not just about the character Trump, but about Carmela Soprano,and Hannah Horvath. I didn't read the others carefully.

Roger Sweeny said...

I agree with pretty much everything she says--but every politician is a "character". Every politician cultivates an image. Sometimes the media plays along ("Obama is brilliant, unflustered."). Sometimes it puts over a counter-image ("Trump is a crazy racist.")

gilbar said...

That was fun!
25 HE'S from the last 25 years?!?!
23 wasn't this a TV, that was cancelled? or, went to cable, and was THEN cancelled?
20 HE'S from the last 25 years?!?!
19 1996 ? kinda STREACHING the 25 years thing, aren't we?
18 1996 ? kinda STREACHING the 25 years thing, aren't we?
17 1996 ? kinda STREACHING the 25 years thing, aren't we?
16 Does Elijah Cummings know about this>
15 WTF? IF we're going for High School Movies, how about Easy A?
14 i think i saw this, but i was so stoned, i don't remember
11 OMG! we're ALL Tweens! and we're ALL in LUV!
10 Fat Bottomed Girls
9 I OWN these! Willow was cool, then they Made her a Lesbo
8 Not Sarah, Tina Fey PLAYING Sarah
6 Oh My mother fucking GOD damn Mother Fucking GOD DAMN GOD! This is list of the STUPIDEST characters, not the most important
5 One of Linsey Lohan's BEST Roles
3 we ARE Tweens, aren't We?
2 :)
1 She was what? from the prequel to Lilyhammer?

gilbar said...

10 fat bottomed girls

William said...

The subtext is that Trump ranks between Carmela Soprano and Pichaku. It's an elaborately crafted put down of Trump.... I wonder if the author has ever had a politically incorrect thought in her entire life. The article reeks of insincerity.....Chris Cuomo's imitation of Fredo is the most influential character of the last twenty five minutes. It was so much better than Tina Fey's Sarah Palin.

Wince said...

Despite all that, the way things are shaping-up Donald Trump is the candidate of substance in the 2020 election.

Shouting Thomas said...

The intelligent and creative use of media was a plus when employed by President Obama, a proof in fact that he was with it, hip and on the bleeding edge of tech.

Intelligent and creative use of media by President Trump is, of course, explainable only as a pathology. Proves he's just a shallow con man.

Wilbur said...

I know I'm an outlier, but other than part of Harold and Kumar (pretty amusing) I've never seen any of these movies, TV shows or whatever else this stuff is or was. OK, I've seen SNL in the 70s and some WWE in the 80s and 90s.

I do struggle with today's crossword puzzle cultural references, but otherwise I feel no sense of loss.

Andrew said...

Carmela? Great character, but most important?

Darrell said...

The intelligent and creative use of media was a plus when employed by President Obama, a proof in fact that he was with it, hip and on the bleeding edge of tech.

He almost could use a pencil-type tire pressure gauge.

Lucien said...

They left Tyrion Lannister off the list. Typical Slate.

John henry said...

A bit some guy I never heard of, Cromwell (?)

He “can draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house, and fix a jury.”

Wasn't that a verse in a Peggy Lee song? Right after

If you come to me sickly you know I'm gonna make you well
If you come to me all hexed up you know I'm gonna break the spell
If you come to me hungry you know I'm gonna fill you full of grits
If it's lovin you're likin, I'll kiss you and give you the shiverin' fits


John Henry

John henry said...


You've got me beat by a Caribbean mile. I recognized omar, trump and carmela. I had kinda, sorta, heard of a few others.

I liked the omar little character and thought The Wire one of the best tv shows ever.

But All the characters were scumbags albeit with some redeeming features in some.

Except Bunny Colvin. The only purely good person in all 5 seasons.

John Henry

Sebastian said...

"#1 is Carmela Soprano"

IOW, chick bait.

Fernandistein said...

IOW, chick bait.

More like "click repellent".

Leland said...

Yes to both Sebastian and Fernandisten. Looks like Click Bait but repels me. Althouse quote is just another Trump insult that nobody cares about because it is all they have.

rcocean said...

What's funny is i don't think most Americans outside of the NYC media area, ever thought much about Trump. 90% of the USA did NOT watch the Apprentice. And almost nobody votes for POTUS because they were a reality TV star.

What sold Trump was his position on immigration, and his MAGA stand. Plus he was 10X better than anyone else at selling HIMSELF. He was constantly on TV, giving interviews, having rallies, etc. All the other candidates (including Hillary) kept themselves almost under wraps - because they were boring and/or had nothing to say. What was Yeb! going to do for us? What was hillary's reason to be POTUS? Trump had least had a message.

rcocean said...

Attack no. 1,230,456 on Trump. The constant "Orange Man bad" 24/7 in the media gets boring.

Earnest Prole said...

Slate used to have great stuff like this all the time. I especially appreciated #22:

22. Milkshake Duck, from the tweet by @pixelatedboat (2016)

It typically takes an artist thousands of words, hours of screen time, or buckets of paint to craft a zeitgeist-defining character. On June 12, 2016, comedian Ben Ward, aka @pixelatedboat, did it in a single tweet:

The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! *5 seconds later* We regret to inform you the duck is racist

Milkshake Duck, Ward’s imagined character representing how swiftly the internet can make a star and then unmask them as reprehensible, isn’t as fleshed out as some of Twitter’s other characters. . . . But the shape of the Milkshake Duck saga is all too familiar to anyone who is Extremely, or even Moderately, Online. So many people have skyrocketed to viral fame, fueled by social media’s insatiable hunger for feel-good stories, only to be brought down by outrage over their anti-Semitic, misogynistic, or pregnancy porn–laden pasts, that it’s no wonder Milkshake Duck made Oxford Dictionaries’ shortlist for 2017’s Word of the Year.

Yancey Ward said...

Wow. That was the stupidest fucking list I think I have seen this year. Even Donald Trump doesn't belong on that list- if you seriously think The Apprentice was from where today's Trump came, then you are just a moron who wasn't paying attention from 1986 til 2004, or you were born after 1995.

Sam L. said...

Why should I believe anything in Slate?

n.n said...

Straw clowns posed by a media that no longer matters. The fourth estate is losing its leverage, and the elites have been bitter and raging for a long time, but especially over the last, how long has it been, sixteen trimesters. No, much longer. They are no longer viable and fear the progress of the grim planner wielding a scalpel.

Michael K said...

I know none of those characters except the real Trump, Palin and Jefferson. I guess Slate readers watch a lot of TV.