40. Populist Hero or Supervillain?

It's a movie moment you're sure to recognize.

Breathing heavily, carrying himself as a man accustomed to getting his own way — and destroying those who stand in his path — the Supervillain strides ominously to the microphone. With sweeping gestures and self-righteous rhetoric, he informs those assembled that the evil he commits is really for their benefit. He solemnly vows to free his audience from their troubles and suffering, and he pledges to hold those responsible accountable. The Supervillain understands their pain and he shares their anger.

They're angry about taxes. They're angry about crime. They're angry about corrupt elites who enrich themselves by unscrupulous means.

They're angry about parking tickets, and rising food prices, and the finale of Lost, and the fact that their favorite shock jocks are now on satellite radio.

They're angry — period — and the Supervillain knows it.

He vows to set things right and administer justice — and, hey, if a few non-believers get blown up or hacked to pieces in the process, well, hell, you can't make an omelet without machine-gunning some eggs.

Now, are we talking about Bane, the legendary Supervillain of the Dark Knight Rises? Or are we talking about Donald Trump, the controversial champion of the populist American Right?

The hell if we know.

Do you feel in charge? Freedom movement t shirts and swagSince he announced his bid for the White House, Trump has drawn accusations of Supervillainy, and those charges have only grown more colorful and feverish since his upset victory. For some, when Trump's inaugural address borrowed a line from Bane's speech to Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises, the casting of 'Trump the Terrible' was complete — at least in the eyes of the Democratic Left. But what nobody seems to get is that there's a reason some Supervillains are so compelling.

Specifically, think about the scene in Dark Knight when Bane lays the edge of his hand oh-so-lovingly on another character's clavicle. "Do you feel in charge?" he rasps menacingly, making it clear that he's perfectly willing to beat the guy like a circus monkey because, hey, there's one guy in this room who is in charge, and it's Bane.

Viewers find Bane compelling because he's completely self-assured. He knows who he is, he makes no apologies for it, and that's a quality many people respect, whether it's a hero or a villain. (The only exceptions are self-assured clowns. If the Clown Terror of 2016 taught us anything, it's that we must remain ever-vigilant against the Red-Nosed Menace.)

Is Trump a hero or a villain? Though partisans of all stripes will zealously object, nobody really knows yet. He could break either way. Maybe Trump's hair finishes eating his brain, commanding him to declare war on Planet Earth on behalf of the Orange Orcs of Zebulon Prime. Or maybe Trump turns out to be a misunderstood protagonist who reigns in the corruption and abuse of power rotting the nation's capital. Maybe, just maybe, he rolls back the global empire and restores American liberties, at least in some small measure.

Regardless of how it all works out, we'll be here to keep you posted, joking and jeering from the sidelines. (And just for the record — should it become necessary — we'd like to proclaim our willingness to work with our new Zebulon Overlords.)


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