A lot of people are scared of President-elect Donald Trump. In his 60 Minutes interview immediately after the election, Lesley Stahl had to get Trump to tell the audience, “Don’t be afraid.”
For many, Trump could be an evil villain. He could be Dr. Evil (Austin Powers’ arch-nemesis ) or Shredder (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ archnemesis) or Chuck Bass (until Blair Waldorf made him over).
All of the above make for provocative comparisons to Trump. But the most compelling comparison comes from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, where Batman (played by Michael Keaton) has to confront his arch-nemesis of the moment, The Penguin (played by Danny DeVito).
After watching Batman Returns, one sees so many similarities between Penguin and Trump that it’s hard not to tell about some of them. So here they are:
Forsaken and Abandoned
Penguin had parents. But his parents were so appalled by how ugly and hideous and un-human he was that one night they threw him in the river. So Penguin had no one. He was all by himself.
Trump’s parents didn’t renounce him. But a lot of Republicans did. Mitt Romney called Trump “a phony, a fraud,” Marco Rubio claimed that he wet his pants, Paul Ryan disinvited him to Wisconsin, and a plethora of other Republicans began a #NeverTrump movement.
Like Penguin, Trump was abandoned by those who were supposed to support him.
Though Penguin’s parents deserted him, he did have a father figure in the form of Gotham’s corrupt mogul Max Shreck. With lies, Shreck lifted Penguin out of the sewers and into the hearts of Gotham citizens so that Penguin could became mayor and let Shreck build his power plant.
Trump had an actual father, Fred Trump, who made a lot of money building middle-class housing in Queens and Brooklyn. Trump’s first big real estate project was remaking the Commodore Hotel in the 1970s. Trump did not have enough money for the project, so his father guaranteed a $70-million loan from the construction company. He also used his father’s relationships with Mayor Abe Beam and Governor Hugh Carey to exempt the hotel from taxation.
Penguin could not have been mayoral candidate without Shreck and Donald could not have become a real estate tycoon without Fred.
You Flush It, I Flaunt It
This is what Penguin tells Shreck when they first meet. Though Shreck seems respectable, with his bowtie and combed hair, he is just as villainous as Penguin. Penguin makes this clear to Shreck by showing him the hand of a murdered ex-partner and by showing him incriminating documents that Shreck had shredded (Penguin painstakingly taped them back together).
Republicans routinely condemned Trump for how he spoke about immigrants, people of color, women, and nearly any un-white non-heteronormative identity. But Republicans have been championing such prejudice for years, they’re just too insidious to be as out-loud about them as Trump.
Both Penguin and Trump are villains in their own individual way, but they also reveal the corrupt behavior that other people conceal.
To help him win the hearts of Gotham voters, Penguin has one of his clown-like henchmen kidnap the mayor’s baby so he can come to the rescue.
In November, Trump made it seem like he saved half of the jobs that the Indiana Carrier factory was going to transfer to Mexico. But Trump didn’t save them. Vice president and Indiana governor Mike Pence did by bribing Carrier with $7 million in tax breaks. Then, in December, Trump did something similar with Sprint.
For Penguin and Trump, being a hero is an illusion.
Penguin has a voracious appetite, and he adores binging on tiny buckets of raw fish. When Shreck wants Penguin to greet his campaign staff, he bribes him with raw fish.
Trump, too, has a particular appetite. It’s not raw fish nor is it almonds (Obama likes almonds). What Trump likes is McDonald’s, KFC, and other kinds of fast food. According to Trump, “It’s good stuff.”
Penguin is an animal, obviously, that’s why his name is Penguin.
Trump, too, is an animal: he’s a man. Once, Trump told People Magazine, “Man is the most vicious of all animals, and life is a series of battles ending in victory or defeat.”