Maxwell Lord from Wonder Woman 1984 continues the tradition of drawing inspiration from Donald Trump for villains.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984, now in theaters and on HBO Max.
It’s hard to look at Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman 1984 and see no traces of Donald Trump. Much about Pedro Pascal’s performance as the DC antagonist is influenced by Trump’s businessman and presidential persona, regardless of what Gal Gadot says. Both are business moguls who have marketed a televised image of wealth to mask their company’s disastrous financial statements and do not want to be seen publicly as failures. Yet rather than feeling unique, Lord is just the latest example of a pop culture villain whose identity has been pulled straight out of the Trumpian mold, but his is the most empathetic iteration.
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Given his notoriety in media and entertainment since the 1980s, Trump’s exaggerated personality made him an archetype for creating larger-than-life villains. Some of these were based on his real estate mogul days, most notably with future casino owner Biff Tannen in Back to the future II and the reinvention of Lex Luthor from mad scientist to Machiavellian businessman.
Once Trump entered the Oval Office, that caricature of unbridled ego and showmanship was modernized to fit antagonists like Homelander into Boys, providing a dark and satirical mirror for society’s obsession with celebrity power and toxic behavior. While all of these characters share an amalgamation of Trump’s worst traits, their inspiration sometimes behaves more two-dimensionally than most of the top fictional villain.
In storytelling, writers often want readers or viewers to be emotionally involved with their characters, even antagonists. This means giving depth to their selfish archetypes or using that arrogance to make them the butt of the joke. Biff’s optimistic nature is regularly undermined by his stupidity, while Homelander’s abuse of his superpowers hints at the troubled psyche that is desperate to be adored by cheering crowds. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor, particularly his incarnation of the DC Animated UniverseHe strikes the perfect middle ground as a complex monster, always concocting new schemes to destroy Superman while subtly revealing how these actions are driven by fears about his own mortality.
Trump, by comparison, at least as a public figure, lacks the self-awareness necessary to recognize any of those traits. Instead, he has run his presidential administration through naked corruption, malicious ignorance Y encouraging acts of violence and hate speech, all in the name of self-interest. That’s a level of villainy that Lord’s story abstains from, rather than stealing From 1984 Dreamstone as a supernatural solution to its failures with the Black Gold Cooperative.
Compared to the other villains mentioned above, Lord straddles a more empathetic line between terrible and pitiful. Desiring to become the vessel of stone, Lord’s new powers allow him to grant any wish and take away from the one who wishes what he wishes, adopting a spirit of “greed is good” that runs counter to Wonder Woman’s belief in honesty. and compassion. Yet it reflects how Trump marketed his brand as a businessman and television personality. The difference is that, in 1984, Lord seems more misguided than malicious, truly believing that he can give people what they want in exchange for more power and wealth.
However, when Wonder Woman confronts Lord at the end of the film, she wins not by killing the villain, but by forcing him to confront the origins of his infatuation with lies. Abused by his father and embarrassed for being an immigrant, he changed everything about himself to appear successful, only for those insecurities to drive him to the point of obsession.
Seeing the damage caused by his deception, particularly in relation to his son, is what prompts Lord to give up his wish and do the least Trump imaginable: admit failure. Accepting responsibility for a mistake has long been a fundamental “weakness” for Trump, to the point where he denied losing the 2020 presidential election. despite the evidence against him.
This is the paradox of Trump-inspired characters. Each fictional version ends up feeling more credible than Trump himself. From a high school torturer to an incarnation of corrosive ’80s consumerism, his bullying tactics feel grounded in something recognizable. Even From 1984 Lord has enough sympathetic qualities to make his literal supervillain plan feel more believable than some of Trump’s actions and behaviors, resulting in a scenario where reality feels stranger than fiction.
Wonder Woman 1984, directed and co-written by Patty Jenkins, stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal and Natasha Rothwell. The movie is now in theaters and on HBO Max.
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