This is the third installment of an ongoing investigation into which Batman character Donald Trump resembles most. You can read the beginning here.
Harvey “Two Face” Dent represents the curse of the classic politician. He’s the fallen star, the Apollo destroyed by the harsh realities of politics. His ambition and ideals are corrupted by pain and reality. He’s the Barack Obama who realized he couldn’t close Guantanamo in his first term, the John McCain who courted the religious right and chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Mitt Romney who denied inspiring Obamacare.
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight
Dent divides the world into those who die heroes (Kennedy and Lincoln come to mind) and those who live long enough to become the villain (Julius Caesar is the example he uses, although one could think of many more). Trump is of a third variety.
How does Trump resemble Two-Face?
Idealistic, handsome, charismatic. Donald Trump is none of these things, and there are those who admire him for it. He does not appeal to our higher selves, does not court intellectuals or idealists. He is humanity at our basest: frightened, hateful, and angry. He appears to have little-to-nothing in common with Harvey Dent, but there are some ways in which they resemble one another.
They promise a better world, whether they can deliver it or not.
Trump promises to “Make America Great Again.” Dent is elected to Gotham City’s District Attorney in The Dark Knight on “a crusade to take back our city,” with the slogan “I Believe in Harvey Dent,” which itself is a reflection of Batman’s recurring line in The Long Halloween: “I believe in Gotham City. I believe in Harvey Dent.”
“The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.” -Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight
However, this itself is nothing unique to these two men. All politicians make promises. All promise a better world.
They are both troubled men, probably mentally-ill men, who aren’t getting the help they need.
Harvey Dent’s narrative changes throughout comic books, but he is commonly depicted as a disturbed man who hid his troubles under a handsome face and a dedication to the law. Sometimes (as in the passage below), it involves mental illness and a traumatic childhood. Other times, his scarring accident is the beginning of his troubles.
“An abused and schizophrenic child, Harvey Dent learned to hide his dark rage beneath a devotion to law and order. As Gotham City’s firebrand District Attorney and with Batman as his ally, Harvey was able to keep his secret madness in check…until the day a vengeful mob boss hurled acid in his face… ” – The Origin of Two-Face by Mark Waird and Mark Chiarello
It’s widely accepted that Donald Trump is not mentally or emotionally healthy. In an editorial entitled “Donald Trump’s Epic Neediness” for The New York Times, Frank Bruni said Trump has “a compulsion to see his face flickering across TV screens…his minions arrayed before him.” Various psychologists have labeled him “narcissistic” and “easy to diagnose.” The Onion has had the funniest take on it, but even Fox News has now suggested that Trump is deeply troubled and obsessed with Megyn Kelly.
One thing that both Dent (before becoming Two-Face) and Trump have in common: neither of them would admit how emotionally and mentally troubled they really are.
They are unpredictable, and this makes them dangerous.
With Dent, his decisions are made with the flip of a coin.
For Trump, it’s unclear how or why his decisions are made, but they change with as much regularity as if he were making his decisions with a coin flip.
They embrace duality.
Regardless of the story, Two-Face Dent is always a character who believes in duality and simple choices. Trump’s rhetoric is typically more nuanced and contorted, although he does tend to paint any of his opponents in very black-and-white terms.
How do Donald Trump and Harvey Dent differ?
Unlike the previous two villains discussed, Harvey Dent and Donald Trump are more different than they are alike.
Dent is often overcome and manipulated by the threats and schemes of others
His very origin is the result of personal tragedy, orchestrated by outside forces. The mutilation of his face triggers a mental breakdown in both the comic books, the cartoons, and the films. Throughout his narratives, this is often accompanied by other losses or abuses – a murdered fiancee, an abusive father, a broken marriage.
In the series Joker, the Joker threatens to kill “one half” of Dent, causing him to panic to the point where he calls Batman for help. It’s hard to imagine Trump ever admitting defeat on this level.
Dent’s enemies refuse to give up on him, while Trump is not given that benefit of the doubt.
Harvey Dent is one of the few villains in whom Batman refuses to lose hope. In Two-Face’s first comic book appearance, he commits a string of crimes but Batman still offers to speak on his behalf, promising that “the court remembers your fine record” and “you’ll get a light sentence!” This is echoed in various narratives, including Hush and The Dark Knight Returns and more.
Donald Trump inspires rage and disgust on a level beyond what Harvey Dent can do. His enemies have no hope for him, no belief that he could ever be a good man.
Donald Trump has never been mistaken for a hero.
As mentioned above, Dent was a hero who lived long enough to see himself become the villain. Trump has never been confused for a hero.
Trump Resemblance Rating: 3 out of 10
At the end of the Batman masterpiece The Long Halloween – a retelling of Two-Face’s origin – Harvey Dent has gone from golden boy to scarred pariah, allying himself with the costumed villains of Gotham City.
“If you pull the trigger, how are you different from the Roman?” Batman asks him, referring to the crime boss held at gunpoint by Dent.
“You know the system doesn’t work,” Dent answers him. “That justice can be decided like the flip of a coin.” Later, after having killed the Roman, he says that he did what needed to be done.
In that sense, Dent and Trump may resemble one another. Extreme men, ready and willing to break the system in order to achieve something. But the tragedy of Dent is that you remember what he was and what he could have been. With Trump, that tragedy is not present.
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald. He could have been speaking of Harvey Dent, but no one would apply that quote to Trump. The tragedy is not Trump’s own life, but what he could do to America.
The investigation will continue in Trump & Batman, Part 4: Is the Joker the Batman Character Who Trump Resembles Most?
You’re forgetting that Dent was genuine about making Gotham safe. He never had hidden evil intentions. It was only after taking up office, when his face was destroyed, that Dent’s psyche was altered unto corruption. But this transformation was outside of his own volition. If Harvey Dent really is really an allegory about Donald Trump, than it’s less of a warning to America about Trump “hidden intentions”, and more of a warning for Trump himself that his integrity, which is genuine, will be tested to the core by external forces after he is in office. So it’s actually a compliment to a white knight, who fights for us legally and by day.
That’s an interesting take, but I have a very hard time believing that Trump has a shred of integrity and that any integrity he displays could be considered genuine. As for external forces, I’m sure Trump’s integrity will be tested by such forces and that, like every time previously, he will fail.
Great article. Great series. But while I 95%+ agree w/ you, I disagree on a couple minor points. Trump HAS been ‘mistaken for a hero’ — not by me — but by the 46% who voted for him. As a dictator wannabe, Pres Trump appealed to their financial desperation, bigotry, and xenophobia while promising to roll the social order back to their idealized 1950s.
Issue #2: IMHO, Trump IS ‘manipulated by the … schemes of others’ & allegedly threats from others (chiefly, the Russians w/ their ‘kompramaat.’)
By others’ schemes, I mean those from Steve Bannon & his son-in-law etc. since PT knows zilch about politics etc. & isn’t ideological. Instead , he’s easily BS-ed & flattered into doing what they want. Separately, I find Trump’s ultra-thin skin allows his opponents & a fact-driven media to manipulate him; since like clockwork, anything unflattering said publicly about him elicits an immediate ad hominem attack — even or especially if it’s true.
So DT can’t resist taking the bait, so even when his approval ratings are about to rise; he self-sabotages w/ his unhinged attacks. So some of his enemies troll him just for kicks. See Mark Cuban.
Again, I really enjoyed this blog post. Btw, I kinda hate you for your other post comparing PT to Bane. Haha. Some weeks back, I thought I’d discovered it; but was chagrined to learn that I was a year behind you. Why, I oughta! Haha. Nowadays I find Trump really similar to the Daredevil series’ version of Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin. They’re both damaged, emotionally wounded well/known corrupt businessmen who’ve shielded themselves from various criminal charges with confidentiality agreements. But somebody beat me to that metaphor too! Anyway, …
Keep up the good work.
Great comment and thanks for reading! I think that I didn’t realize the extent to which he is considered a hero when I first wrote this. Please keep reading and leaving thoughtful comments! It’s great knowing that my blog posts are connecting with people who agree, or disagree, and are interested in having a thoughtful conversation about it.