“Every joke is a tiny revolution.” – George Orwell
There are lots of serious things to be said about American politics right now, but 1) I need a break, and 2) satire is a time-tested way of resisting tyranny. So let’s do this.
We’ll start with the obviously wrong choices. At first I wasn’t going to consider gender, but so much of Trump’s brand is based on masculinity and traditional gender roles that male villains just fit him better. That point aside, though, Trump doesn’t have Maleficent’s stoicism, Mother Gothel’s manipulative skills, or Ursula’s show-stopping stage presence. (And Cruella DeVil’s already taken.)
Nor is he witty enough to be Hades, conniving enough to be Jafar, or—it must be said—dreamy enough to be Prince Hans. And we’re sticking with canonical Walt Disney Animated Features here, so no Oogie Boogie or Syndrome or Darth Vader.
With all that out of the way, let’s get to the real contenders.
Scar from The Lion King
A few telling lines from “Be Prepared” were the original inspiration for this post:
Of course, quid pro quo, you’re expected
To take certain duties on board
The future is littered with prizes
And though I’m the main addressee
The point that I must emphasize is
You won’t get a sniff without me!
(emphasis mine, obviously)
Like Trump, Scar’s into transactional relationships, promising his devotees safety and comfort if they follow him blindly.
But Scar also revels too much in self-aware irony. I can’t imagine Trump saying, as Scar does to Mufasa, “Temper, temper. I wouldn’t dream of challenging you.” Trump would probably tweet, “CHALLENGE (a big one) COMING SOON!”
Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas
If Scar was too performative, too Shakespearean, Ratcliffe fixes that problem. He’s out for personal financial benefit (hence his song, “Mine, Mine, Mine”), and he can’t wait to rub it in others’ faces: “My rivals back home / it’s not that I’m bitter / but think how they’ll squirm / when they see how I glitter!” He’s also not about to do any of the work himself: “I’d help you to dig boys, but I’ve got this crick in me spine!”
Ratcliffe’s power-hunger and racism fit pretty well too. I can’t quite put my finger on the problem with this one. Maybe it’s that Ratcliffe’s motivations are almost purely financial, while I think Trump’s are often significantly more personal. Or maybe it’s just the posh British-ness.
Prince John from Robin Hood
Another option in the “shameless greed” category: “To coin a phrase, my dear counselor, rob the poor to give to the rich.”
Prince John also checks another box: insecurity. He sucks his thumb when he makes a mistake, and he throws a temper tantrum when a new ditty called “The Phony King of England” hits the medieval airwaves. All on brand so far.
But Prince John’s particular brand of economic despotism seems a bit outmoded. For him, it’s all “Taxes! Taxes! Beautiful, lovely taxes.” Clearly John hasn’t realized that the point is to cut down on taxes so that your corporate buddies can fill your kingdom’s coffers silently. Or to, you know, not pay them at all.
Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
“The world is cruel, / The world is wicked. / It’s I alone that you can trust in this whole city.” Now that sounds like Trump. Plus, Frollo meets a few criteria no one else does: sexual secrets, misogynistic victim-blaming, gross distortion of Christianity.
The problem here, I think, is that Frollo is so much more earnest than Trump. His religious angst—though abominable—is real, realer at least than any of Trump’s interactions with religion seem to be. Frollo truly believes that he is serving God, and that’s what makes him so terrifying: There are countless people in the real world whose authentic religious devotion drives them to cruelty. Our government is full of Frollos, and many of them are good friends with Trump, but I don’t think he’s one of them.
Gaston from Beauty and the Beast
Gaston’s got the absurd machismo covered, and he uses fear and xenophobia to mobilize a mob of townspeople against a manufactured threat. He, like Trump, has devoted fans that praise his every move in song.
But we have a different problem here than we’ve had before: Gaston does too much of his own work. He fights the Beast one-on-one, channeling real martial strength that doesn’t seem particularly Trumpian.
Other than Prince John, most of our top choices have hailed from the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s. There must have been something in the Burbank, California, water that decade that favored mediocre white men (and lions) as antagonists.
But to find Donald Trump’s true villainous doppelganger, we have to go back a few decades. Michele Bachmann once referred glowingly to Trump as having “1950s sensibilities,” and indeed, our final villain first appeared on the big screen in February of 1953:
Captain Hook from Peter Pan
He’s “the world’s most famous crook” (according to the song), which starts us on the right foot. He’s cowardly, bumbling, and self-possessed. Hook’s primary motivation is not money or status but revenge. He’ll do anything necessary to get back at Peter Pan, just as Trump will hold up the entire country to take revenge on Barack Obama or James Comey or the House of Representatives.
Both are constantly afraid because of a ticking sound: for Hook, the crocodile that swallowed a clock; for Trump, the ever-nearing presidential election. Both are emotionally fragile and thin-skinned in the face of criticism: Peter Pan calling Hook a “codfish” has about the same effect as any negative media coverage of Trump. And both allow their buffoonery, which might otherwise be relatively innocent, to turn violent: Hook’s grudge leads him to attempt murder, and Trump, well, you know all that.
Of course, even Hook isn’t a perfect match. But the difference here, I think, lies not in character but circumstances. Hook has a small band of mediocre pirates and the woefully ineffectual Mr. Smee to carry out his clownish whims. Trump has the most powerful government in the world.
The real problem is we’ve got a White House full of Prince Johns and Frollos and Gastons and Ratcliffes and Scars taking orders from a Captain Hook, and even the largest crocodile can’t fit all of them in its mouth.
Josh Parks graduated from Calvin in 2018 with a BA in English literature and violin performance, and he completed an MA program in medieval studies at Western Michigan University in 2020. He is currently a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, which means his plans to be in school forever are working out well. When not writing, he can be found playing violin, drinking coffee, making excruciating puns, and trying to learn Old French.